Farming isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life. While there is very often the belief that a son or daughter will take over the farm business, no communication or discussions around succession or inheritance actually takes place on many family farms. The conversation itself is often a difficult one to initiate, and for a young farmer to initiate it requires considerable courage and a clear sense of purpose.
It’s not about a sense of entitlement, it’s about getting clarity and avoiding potential uncertainty relating to the future of the farm business and your role in it. It’s about preserving family relationships too and importantly, giving you the opportunity to truly assess whether or not you really want to pursue this route into farming.
However, additional obligations may be placed on you as future successor. In developing your plan of action, don’t think about just the stocking densities or varieties of crops you will have, but the skillset that you will need to succeed. Remember too that financial management and cost control are as important to farm sustainability as technical farm management.
Useful tips when starting out in farming
The agri-sector needs young, well-educated people to provide vibrancy and fresh thinking to aid industry progression, but entry isn’t always easy, particularly for those who don’t inherit a farm.
Here we offer advice to aspiring young farmers in setting up a new farm enterprise or starting out in farming: Know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing – if you don’t, it’s hard for anybody else to know. Explore the options and pick the one that suits you best. Seek advice from others to see what worked for them.Establish a good track record while you’re young – in work, in college and with the bank – it gives others more comfort you have the credentials to deliver on your plans. Put your best foot forward when meeting the bank – prepare well in advance. Don’t sell yourself short, have your costings and have your research done. Show you understand your business and its profitability and most importantly ensure your lender understands it.Treat the farm as a business – if you don’t look after the business, financial management is useless. The opposite is also true. Costs and cashflow must be controlled and monitored to ensure the business remains profitable and bills can be paid, when they fall. Have a simple system – more easily expanded, and helps ensure consistency and accuracy, especially important where additional labour is employed. Ask for help – you don’t know everything and it won’t all be plain sailing. Build up a good support network and use them. Take a break – it’s important to maintain an appropriate work life balance.
It’s up to you to identify the right time for your situation and to seize the opportunity when it does arrive. Now is the time to develop your resources. Remember you are in control of your future, take control of it.
For more information on starting out in farming you might find useful tips in an article with two young progressive farmers in AIB Agri Matters on www.aib.ie/farming.