“Farming is a long-term venture. Putting the value back into the land and stock is worth the effort if you can reap the benefits in the future.”
An overview from the Farmer Network:
Jonathan comes from a farming family, with his roots in Nidderdale, but becoming a farmer in his own right was always going to be a challenge. He built up his own small sheep flock, gained a degree in Agriculture from Bishop Burton College and became a farm consultant. Jonathan’s consultancy roles took him across Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cumbria where he first heard about this programme.
Here’s what Jonathan had to say:
In the beginning: I could only rent land on short term grazing licence’s, which made planning farming growth difficult and didn’t provide opportunity to improve the land. When the chance came up to apply for a Yorkshire Water farm, I jumped at it.
How the programme helped:
Explore enterprise course – the business basics: I was already quite confident in my business skills, but the workshops were very useful. No matter how much you think you know, getting another perspective is good and there were some elements that I hadn’t considered before.
The Training Grant: My Business Advisor was John Pedley. I already had a draft business plan, but John was great at double checking what I had done, and he challenged me in a healthy way to make sure I was getting the best from the plan and the loan. That outside perspective was critical to me and much appreciated.
Loan: Accessing the loan was hard. There were a lot of questions to answer when I went before the panel. Most of them could see my plan working, but it was not unanimous and therefore I was not successful. I was determined to carry on and prove the business plan was solid. I had to provide evidence to demonstrate I could make the plan work, and importantly, pay back the loan. The Farmer Network team helped me and together we put in a lot of effort.
With the help of my Business Advisor John Pedley, Rob Hitch (the financial panel member) and Kate Gascoyne, we set about preparing the evidence. Eventually I was awarded the loan. Buying stock is time critical, so my own investment played a big part in the initial outlay. My plan was adjusted so that when the loan came through, I was able to use the money to cover the cost of feeding and to provide the buffer needed and to keep cash flow in order.
It was certainly a safe plan because we endured delayed payments from our Environmental Scheme and in year two, the winter was exceptionally hard. The Beast from the East was tough, and we would have been in serious trouble had we not had the loan and personal investment.
The Mentoring: My mentor, Roz Barden was someone I had already met when I was a Farm Consultant. She visited every three months for a catch up, often coming with ideas and sometimes great contacts too.
Working with Roz was great because I used to take time to think about things, evaluating and preparing for her visit. It meant I got a lot out of it. Often when you are so busy working on the day to day, you don’t get time to reflect and evaluate. That’s essential to do and Roz has kept me focussed. Our paths continue to cross on other projects, which just goes to show how important a good network of contacts can be.
Farming is a long-term venture. Putting the value back into the land and stock is worth the effort if you can reap the benefits in the future.
Many farmers applied for the tenancy at Humberstone, but one of the critical factors that helped me was the fact that the tenant would be working with Yorkshire Water to develop “Beyond Nature”. I wasn’t the most experienced farmer, but with breadth in consultancy, I was able to do things differently, working with people, not just stock”.
Humberstone Bank is a 2,234-acre upland farm with wide ranging biodiversity. The land is mostly SSSI moorland with a limited amount of inbye grassland. The farm is also home to the Upland Hub. This is a converted stone barn providing excellent meeting facilities as well as an opportunity for groups to come and learn more about the farm, it’s habitats and wildlife.
Having a 15-year tenancy means that at last, Jonathan can invest in the soil and his stock because it is his to farm for a longer period.
“We’re continuously developing and promoting opportunities through the Upland Hub. A range of people have used it to date, from school groups to a visit by the Yorkshire Water Management Board. It is challenging because I get to spend about 25% of my time farming and the rest is spent juggling paperwork, the hub and looking after groups.”
Overcoming obstacles: Jonathon manages to juggle working part-time for Askham Bryan Farm Business Survey as well as running the farm, with help from his partner Sarah, his dad and wider family.
Future Ambitions: Now that Jonathan has a 15-year tenancy, his ambition is to be able to stay for fifteen years… and fifteen more… and fifteen more, being able to reap the benefits of the work his family put into the farm.
What advice would we give to new entrants?
“You’ve nothing to lose and a lot to gain. If nothing else, it will conclude whether your business idea is worth pursuing or needs tweaking along the way. It will also give you greater confidence because there is support there for you and it will really help affirm your inner belief.”