Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has commended the National Trust for taking the initiative in offering its tenants access to The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme organised by The Prince’s Countryside Fund (the Fund).
The National Trust has entered into an agreement with the Fund to run the programme for up to 60 of its farm tenants in four areas of the country. Whilst the exact detail is still to be worked out, they are likely to be in the North West, North Wales, the Midlands and the South West.
TFA chief executive, George Dunn, said “We have been working hard behind the scenes with both the National Trust and the Fund to bring this to fruition, and we are delighted that an agreement has been reached to pilot this initiative in four areas starting this autumn. Whilst these areas focus predominantly on upland areas, the expectation is that, subject to the success of the pilot, further areas and farm types will be looked at.”
The Farm Resilience Programme offers free business skills training to family farms across the UK. Participants take part in a series of seven workshops which focus on different business skills to maximise profitability and resilience. Topics include business planning, understanding accounts and budgeting, managing your farmed environment, and exploring new opportunities. Alongside this, every farm receives one-to-one on farm support to take part in a Business Health Check Tool to look at their strengths and weaknesses and benchmark costs against similar farms.
“Feedback from those who have engaged with the programme to date has been excellent. I have no doubt that National Trust tenants will gain much from participating in the programme,” said Mr Dunn.
Apart from funding the places, the National Trust is taking a hands-off approach. It is not taking part in selecting which of its tenants should be offered places on the programme nor is it being provided with any confidential information about anyone who takes part. At the end of the programme, a special session will be arranged to discuss and debate future National Trust policy involving senior staff from the National Trust and the TFA.
“This whole idea stemmed from a simple question posed to me by a senior member of National Trust staff which was ‘What one thing could the National Trust do to assist its tenant farmers as a whole to maintain and develop progressive and sustainable farm businesses?’ I had no hesitation in suggesting that it looked at finding a way of providing its tenant farmers with access to The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme,” said Mr Dunn.
“I very much hope that National Trust tenants will take advantage of this initiative when it is launched in the summer. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis and I am anticipating that they will be taken up extremely quickly. It is not often that such a high-quality programme is made available on a free of charge basis and I am delighted that the National Trust has taken the decision to invest in its tenant farmers in this way,” said Mr Dunn.
“I appreciate that there may be some scepticism in some quarters about why the National Trust is taking this step. Tenant Farmers can be assured that there are no ulterior motives here. The National Trust has given me a commitment that it wants to move into a better relationship with its tenant farmers and this is a significant step on that journey,” said Mr Dunn.
Farming families wishing to find out more can visit www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org