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Is the farming industry in Leicestershire under threat?
Cows
Agriculture needs 60,000 more people to join the industry over the next 10 years

The average age of farmers in Britain is 55 and close to half of them do not have a successor, according to the skills council LANTRA.

Agriculture needs 60,000 more people to come into the industry over the next decade to survive.

However, after food scares, such as BSE, and years of rock bottom wheat prices, where is the incentive to join?

BBC Leicester speaks to farmers from across the county to find out if they think the industry is under threat.

THE EXPERIENCED FARMER
Rad Thomas
I think we are going to have a big gap approaching in the next 10-20 years
Rad Thomas, Experienced farmer

Rad Thomas, age 63, from Quorn is predominantly an arable farmer but also works with cattle and sheep.

He believes the estimated average age is misleading; "That is how people and businesses are registered.

"It doesn't mean that the average age of the decision makers and the people doing the work on the farms, that might be considerably lower.

"However, not enough young people are going into farming. BSE and foot and mouth has put young people off agriculture.

"I think we are going to have a big gap approaching in the next 10-20 years."

THE FARMER'S WIFE
Katie Holmes
It's just my husband and I now and I don't really know what's going to happen when we finish
Katie Holmes, The farmer's wife

Katie Holmes has been married to a farmer for 42 years. Her 62-year-old husband has been in the farming industry his whole life.

After bringing up their three children, Katie has been farming with her husband for 21 years at their farm in East Leicestershire.

"Our eldest daughter has married a farmer, our son works in London in advertising and loves to come back to the farm for the countryside and our youngest daughter is product manager for a ski company in Edinburgh.

"It's just my husband and I now, and I don't really know what's going to happen when we finish.

"We'll probably retire in 10 years time, who knows. We'll carry on farming as long as we can.

"It is hard work but it's very rewarding. I love it. I love being outside in the countryside, every day is different; I just enjoy it."

Farming does run in Katie's family - her mother was a farmers daughter.

THE YOUNG FEMALE FARMER
Fay Johnson
Farming is so varied and what I love about the job is we do different jobs with every changing season
Fay Johnson, The young female farmer

Fay Johnson, who has two sisters, was brought up at Rectory Farm in Great Easton and from a young age she was out on the farm helping her father.

"We've been very lucky because we've had a father who's never pushed us into it, it's always been something we've wanted to do and I think that makes a big difference."

Fay is also married to a farmer and because of the harvest season they only had a three day honeymoon.

"Farming is so varied and what I love about the job is we do different jobs with every changing season. I really enjoy the job variety."

Fay does not feel that being a woman has had any bearing on her ability to do job; "There's not a lot of hard physical work now."

THE DAIRY FARMER
Andrew Rees
A lot of dairy farms have been receiving a poor price for their milk for a long time
Andrew Rees, The dairy farmer

Andrew Rees, who is a dairy farmer from Kings Norton in Leicestershire, went to an agricultural college.

"My family have always farmed in the area. I wanted to get back to the family farm after my studies, but my brother didn't want to farm.

"We've been very lucky; we've got a good milk contract.

"But dairy farming is a capital intensive business. It takes a long time to turn around.

"A lot of dairy farms have been receiving a poor price for their milk for a long time, so it is difficult to reinvest into the business.

However Andrew believes the future for dairy farming in Leicestershire will strengthen.

"Historically dairy has been focused in areas of the South-West and North-West of the UK, which have struggled a lot recently with the spread of TB in dairy cows and this has wiped out a lot of herds in these areas.

"So there's actually renewed interest in bringing out more cows in the East, in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, where there's less disease and better road infrastructure routes."

THE BIG DECISION
Peter Barbour
We're not making a great deal of return from the industry - it's not actually benefitting us as a farm
Peter Barbour, Dairy farmer

Peter Barbour, who is a dairy farmer based in South Leicestershire, has been working at the family farm since he left school.

"We're not making a great deal of return from the industry - it's not actually benefitting us as a farm.

"We can't generate any more money from it. It is very frustrating for any small dairy farmer.

"We have to decide in the next 12 months if we're going to invest in a storage area for storing muck over the winter... it will be expensive.

"The big decision is playing on our minds quite a lot.

"However, I would like to think that this country would like to see people like me and my father farming, because I'd like to think our animal welfare is very good."

FARMING ALONG SIDE WILDLIFE
Alf Oliver
We have total control of our land and we want the wildlife prospering as well as us
Alf Oliver, Campaign for the Farmed Environment

Farmer Alf Oliver from Upton in Leicestershire is encouraging wildlife back into his fields.

Through Natural England the government is helping farmers to pay for meadows and new hedges to live alongside their crops and livestock.

But the industry fears the government will force farmers to set land aside from farming if more of them do not sign up to the environmental projects voluntarily - leading to red tape and paper work.

Alf has two environmental schemes on the farm and believes there are benefits from the project.

"I have planted around five miles of hedges, which has provided work for locals in the area. I have also built two otter homes.

"We act as custodians of the countryside. We have total control of our land and we want to look after it.

"We want the wildlife prosper as well as us."

FARMING WITH A DIFFERENCE
Gill Oliver
The children see how the food is produced and learn about how life is lived in the countryside
Gillian Oliver, County Trust

Gillian Oliver, who is the regional manager for the Country Trust charity, introduces inner city school children to rural estates and farms.

"The children see how the food is produced and learn about how life is lived in the countryside.

"We are currently converting an old barn into a mini classroom.

"We have a kitchen so the children can see how the crops, grown in the field, are brought in. They can do some cooking as well and take home the finished product.

"It's vital that the children know where the food comes from."

THE FARMING PROMOTER
Nick Padwick

Nick Padwick, who works to the South East of Leicester as a farm manager of Cooperative Farms, has been trying to enthuse youngsters about the industry at agricultural colleges.

He has invited students to the farms in the summer so they have a chance to experience using new agricultural technology.

"I want to try and show people that this can be a fantastic industry to be in. What a great thing to say, that you're producing food for people to eat."

"But we need to look at how we can utilise what we're growing in this country."




SEE ALSO
Promoting the farming industry
08 Jul 10 |  People & Places
Fruit almost ripe for the picking
08 Jun 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Tales of fly-tipping in Leicester
22 Jun 10 |  People & Places
Young farmers' uphill challenge
12 Feb 10 |  People & Places

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