We recognise there is no use proposing a better way to farm, unless we can also address the high barriers to entry that currently exist within the UK farming sector. The number of farmers has fallen every year for the last two decades and with land prices rising rapidly, ownership is not always an option. So at Stream Farm we have adopted a share farming model – designed to get people back into farming. We start up the businesses first before handing them on. The model gives each farmer the opportunity to run their own business whilst learning the aspects they may not have known before: they earn a livelihood from their share of gross income and we recover, slowly, the costs of capital invested.
In a share farming agreement there are two parties: the land owner and the share farmer. Typically the owner provides the land and the capital, and the share farmer brings his labour and expertise. Stream Farm has, so far, established organic beef, lamb, chicken, apple juice, spring water and rainbow trout businesses and is in the process of building up our organic pork business and a number of bee hives. The model works much the same way as a village would have done not so long ago. Machinery is shared, land is rotated, and when extra hands are needed (lambing season, apple picking, clearing barns, sheering sheep) then the farmers work together.
Radio 4’s ‘On Your Farm’ show travels to the Quantock Hills to explores the issue of ‘Getting a Start in Farming’ in this documentary on Stream Farm and it’s share farming model – listen here.
“Few people are lucky enough to begin their farming career actually owning their own farm. Share farming provides many a new entrant to agriculture that important first step on the farming ladder. But at Stream Farm, nestled in the folds of the Quantock Hills in Somerset, a form of share farming is undertaken in an altogether different and egalitarian way.”