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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Organic farmers new to industry
Combine harvester
New farmers are bringing different attitudes to farm businesses
A third of people who have gone into organic farming have never farmed before, according to a survey by the University of Exeter.

The study of more than 640 farmers was carried out for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The report also said organic farmers tended to be younger, had more academic qualifications and were better at selling directly to the public.

It also added organic farmers were more likely to run diversified enterprises.

We think this reflects an increasingly popular lifestyle trend
Dr Matt Lobley

The report is the first to look at whether organic farming provides an additional benefit to the rural economy over and above that of conventional agriculture.

A team from the Centre for Rural Research found that 31% of those entering organic farming had never worked in the industry before, compared with 21% for non-organic farms and 25% for all farms.

Comparing organic farmers with their conventional counterparts also revealed a big difference in age structure and educational background.

Just over half of the organic farmers questioned held a degree or diploma, compared with 30% of those in non-organic food production.

Organic farmers were also found to be significantly younger: 66% were aged between 35-54, whereas in non-organic the figure was 45%.

'Distinctive group'

Report co-author Dr Matt Lobley said: "It's somewhat surprising that almost a third of those people choosing to go organic had never farmed before.

"We think this reflects an increasingly popular lifestyle trend which is in part helping to shape the rural economy."

The report also said that organic farmers were more likely to run diversified enterprises than non-organic counterparts, and those enterprises were much more likely to be customer-focused.

Dr Matt Lobley said: "It seems that this distinctive group of younger, highly-educated organic farmers have brought with them different skills and aptitudes and possibly also a different attitude to operating a farm business."




SEE ALSO:
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