Tuesday, 8 June 2010

And in the beginning.....

Once upon a time there was a little boy trapped inside a 41 year old body. His name was Michael Blanche and he had an unhealthy interest in sheep.

This is his story. Michael is to travel the world, get lost a bit and meet incredible people and experience wonderful adventures/mishaps. If you find the sight of paint drying really exciting you may be able to endure the tedium of this blog......

I am a first generation sheep farmer and an agricultural consultant from Perthshire, Scotland (tell your friends and family - I could do with the work!). The Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust took a risk and awarded me a 2010 scholarship. Why am I a little boy trapped inside a 41 year old body? Well, since I was three years old all I’ve ever wanted to do was to farm. I had the calling then and that three year old is still in me. Farming is in my bones but not my blood. That makes it more difficult, you have to start from scratch and the innocent beliefs of a toddler aren’t enough to get there..... yet without them I never will.

My study is “The Farming Ladder”. In other words, New Entrants into farming and importantly how they can grow an agricultural business thereafter. Entry into farming is a process, not an event (obviously I stole that line from someone else; but pretend I came up with it). I want to look at the length, breadth and constituent materials that is this process.

I especially want to collect individual stories about successful first generation farmers to inspire all those either on the ladder or thinking about stepping onto the first rung. I think attitude is all important. If you think its too hard and all you see is too many over-sized obstacles to progress, you are not helping yourself. I prefer the blind optimism outlook which probably isn’t healthy either but I am sure there is actually a real path to real success in farming.

New agricultural businesses are faced with huge challenges - GVA annual growth in Scottish agriculture, last time I looked, was 0.39% yet, under the same conditions (probably burdened with more cost and perhaps less subsidy) we need to grow by 10, 20, 30 even 50% p.a. to have viable long term businesses. How on earth can this be done? Well, come with me on my Nuffield experience and find all the answers (this last line does not constitute a contract or commitment to the provision of the aforesaid answers - but I’ll give it a go).

PS I’m looking for good stories of first generation farmers in the UK. There is no age limit - one of the first guys I’m impinging on is 82 (note to self: better not leave that visit too much longer just in case...). Please email me and tell me a story - I need help!!

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