Cornwall Council’s county farms estate should be used to provide opportunities for new young farmers to get into the industry.

That was the view of some key witnesses speaking at an inquiry that the council is currently undertaking into the future management of its farms estate.

A panel of councillors is holding a number of inquiry days which invite people from the farming industry both in Cornwall and further afield to give their views on the council’s farms, how they are managed and what should be done with them in the future.

On May 30 six more people gave evidence, including representatives from the National Trust, Duchy of Cornwall and the NFU.

Bill Clarke, the founder and owner of Trewithen Dairy, attended the inquiry as a representative of Cornwall Agri-food Council.

“The Cornwall Council farms are key as part of what is required to deliver that.

“We have some fantastic traditional farmers in the county but we desperately need fresh, young, forward-thinking farmers and that is where the council can help.

"It is about giving opportunities to young people to come in and giving opportunities to really get started and build up and raise the game with technology and move forward with the modern world.”

Nick Lawrence and Alex Reader from the National Trust said that their experience of managing land was slightly unique in that they also have to maintain public access to a lot of its sites.

But they told the councillors that they were keen to promote environmental growth and had a strategy which dealt with this.

Jeremy Oatey farms land in south east and mid Cornwall and also runs a vegetable processing business supplying businesses in the south west.

He said that investment and improvement was a key to helping the farms in future and that people are key to the future success of the farms estate and the council should ensure that it helped new farmers to get started and then make the progression to other farms.

He said that the council would have to be flexible about how it helped young farmers saying that some might need 10 years to get started and build a business.

This would require the council to have a range of tenancies that it could offer to people coming into farming.

Ashley Taylor, assistant land steward for the Duchy of Cornwall, responded to questions from councillors about whether it should set standards for farming carried out on its land or direct tenants to adopt specific farming methods such as organic and free range.

He said that the Duchy did have standards which it expects tenants to maintain but said that these were monitored on a farm-by-farm basis and not done in a blanket approach.

Patrick Aubrey-Fletcher, NFU county advisor for Cornwall, said that he thought that county farms were “a really important way into farming for those who don’t have the opportunity to move onto their parents’ farm or don’t have the capacity to buy a farm”.

The farms strategy inquiry is set to continue and its final recommendations will be made to Cornwall Council’s neighbourhoods overview and scrutiny committee in September.