The present COVID-19 crisis has put a spotlight upon the importance of our rural economy in continuing to feed the nation, whilst also highlighting the growing challenges within the sector.
For example, there has been wide reporting on the non-availability of pickers and workers for vital harvests. This follows the desperation felt by those whose land flooded during the downpours of late 2019 and early this year.
Such challenges, said agricultural specialist Roly Freeman, would inevitably lead to a continued focus upon what the future holds for landowners who remain vital to the UK’s economy and food security. Recent figures show how almost a quarter of all land used for horticulture in England is in Lincolnshire and for peas, beans, vegetables and salads the proportion is higher. More than one in ten people living in Lincolnshire are employed in food and farming.
Roly, a new Partner within the agricultural team at Wilkin Chapman solicitors, has more than 20 years’ experience in the sector.
Working with landowners and farmers, Roly also has extensive experience of commercial property law, which aids significantly when landowners want to look at alternative uses for premises and land.
Reflecting on the changes over those two decades, he said: “The farmer of today is not just looking at crops or to farm their land, they are also looking at other sources of income.”
Whilst renewable energy projects, particularly in the south of the county, continue to increase and farm shops remain popular, Roly said there were other less obvious ways to diversify, including renting out redundant agricultural buildings for such things as storage and in one particular case an MOT testing station.
“There are a variety of industries that can be considered, many of which will offer a more reliable income. The days when someone just has some land and farms it, are fast disappearing,” he said.
Roly added that the process by which people could diversify is becoming more sophisticated and easier. Where once finance for relatively niche projects, such as those within the renewables sector, was more difficult to obtain, a growing understanding is now turning that around.
New technology was also leading the way as the farmers of today were keen to experiment, he added.
He concluded: “It is clear when you visit farms, how some farmers really like new technology and are embracing it, and that will grow as the next generation comes through and takes over. As such changes take place, it continues to be my ambition to offer those within the sector reliable and trusted advice.”