Research indicates strong correlation
between farm profits and training
There is a strong correlation between the level of a farmer's
profits and the level of further education and training undertaken,
reports a market research survey published this week.
One of the most comprehensive research studies into the social
and economic structure of farming and land ownership in Cornwall
has just been commissioned by a newly funded Objective One
initiative - Rural Progress. PFA Research undertook the research
in conjunction with Duchy College and the Centre for Rural
Research at Exeter University.
The research reports those respondents who had undertaken
further education beyond leaving school were more business
focused, independently minded and were more likely to be working
in profitable farm businesses. They were also actively involved
in local community or farming groups and associations.
The objective of the research was to improve the understanding
of issues facing land based businesses. Rural Progress will
now be able to respond with funding initiatives to address
the challenges that prevent many farmers from developing their
existing skills and improving the performance of their businesses.
Martin Stanbury, Chairman of the Rural Progress steering
group, said, "The industry recognised, some time ago,
that there were barriers that prevented farmers and others
in land based businesses accessing existing training opportunities.
Representatives from across the agricultural industry put
together a bid for Objective One funding to address this issue.
Rural Progress has now been set up and will be officially
launched at the Royal Cornwall Show."
Persuading farmers to undertake training may prove more difficult
as less than half those interviewed said they thought they
had further training needs. Most of these farmers were interested
in improving their business or IT skills, however 20% of them
expressed an interest in learning or developing skills they
could use off the farm. One of the largest barriers to training
is a farmer actually finding the time to leave the farm -
only 56% of the research sample employed 1 or more people.
Rural Progress hope to overcome this problem by providing
funding for additional help on the farm to enable farmers
to attend training courses.
Rural Progress Manager Paul Charlton said, "The research
indicates a lot of farmers are looking to exploit business
opportunities off the farm to supplement existing income.
In response to this we are setting up a scheme to fund new
training and skills development for off farm work. If many
farmers look at the broad range of skills they currently have
such as using a chainsaw or mobile plant machinery or even
doing the farm accounts these are all skills that could be
used to their advantage off the farm."
Even though questions about diversification caused the most
reproach and negative reaction to the researchers over half
said they had diversified away from their core farming activity
and 25% of these respondents said it had been in the past
five years. Many commented it had enabled them to stay in
farming or provided a valuable second income for a spouse
Assessing the research findings by economic performance and
the key challenges to their business, respondents fell principally
into three groups. The traditional smaller Cornish farms that
are owner run or tenanted are facing the biggest challenges
in terms of profitability and were least optimistic about
the future of farming. The other two farming groups that emerged
were more positive about the future. These included larger
farms and a newly emerging group the study referred to as
'chosen returnees'. They were either siblings with
a farming background who initially decided to follow a different
career path and have now chosen to return to the family farm
or non-farming people who have identified business opportunities
and are drawn to farming because of the way of life.
Rural Progress Manager Paul Charlton commented, "It
was really these two farming groups who were more innovative
in their business approach. They viewed their own skills and
the business opportunities offered by their farms in a more
positive way. The majority said they were in farming because
it was a way of life - what we want Rural Progress to do is
to help Cornish farmers improve their businesses and their
way of life."
Anthony Gibson from the NFU will officially launch Rural
Progress at the Royal Cornwall Show on Thursday 5th June at
More information can be obtained from Paul Charlton on 01579
Rural Progress is a new Objective One funded
scheme to facilitate the implementation of new technology
and provide new skills to land based businesses, individuals,
groups and organisations. These beneficiaries need to be located
within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and associated with
farming, horticulture, forestry or supply services to these
Objective One Partnership Office
Truro TR1 2UD
Tel: 01872 241379
Fax: 01872 241388
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