FARMERS attended a day in Dorset to discuss county farm estates and the challenges that tenant farmers are facing. 

County farm estates are owned by local authorities, and farmers spoke with Dorset councillors earlier this month in the hope of finding solutions to the issues they face.

Currently, Dorset's county farm estate includes 41 farms with more than 2,600 hectares throughout the county. 

NFU South tenants forum chair Rob Halliday said: “The sector is a vital driver for growth in productive agriculture and we need to make it easier for existing tenants to grow their businesses and also for new entrants to start farming land which they do not own.

“While agriculture can often be a difficult industry to break into without significant amounts of capital, the county farms system is an invaluable route for new entrants.

“The need to provide an opportunity for people to build farming businesses is well understood by both politicians and the industry and as well as an enduring financial asset, a vibrant estate can provide economic benefits to the wider community through the creation of employment, spending in rural areas, including tourism, and the creation of wealth along the food chain.

“A well-managed estate can also provide significant non-financial benefits to the community such as beneficial management of the landscape, better biodiversity, improved access and public health, and education for both young and old – as well as helping to meet future renewable energy and waste management aims.

“They can also help deliver council strategy across a range of portfolios and help to ensure the regional economy grows, jobs are created and the public remains reconnected with the food they demand.”

Deen Thomas and Hannah Williamson, who are first generation dairy farmers on a county farm estate in Dorset, attended the day. 

“We think working on a county farm estate has been a great opportunity for us to take on the farm and we’re really thankful for that opportunity," added Deen. 

“Not only is working on the estate good for us as a family but it’s also helped the younger generation around us to be able to understand farming, what we are doing and what we are giving back to the county.

“I think that is what has been missed over the years – there’s not enough understanding about what we do as farmers for the country.

“There’s a lot of passion in our farming on the county farm estate but I don’t think people understand or realise what actually goes into being a farmer and the hard work we do to produce food for people.

“Farming is a massive commitment – it’s not just a job, it’s your whole life.”