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Land prices hit a new high of £8,500 per acre recently. As most farmers consider they need at least 250 acres to be viable you need over £2m to get in to farming and buy the land, let alone the machinery!
Unfortunately British farming is based on the production of commodities such as wheat, barley, vegetables, meat or milk. Once they have been produced the price is then set by world markets. Often a disaster if costs are high in the UK and the world price has dropped.
Farmers have also been separated from consumers with the middle man & retailer making most. On average farmers only get 9p in every £1 spent on food in the supermarket.
Pork farmers have have experienced these problems for years with high feed prices and lower cost of production in Europe pushing down prices. They have also been hit by higher animal welfare standards with legislation in this country pushing up the cost of production. A real tragedy when many consumers vote to say that pigs should have high welfare then succumb to marketing and buy Danish bacon where pigs can still be held in crates.
When food becomes a commodity producers focus on cutting cost and increasing yield, nearly always reducing quality and flavour for the end user.
So what hope is there for anyone wanting to become a farmer???
It seems the only way forward is for producers to sell quality products and market them accordingly. Luckily the greed of the supermarkets means that prices can match the supermarket and leave the producer with a reasonable profit and the consumer with a better product at a reasonable price.
So how do you get some land to become a farmer without having £2 million?
You may have noticed that farm machinery has got bigger over recent years in line with technology and pressure to reduce labour costs. This means that small fields and corners of larger fields are often left fallow or set aside, especially bordering villages and towns.
This land, to me, seems perfect for those interested in farming. The farmer could even come and do some heavy work occasionally, like deep cultivation. Those looking for help and customers could set up a CSA Community Supported Agricultural scheme. Or talk to local retailers, pubs, schools and restaurants about what they might want to buy, and Crop for the Shop.