Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Monday, 7 June 2010 11:40 UK
Somerset County Council plans tenant farm sell off
farming generic
There are up to 70 tenant farms owned by Somerset County Council

Cannington College near Bridgwater has reported an increase in the number of young people taking up farming courses.

However their hopes for running a tenancy farm in the future are unlikely as the council needs to sell more of them off in order to pay debts.

Somerset County Council owns up to 70 tenancy farms worth up to £50m but last year they recorded a loss of £76,000.

The council says land won't be sold off for new housing but instead will continue to be used for agricultural.

'Depressed industry'

The number of people attending agricultural courses at Cannington College (which is affiliated to Bridgwater College) has increased threefold in the past year.

Rebecca Horsington, a lecturer in agriculture at the college, said: "We teach a range of levels, from level one which is a basic foundation in agriculture right up to higher education where you can do a foundation degree in agricultural management."

She says many students take up roles like general farm workers, farm management, or working in the ancillary industries like dairies.

She believes there is a sense of optimism about farming as a career.

When you've got animals you're always going to need people who work with the animals
Rebecca Horsington

"Agriculture's had a reputation for being a very depressed industry and I think now people can see it really is on the up - people are interested in food miles, where their food comes from and the knock-on effect is people want to know how it's done so they go into agriculture."

'New schools'

However, the chances of taking up a tenancy farm in Somerset will become more difficult in the future.

The council, which became Conservative led in 2009, says since coming into power they have been carrying out a review to look into which areas savings can be made.

David Huxtable, the cabinet member for resources at the council said: "The county council have over-borrowed - the county council debt has quadrupled from £100m in 2001 to nearly £400m today.

"We've said we're not going to borrow any more money so we've got to raise as much money as we possibly can otherwise we will simply run out of cash and we will not be able to repair the roads or build new schools."

He says farms will be reviewed on a case by basis and some will have to be sold off, pointing out that under the Lib Dems, from 1993 to 2009 around 4,000 acres were sold off by the council.

Despite the uncertainty, Rebecca believes there will still be opportunities for young people taking up a career in farming.

"When you've got animals you're always going to need people who work with the animals and you need to have good people and farms in their sizes are getting larger even though the amount of farms are shrinking.

"You'll still have the same amount of work available, so there are always plenty of opportunities if you want to do the work."

Tories' first 100 days in power
02 Oct 09 |  People & Places
Talks held over jobs freeze vote
05 Nov 09 |  Somerset
Facing the cuts: Somerset services
01 Mar 10 |  People & Places
New way of meeting housing need?
03 Jun 10 |  People & Places

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific