Ambitious New Entrants Invest in Improvements31st October 2018
In 2014, Trevor and Gemma Dobson were successful in securing a 15-year farm business tenancy in Cumbria, through H&H Land and Property. Here we find out their approach to winning the tenancy and their future business plans.
In 2014, Richard Jackson, appointed Craig Brough, from H&H Land and Property, to find a tenant for his 200-acre stock farm, a traditional upland farm located near Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria.
This Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) opportunity attracted huge interest and as a result of their enthusiasm, commitment and robust business and future plans one particular couple stood out from the crowd,
“It was important to Richard who was retiring, that the tenants would maintain and improve the farm, which was in very good condition,” explains Craig Brough Associate Director of H&H Land and Property.
“To ensure it would be managed to be resilient for future challenges, he wanted to find someone he felt he could trust, and who he could work with to take the farm forward.
“Gemma and Trevor were a young couple, who were building up their business as best they could on grass lets. They were very qualified and professional and offered a strong business plan to support their application. Their passion for farming and knowledge of the industry stood out, as well as their long term commitment for their business.”
“We’d been looking out for a tenancy for a couple of years, and although we did have several grass lets, they were scattered around and were only on 6-12 months contracts,” explains Trevor.
“To build the business we needed more security and the opportunity of a 15-year tenancy with ringfenced land was ideal for us. We knew there would be strong competition, so a good application was needed. We did our homework, made it personal and tailored the details and our proposal to this specific farm.
“This is a formal process we really were over the moon when we had the fantastic news we had been successful.”
Trevor, 38, a professional sheep shearer and livestock scanner who studied agriculture at Newton Rigg college, and Gemma, a livestock vet, were handed the keys for the farm, Bankwood, on the 21st July 2014 giving them the chance to expand their farming business for themselves and their growing family.
“We are very aware that a fifteen-year tenancy is rare these days, I think it comes from the landlord’s belief and understanding that in farming you need time to give your farm a chance. It is hard to make a difference in a short time.
“Having this security has allowed us to make investments, for example in lime and fencing, that over the years will see us benefiting from a return on this investment.
“It’s important that we concentrate on maximising the potential from the 200 acres we have. The ground is SDA (Severely disadvantaged area) so it’s not easy to farm, but we have joined a local Grass group facilitated by Rhidean Jones, and have a specialist advisor, Trevor Cook, who is helping with the grassland management. I know we have a lot to learn on how best to utilise the grassland and I see great potential in this going forward.
“At the moment, we have 500 white-faced ewes, 40 store cattle, a small herd of pedigree Dexter cows and one Tamworth sow.
“In the past we have had commercial suckler cows but are now keen to move forward and concentrate on growing cattle and adding extra value to our lambs and pigs through direct sales.
“In terms of forages and supplementary feeds, we buy in very little. We produce our own silage – and continually look to improve the pasture-based system.
“Our philosophy is to allow our animals to thrive on a natural diet, which has two benefits – the quality of our meat and the maintenance of the natural environment. We believe that is what the consumer wants, and we take this approach and our products direct to market through our website; simplefarming.co.uk . Whilst we are building this route to market we also selling stock, live and deadweight, at marts across the area.
“We are very lucky that we now have a ringfenced farm that gives us the potential to grow the business over many years and manage our stock much more efficiently. I am very positive for our future and our energy is going to be put into the grassland and to intensify our grazing, as well as building the website sales.
“Anyone else considering taking on an FBT, I would say build up stock where you can and if you are going to invest in anything make it for lime and fencing.
Craig concludes, “This partnership has proved to be a very good match, with landlord and tenant working together and with a high respect for each other. I would recommend to anyone else about to embark on a tenancy, either landlord or potential tenant, to seek professional assistance through the process to ensure it results in a good working relationship for the future, and all the details are discussed before any agreement is signed.”
Unusually, there was no ingoing’s to pay on entry to the farm and the basic payment entitlements where let with the farm. This was very attractive to us as it helped us to invest money in the farm such as for lime and fencing.