The future viability and sustainability of the County Farms Estate can be made more secure by ensuring that the farms use industry ‘best practice’. We are taking practical steps to promote the sharing of knowledge that improves efficiency.
In Norfolk we have, with the assistance of the Norfolk Rural Business Advice Service (NRBAS), established two support groups of local farmers. In 2006 the ‘Denver Debaters’ were formed in the West of the County, and in 2008 the ‘Amber Debaters’ were formed in the East. They are funded by NPS Group, and their meetings are chaired by a member of NRBAS. However, we do not exert any influence over them — the philosophy is that they are run by tenants, for tenants.
The longer-established Denver Debaters are a group of a dozen farmers with farms in the range of 50 Ha to 200 Ha. They meet two or three times a year at Denver Windmill in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. Prior to each years’ round of meetings, the participants are asked to fill in a simple questionnaire that looks at the fixed costs their businesses incur. The completed forms are analysed by NRBAS to identify trends and define benchmarks for comparison.
The meetings are an opportunity to discuss issues such as the length of tenure versus the investment needs of the business, and investigate cost-saving measures such as collaboration over the use of farm machinery. The two groups have organised reciprocal farm visits, to increase the potential for tenants to network with one another. NPS and NRBAS are jointly investigating the availability of grant funding to provide both groups with opportunities for study tours and project development.