We put a post up on social media last week which was one of the most engaging ever.
We asked ‘We have a lot of farm opportunities but a lot our aspiring farmers aren't applying. What is stopping you from applying for our farm opportunities?’
The responses were encouraging and confronting and we have been discussing them this past week.
We need this sort of feedback as it helps us to refine how we present farm opportunities and keeps us working to give you a service that you really want. So thanks to everyone who contributed.
We have copied all of the comments below, including our response to them all (taking our people’s names). So you can scroll through and see what your peers are thinking.
You need to know where you are and aren’t willing to move to make your dream a reality. That is absolutely the case. But know that if you have a small footprint then this significantly reduces your opportunities.
b) not the perfect opportunity
No farm is going to be perfect - no opportunity ever is. We want farm entrepreneurs who can see the start of a great opportunity and can build. Having a farmer who wants to work with you is a massive opportunity that can be the cornerstone of you building your wealth and your farming dreams. You can turn an average opportunity into an amazing opportunity. Furthermore, once you meet the retiring farmer, who knows what other deals they might put on the table because they think you’re great.
d) Can’t make a living off the farm
It seems some people are making an assessment of whether you can make enough money on a farm just by their past experience - this is great - but also we want you to think of these farms as a blank slate. Maybe you can grow another crop on the farm that will make it profitable.
Most of the time the farmers are running out of energy and new need blood to come in and ramp up the operations and try new things. So don’t be restricted to thinking about what the current farmer is doing.
But if the farm doesn’t make enough to live off, then you should be thinking about off-farm income to supplement while you get it to scale. Or you use it as a way to get your foot in the door for farming and a bit of land which you can add to over time.
d) Are you ready to be a farmer
We have also been reading between the lines and maybe some people just aren’t ready to take the leap to be a farmer - to take on the responsibility, to move and to have a crack. That is fair enough. You need to know yourself and what you thrive doing. You need to know that you are a farmer through and through and once you do you can be more ready to jump when opportunities come up.
e) You’re going to have to sacrifice some things
We are also seeking farmers who are willing to put in the hard yards because they can see the bigger opportunity ahead. Once you are in with a retiring farmer who loves you, then you have a foundation to grow. Taking a hit on location, income, size of farm at the start might be the pathway you need to take to prove yourself, to then take on bigger opportunities.
f) Apply anyway
We saw a lot of different reasons that people didn’t apply - but some were just people double guessed what the retiring farmer wants. We say that if you like the farm, like the location and are willing to have a crack, then apply anyway. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the experience or the money - the farmer might just think you are the best and want to back you.
g) Skeptical of partnership deals
A lot of people have been burnt from farm management roles or share farming where the farmer screwed them over. We do not want any of those situations to happen for any farm we match. That is why we focus on relationships. If you get along with each other, then this makes this easier. The second is to make sure you have advisors alongside you in setting up the formal deal and then their involvement ongoing to make sure all parties are doing as they should. This will increase the chances of it being a win-win arrangement.
h) Use these farms to inspire you to find your own
We want you to go and find your own farm opportunity. Please see the farms that are coming through and get excited that there are retiring farmers out there who want to back kids that aren’t their own onto their farm. So you should be looking at as many ways as you can to find a heap of retiring farmers and find ways to get them to back you.
Below is a transcript of responses we received on Social Media to the question
23 Aspiring farmer comments are provided and Cultivate Farms gives a response to all of them.
Please read and get to know what other aspiring farmers are thinking and how we want you to think about the farm opportunities we are presenting and how we are thinking we should improve what we are providing aspiring farmers.
1 Aspiring Farmer: Sign of the times mate, succession is happening or not happening. It’s hard, I think farming is actually a very personal thing for a lot of people. Why they got into it and why they want to get into it. It’s a tough sell for most young people in a society where everything is meant to be easy.
2 Aspiring Farmer: but one thought we have a first home buyers grant maybe we should get a first farmers grant Sam Marwood is that even possible? Based on a lease or farm
Cultivate Farms: we have been grappling with the role of government and new farmers. We believe government handouts aren’t the solution - we just want to encourage the aspiring farmers to think differently and hustle to find their opportunities. There are definitely many ways to get on your farm and most are through building relationships. Thoughts?
1 Aspiring Farmer: yeah mate I do agree, I don’t believe handouts are a solution, might help as encouragement for some but certainly not a solution. They throw a lot of money around on stupid things why not put it somewhere valuable. That’s it mate, it comes down to old hustle and hard work at the end of the day. But relationships are key it’s what’s worked for me thus far.
2 Aspiring Farmer: A hustle might work but it is only going to work for some. And if the evidence is that there are opportunities but not enough interest what is the underlying issues that are preventing younger people feeling engaged or interested in a farming journey.
1 Aspiring Farmer: I reckon people aren’t signing up to farm opportunities because they can’t see the bigger picture. Ie if you take on this farm, you are then in that community and can start finding more opportunities. They can’t see that if they show they’re awesome farmers that this will lead to even more opportunities. I think people aren’t dreaming big enough and then don’t understand the practicalities of reaching their dream. I’ve been thinking on this for a while - still not exactly sure though
2 Aspiring Farmer: do you also think that new / aspiring farmers don’t think they have the expertise and or experience to take on some of these opportunities? I guess I’ve been looking at the other end of the system. Entry level and professional development to ensure new farmers are successful and not taking quantum leaps of faith and risk. �If the target market is young farmers who have grown up on farms or been in the ag industry for some time these opportunities are perfect.
Cultivate Farms: Some might not feel they have the experience. But hoping they use the 'carrot' of these farms to get them excited to get skilled up any way they can. Without that carrot I think many won't bother getting the skills. Our thesis is that if people start seeing there are amazing farms available if they are good enough, then they will do whatever they can to get themselves ready.
1 Aspiring Farmer: a great quote I’ve referred to in my own farming adventures. ‘If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later’ Richard Branson
3 Aspiring Farmer: We spent most of our farming together being employed to clean farms up, only to have them sold and us having to move on. So putting in our all and being treated like cleaners and movers sucks. Guarantee that this wouldn’t happen would be good.
The hubby has since left farming and moved to driving trucks because he got burned out. He’s an old-time farmer in a younger blokes body. It’s just sad. But like others said, money to get equity is a big thing! Unless you’re born into a farm, it’s getting harder to do!
CF: Doesn’t sound like much fun what you’ve been through. We always make sure an agreement is worked out before both parties commit. Which talk about exit plans and ownership transitions. We recommend all arrangements are legally binding and that both parties have arrangements in place to keep communications going and even an independent third party advisor
With equity - we are finding ways for the young farmer who doesn’t have much to even be a small equity owner and then have ways for them to earn it and build that equity over time.
4 Aspiring Farmer: I would have said location, ownership and viability. A new one would be getting the banks to lend based on personal income as well as farm income.
CF: With the backing of the retiring farmer who will in most cases stay involved, access to debt might be easier.
5 Aspiring Farmer: There's a lot of "work on my farm, manage it but never own it" arrangements. Not getting the farm when you've put so much heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into it is a risk. Also, experience, location and ongoing income.
CF: That’s not our model. I’d say 70% of our options are ownership transitions. That why we started Cultivate - to make farm ownership possible through relationships.
Corinne Turnbull: I must've been interested in the 30% ones then. That'd be right, keeping my eye out though.
6 Aspiring Farmer: location... honestly we want something that one of us could work on and the other could still maintain their current job. So we wouldn’t be able to move too far away from any of our job-specific locations. but a lot of farms around the area are being sold as development opportunities. It would need to be the perfect setup
CF: Yeah the farms open to you will have the pressure of urban encroachment and be very pricey. But there still would be farmers of retirement age who might back you onto their farm. I encourage you to reach out to as many as you can. Build your own relationships with them and you never know what could happen from there. Thoughts.
6 Aspiring Farmer: Cultivate Farms definitely keen to do that... I just don’t know where to start...
CF: Zoe Keele have you seen our YouTube channel? We have a stack of ideas on this very topic. Let me know how you go.
7 Aspiring Farmer: Fear of income not instant/sustainable location. Moving a family. Biggest no1 issue. Money.
CF: What do you mean by money - money to buy in? Most of our deals don’t necessarily require money- just a passionate farmer willing to put in their all.
7 Aspiring Farmer: Put in their all and lose their all?
CF: I guess that’s life. Any decision has risks. But we’re finding people who want to work with great aspiring farmers and that goes a long way to reducing risk.
8 Aspiring Farmer: I’ve seen a couple I would of been interested in but a combination of quitting a secure job, uprooting your family, deals seems like it’s set up so you fail and making sure I have the cash capital to jump in. Some of the farms advertised look like you will be a glorified manager for a few years then turned away. I love the concept but it also appears to have its risks.
CF: What makes you say the deals seem like they’re set up so you fail? That is the opposite of what we want to partnerships to achieve. Be great to unpack what you’re thinking there. Definitely not just managers and then turn away - some are leases, but the rest have genuine ownership outcomes.
8 Aspiring Farmer: Cultivate Farms, there was a nut farm I recall in Tas that was worded in a way that seemed absolutely pointless in applying. The owners wanted to retain ownership and pay you a percentage. Others are also worded that in 1-3 years if the owner doesn’t like you well their decision is final. Makes it hard to apply knowing that within 3 years of hard work you will only be benefiting the owners and be left looking for a new job.
CF: We will look into that wording. I guess nothing is ever set in stone and we hate here to make sure deals are win-win. If you like the sound of 70% of the farm, as example, I’d recommend apply as through discussions you could get a great outcome. We are finding that discussions unlock ideas the retiring farmer hasn’t thought of and they’d be open to adjusting. I have appreciated your insights here - really got me thinking about how we can improve.
9 Aspiring Farmer: Location. We’re in the south west of WA.
CF: That’s fair enough. How far would you travel or you want one in that location?
9 Aspiring Farmer: Cultivate Farms, we would be willing to travel. It would be hard being away from family tho. To be honest it still doesn’t feel like a realistic option for us. Are there any testimonials from young families that we could read/watch?
CF: Yeah a good one is Claire and Marc Coates. https://www.domain.com.au/…/business-h…/
10 Aspiring Farmer: Lack of experience and confidence.
CF: That’s a big one. Does knowing these opportunities make you want to build your skills so you could take on one of these opportunities? You should definitely apply anyway - if the farmer likes you they’ll probably back you and find ways to get your skills up before they step back. Thoughts?
10 Aspiring Farmer: It certainly does make me want to build my skills. I have a lot of theoretical knowledge but putting it into practice is the hurdle. At present I am thinking of renting land to build my skills.
But otherwise I'm uncertain about how to build skills. I haven't applied for anything because I just figured that there would be plenty of experienced applicants for those farms that have piqued my interest.
CF: I wouldn’t let your thoughts about what others might be doing stop you from applying. If you love a farm and can show that passion to the farmer, from our experience, that could get you over the line. Keep up the hustle and looking forward to seeing your application for a few farms soon!
11 Aspiring Farmer: Scale, lots of the opportunities won’t provide a large enough income.
CF: What if you took one on that could cover 50% of your income and you had off-farm income and you use the farm as a way to build equity and a base to find the next farm to add to that one?
11 Aspiring Farmer: I think most of the smaller blocks are too small to reach economies of scale you would be better off building equity via other means.
CF: Each opportunity will need a specific person at the right time of their life. We are also keen to see aspiring farmers think out of the box and see how they can use these opportunities to build skills and networks and equity in a farm – which can leverage them to the next level.
12 Aspiring farmer: Lack of opportunities in WA, that are suited to what we wish to do. In the area we are currently leasing (Gidgegannup/Swan Valley, WA), there are so many ex-market gardens and ex-vineyards being put on the market, but pretty much all are owned by elderly couples who over-value their property way too much, and are happy to just sit with a 'For Sale' sign in their front yard. Every time I drive past the signs, I just want to get out and knock on their door and approach them with an Ownership Transition offer, but don't have the time/words/forms. This concept would be so foreign to many of them, but, with places that already have irrigation/packing sheds/coolrooms set up, would be ideal for both parties, especially if the elder couple could continue to live in their house. Being close to market streams etc. would mean sure-fire solid income from almost the get-go, which means chances of paying off are well and truly possible. Love your work though, guys, is definitely what will be the way forward!
CF: Great response Melissa. I’d encourage you to find a way to get to know those retiring farmers. You never know if you don’t ask. We have a few ideas on how to approach them - check out our YouTube. We always encourage our aspiring farmers to use their own networks and ideas to find their way onto their farm.
13 Aspiring farmer: I can find my own farm to farm share on, it's owning that I'm striving for. And through that ownership transition there needs to a soon-to-be-former owner that allows for someone else to take control of the farm without interfering and being controlling and bitter. I've seen that happen recently. So, the process is fraught. I'm dubious about transitions and there are honestly not enough opportunities for a full transition of ownership.
CF: What are your alternatives to ownership if a transition isn’t an option Natalie? We believe there are many different ways to make it work and realising it right now with our 7 matches to date and more to be announced soon.
13 Aspiring Farmer: Didn't mean an alternative to a transition, but a transition that works smoothly. too many transitions are conflict-filled.
CF: That’s why we focus on relationships. We want to make sure people get along, have the same values and a similar vision for the farm. Once you have good people on the same page, you can work through almost any arrangement.
14 Aspiring Farmer: To be honest, like has been said number 1- location, number 2- some of these farms won’t provide even 50% of an income, especially if you are trying to build equity in the farm to have some security for your own family. Number 3- I might be wrong but some of them sound like they just want someone to do a fair bit of work for them before ”unfortunately it doesn’t work out”! I realise it has to be a good fit for both parties but that will be a long road to work out for both sides for people unknown to each other to build that trust, before any contract can be entered into, but to get there all caution has to be thrown to the wind security wise! I can see things from both sides though!
CF: Good points. We make sure both parties are comfortable with the arrangement. We make sure there is a get-to-know-you period and once that times is up moves to the ownership transition phase.
15 Aspiring Farmer: The cost to apply and be registered might only seem a small amount but it discourages people already struggling with finances. If it was free to apply I’m sure more would.
CF: It’s free to apply for any farm. You can pay to be a member and we work through your personalized farm plan and get some other cool perks.
16 Aspiring Farmer: Scale / location. More opportunities within QLD would be lovely.
CF: Agree. Very keen to get more QLD farms. Would love to be able to find them but we are at the mercy of forward-thinking farmers as to whether any come up. What is the scale you’re after? I assume you are after large farm for grazing?
17 Aspiring Farmer: Location and experience. I know a fair amount about looking after animals but nothing bout machinery. Hoping to get experience this year then I just have to worry about location.
CF: I’d assume the retiring farmers would love doing the machinery work anyway Elizabeth. You could have the passion and knack for animals that they physically can’t do anymore.
17 Aspiring Farmer: Cultivate Farms, thanks for the encouragement. I keep my eyes open and hopefully the right farm will show.
18 Aspiring Farmer: Location, scale are the main issues.
CF: Yeah finding the right location is key. We are hoping to get bigger farms Jimmy - we have some big ones that we are working on in the backend. But once more knowledge of what we are doing we are confident some rippers will be available.
18 Aspiring Farmer: Cultivate Farms big fan, have been from the start.
19 Aspiring Farmer: Not enough finances to support myself and just about all of the opportunities are looking for people with experience(like every other job)
CF: We are focused on relationships. So it might be the farmer loves you and your attitude and you click and so how much experience you have might not be a factor. Definitely do apply for any farm you like the look of - if you don’t ask you aren’t in the running.
19 Aspiring Farmer: Right you are mate.
20 Aspiring Farmer: Not sure if workload would impact my young family (one has just about started school). How does gaining income work, if I risk giving up my other work?
CF: You definitely need to know how much the farm can bring in. Those discussions you have on a farm by farm basis. The scenario differs all the time. That’s why we focus on matching people first and then they can work through win-win solutions.
21 Aspiring Farmer: Fear of the unknown and of failure
CF: Yep that’s a good one. We focus on relationships though. So we encourage people to reach out and see if you like each other. If you do then that will make the leap a lot easier. We focus on building relationship before you leap. So hopefully people apply to see if you might get along and if you do it should be easier. Thoughts?
22 Aspiring Farmer: Dodgy leg ankle.
CF: Yep that could slow you down. What if you had a former business partner that you went into farms with? They did the labour and you chipped in when you could but focused more on strategy and logistics and the books?
23 Aspiring Farmer: Deposit needed for most farms
CF: Most of our farm matches don’t require a deposit Hayley. It’s focused on relationships and transition of ownership over time by earning your way in. Of interest?
23 Aspiring Farmer: The ones I’ve been interested in you’ve needed to be able to purchase some of the property.
CF: The question will just be how much. Having some savings would be a good sign to the retiring farmer that you are good with money as well.