First-generation farmer Ben rents a 112 acre holding near Lampeter, where he keeps 120 Easycare ewes on an all grass rotational grazing system. A former postman, he gained hands-on experience of farming by working on a dairy farm; contract lambing at local farms and rearing 200 pet lambs he sold for profit. Currently a fencer by trade, he is also a contract worker on dairy farms. Ben’s ultimate goal is to earn his sole income from his own farm business.
“My exchange visit will enable me to meet some of the UK’s top-performing first-generation farmers and learn how and when they achieved that ‘point of difference’ that propelled them into self-sufficiency.”
First generation farmer urges the industry to be supportive of new entrants
A first generation farmer is urging the farming industry to give opportunities to new entrants who want to progress in agriculture.
Ben James, a sheep farmer who started his journey into farming four years ago, believes there is no reason why first generation farmers can’t succeed in agriculture – but with a set of criteria that both they and the industry must embrace.
Ben recently embarked on a Farming Connect Management Exchange study, visiting five first generation farmers in Wales and England.
He wanted to learn the ‘point of difference’ that allowed them to farm without relying on a second income.
“The biggest learning I’ve taken from this study is that every farmer I visited all had similar mindsets,’’ says Ben, who farms at Blaenplwyf Farm near Lampeter, with his wife, Sam.
“We all shared the same drive and ambition to want to succeed and smash our goals.’’
He suggests that there are many roadblocks to entering the farming industry in west Wales - land at a reasonable rent is “near non-existent’’, he observes.
Ben urges the industry to do more to support new entrants.
“Be welcoming to first generation farmers, all we want is to learn, and be open to giving opportunities to people that want to progress and have the drive to succeed.’’
Collaboration between existing farmers and the next generation is vital too, he adds.
“We might have the solutions to your problems and vice versa. Teamwork makes the dream work.’’
The findings of Ben’s study also helped inform his own checklist for new entrants too, including the value of networking.
“Network is your net worth, get out there and speak to and meet as many people as you can, show your face,’’ he advises.
Ben also recommends that flexibility is needed as it allow for more options.
“Based on who I’ve met throughout this study, I believe there is no reason why I and other first generation farmers can’t reach the top and achieve all we want in the industry and in life.’’
MANAGEMENT EXCHANGE REPORT