Recently the Prince’s charity announced they would help 1,500 vulnerable small farms. The farms in locations throughout the UK, including Northern Ireland, will get one-to one support and advice. The scheme is being run by the Prince’s Countryside Fund.
Family farms are at the heart of the British countryside and their health is vital for the future of our rural communities. The vast majority are sole traders or family partnerships which gives them both a unique strength and a profound vulnerability.
The last three years of declining farmgate prices has put an unprecedented strain on these businesses. In 2015 the average farm income fell below £20,000 for the first time since 2007. Recent research carried out by The Andersons Centre for the Fund demonstrates that the problems affecting farms and their ability to survive economically are now so extreme that one in five (17 per cent) is unable to pay their short term debts. Cashflow problems are being passed on to the wider community with work drying up and redundancies looming. On top of the day to day problems for every farmer new and more life changing decisions are now required, against a background of continuing uncertainty.
Taking into consideration the findings from our research commissioned from the University of Exeter into the viability of the small family farm we have responded by developing The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme.
Building on the success of The Prince’s Dairy Initiative, now in its fourth year, the programme will help to secure a viable and resilient future for farm businesses, by equipping them with the information and confidence to help them survive, and importantly to make the right choices for themselves and their families.
Vulnerable small farms workshop – Northern Ireland
Through a programme of free workshops and one-to-one guidance, farm businesses will be given the tools to evaluate their viability and long-term sustainability, enabling them to make informed business decisions on their future direction.
For every farm business the long-term outcomes will vary. Collectively this programme is ambitious in its objective – we want every farmer in the UK to be in the strongest position that they can be. There is a huge amount of untapped potential in UK farming and a wide range of reasons for this.
The programme is committed to helping the farm businesses involved to create a better business and better life from their participation to ensure that we retain a diverse farming sector in the UK. We recognise that sometimes the decisions the individuals and families will make will seem small or insignificant but all will be encouraged in order to improve their business’ long-term viability and create a sustainable farming sector in the UK.
The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme will be opening for businesses to join in September 2016. Workshops will run between November and next spring. Please click here to find out more about the vulnerable small farms workshop – Northern Ireland.