Farmers in The North York Moors and Northumberland keen to set up local Farmer Networks

A resounding 68% of farmers in Northumberland and 74% in The North York Moors have said they want to set up local farmer networks, along the same lines as those in Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales.  This follows 8 meetings across the two counties where The Farmer Network met farmers to discuss how different Networks operate across the country.

The consultation events have been funded by The Prince’s Countryside Fund a charity that is supportive of many farmer networks around the country and especially those in livestock farming areas.  Farmer Networks are seen as important grass roots organisations that encourage and support farmer collaboration.  They are run/directed by farmers and Network staff therefore really understand the local needs of farmers.  They have to design services and projects that meet their members needs and are best placed to know how best to use funds to meet these needs.

The model operated by The Farmer Network is different to others by the fact that they charge an annual membership fee (currently from £70 plus VAT) and this together with other private sector funds from corporate membership, sponsorship, commissions and levies, covers all their overhead costs.  This model has proved to be very successful, with membership increasing rapidly in recent years to over 1,100 across Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales.

Farmers from the two new network areas seem to be particularly keen on extending some of the existing services operated by The Network in Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales, namely the group buying of certain products e.g. fuel and electricity, regular updates and help with grants, plus finding funds to organise local farm events to help them keep up to date that are locally relevant.

At the most recent meetings farmers from the two areas came together for the first time to decide what services they would want any new network to offer.  The meeting at Helmsley attracted 25 farmers from the North York Moors at which 7 farmers volunteered to be on a steering group to take the initiative forward.  Due to a clash of dates, the meeting at Hexham was not well attended so another meeting has been organised at Hexham mart on 22nd August at 7.30pm.

“We are heartened with the response from farmers from the two areas”, says Adam Day the Managing Director of The Farmer Network, “the next step is to work with the steering groups to finalise what each network will do in the first two years, how they will operate and how they will be accountable to their membership”.  We are now well down this track in The North York Moors and provided we get similar support from farmers in Northumberland at the meeting at Hexham on 22nd August, then I am confident new farmer networks will be established in each area in 2019.”

For further details contact Adam Day adam@thefarmernetwork.co.uk or Paul Harper paul@thefarmernetwork.co.uk 01768 868615 or visit our website https://www.thefarmernetwork.co.uk/projects/farmer-network-research-project/

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