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Farming: Fresh Start

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What is Fresh Start?

Fresh Start is an industry-led initiative to encourage new entrants into farming and to help established farmers think about how they can develop their business in the future in the light of CAP reform. Fresh Start aims to secure a sustainable future for farming in England by:

Sources of help and support

Getting the Right Training
This will help if you’re thinking about a new career in farming or are looking to expand your existing skills.
Starting up a new business
This section gives information on the organisations that can help you if you’re just starting out.
First steps in farming or diversifying
This section gives information on the organisations that can help you if you’re setting up a business or want to diversify an existing one.

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Mentoring scheme

Mentoring can help both established farmers who are considering their options and young farmers and new entrants. It gives them the chance to talk to business people who have faced similar problems to those they will experience on restructuring their business or starting up. Mentors can offer invaluable guidance and support and can act as role models.

Fresh Start aims to develop a network of mentors in England who will be able to offer valuable experience and assistance to those developing new farming businesses. The Fresh Start Academies are also taking forward mentoring. The ideas have been incorporated into the Cornwall Agricultural Council Fresh Start Scheme, Growing Routes in Yorkshire and Humberside and Agricultural Development in the Eastern Region where delivery is being piloted.

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Farming as an attractive career option

In order to attract new people into the industry, farming needs to be seen as a rewarding and professional career option. Clear career paths need to be demonstrated within the industry. There needs to be scope for continuous professional development for all those involved, from farm workers to business principals.

Responding to CAP reform

CAP reform is bringing major changes to farming. Fresh Start aims to help farmers think about how they will respond to this change. For many in farming the Single Payment Scheme means adapting their business in some way. This could mean expansion, diversification into new enterprises, stepping back from day to day management of the farm or restructuring the business.

This is creating opportunities for new people to come into the industry - perhaps through contract or share farming. In addition there may be more scope in terms of managing the cross-compliance requirements of the Single Payment Scheme, or through the new Environmental Stewardship arrangements. There may also be more scope for diversification on farms which could bring further opportunities for new entrants.

Defra has produced a guide for farmers about how they might respond to CAP reform Adobe Acrobat PDF file [1.45 MB]. Defra has also produced a resource pack Adobe Acrobat PDF file [715 KB] for professional agricultural advisers that may help when they are discussing retirement options with their farming clients.

Defra has also produced a number of publications to help new and aspiring farmers.

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Getting the Right Training

If you are thinking about a new career in farming, a number of organisations can help.

  • If you’re 13-19, Connexions can give you careers information.
  • Lantra is the Sector Skills Council for agriculture and the environment. It can give you useful information on a full range of careers from livestock production to forestry.
  • Agricultural colleges can be a good source of information on opportunities in your local area.
  • Growing careers can give you advice on careers and point you to job vacancies in rural industries including agriculture, horticulture, environment and the food chain.
  • If you want to find out about courses at agricultural colleges or university:
    • LANDEX is the association for further and higher education colleges that specialises in agriculture and related subjects.
  • Learn Direct can give you free impartial advice on courses and careers.

If you want to find out about practical training and help available:

  • Apprenticeships are a route into the sector. You can learn practical skills and get nationally recognised qualifications. The Apprenticeships website and Lantra can tell you more.
  • NPTC part of the City and Guilds group provides a full range of Vocational, National Vocational Qualifications and Certificates of Competence for land-based and related industries. The skills you’ve already picked up or are planning to develop could be assessed for a qualification.
  • Learning and Skills Councils can give you information about training in your local area.
  • Work experience is a good way to try out a career. The National Council for Work Experience has a database of work placement opportunities.
  • Volunteering is a useful way to get work experience. Do-it has a database of volunteering opportunities. Countryside and conservation opportunities can be found through the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers

If you already work in farming or forestry:

  • Jobcentre Plus can give you information about training opportunities, jobs and career development loans.
  • If you’ve got problems finding the time to attend a formal training course, or have to travel miles to get to the nearest college, Click to Learn can help. It specialises in distance learning for people in rural areas.

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Starting up a new business

If you want to set up a small business:

  • Business Links offer a wide range of practical advice and information on starting a business.
  • Enterprise Agencies help pre-start, start-up and micro-businesses to start and develop.
  • HMRC has useful information on starting a business covering key aspects of tax, VAT and National Insurance.
  • Banks, through specialist small business, rural and agricultural teams, can provide start-up financial advice and business banking support, Your local branch can put you in touch with a specialist advisor.
  • Women in Rural Enterprise helps new and existing female entrepreneurs to succeed in business.
  • Young Enterprise aims to give young people an understanding of how business works.
  • Mentoring offers an opportunity to talk to business people who’ve faced similar challenges to the ones you may be facing.

If you need to find a farm:

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First steps in farming or diversifying

  • Natural England brings together English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service. It delivers the England Rural Development Programme which comprises schemes offering payments to farmers and land managers to protect and enhance the natural environment..
  • The Environmental Stewardship scheme has three levels consisting of:
  • Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) - to encourage farmers to deliver simple yet effective environmental management.
  • Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) - for organic farmers with land not currently receiving conversion aid.
  • Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) - to reward farmers for delivering significant environmental benefits in high priority situations and areas.
  • For more information you should contact your local Rural Development Service office.

Land Management and Advisory Service

The Rural Development Service Land Management and Advisory Service manages the delivery of Defra-funded environmental and business advice to farmers, advisers and other land managers. The six advice programmes are managed nationally with delivery focused regionally to meet local needs. It provides a series of seminars, conferences, walks, farm visits and workshops to give advice on:

  • Conservation
  • Environment Sensitive Farming (ESF)
  • Single Payment Scheme Cross Compliance (SPS)
  • Farm Business Advice Service (FBAS)
  • Regionally-funded Farm Demonstration Programme
  • England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative (ECSFDI)

General enquiries for FAU can be made by calling 0800 5874079 or by emailing

Information about advice available in your area on a variety of business needs can be found through Business Link. If you’re thinking about expanding or diversifying it’s a good idea to evaluate your skills and training needs. Business Link or your local Chamber of Commerce can give you more information.

Industry bodies can also help. The National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs supports young people in agriculture. The National Farmers Union is a trade association representing the interests of farmers and offers a range of benefits to members. The Country Land and Business Association represents a wide range of rural businesses including farmers and landowners. The Tenant Farmers Association lobbies to support those who rent agricultural land.

Professional advice is also available from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Central Association of Agricultural Valuers and the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants.

Matching service

The matching service aims to match new entrants with farmers who want to retire or who want to diversify into something new, providing new employment or business opportunities for new entrants.

The ideas have been incorporated into the Cornwall Agricultural Council Fresh Start Scheme where delivery will be piloted. The industry is working towards developing matching and mentoring as part of Fresh Start, but there is a lot of preparatory work to be done before such elements can be put in place.

Fresh Start is supported by of a wide range of organisations. These include:

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Page last modified: 12 February 2007
Page published: 2 December 2004

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs