How to start a farm in the UK
Several steps and considerations are involved when starting your own farm, which can vary depending on the type of farm business you’re looking to grow. Here is some general guidance:
1. Develop a business plan
2. Identify the type of farm you want to start.
You should decide what type of farm you want to start based on your interests, skills, and market demand. The common types of farms in the UK are livestock, arable, mixed, and horticulture.
3. Identify suitable land
Choosing the right land is crucial to the success of your farm. Factors to consider include soil type, topography, climate, water availability, accessibility and zoning regulations. You should also consider the location of your land in relation to markets, transportation, and labour.
It’s essential to consider the environmental factors that affect your farm. For instance, the soil type and climate can impact what crops or livestock you can produce. You can check your farm’s soil type by using the Soilscapes website, which provides detailed maps of soil types in the UK.
When selecting land, you should also consider the size of the property and whether it can accommodate the type of farming operation you plan to establish. You should also consider the cost of the land and any associated expenses, such as property taxes and insurance.
You can search for available farmland on the UK Land and Farms website or contact local estate agents and landowners. You can buy or lease land depending on your financial capacity. It is advisable to get advice from a land agent, who can help you find land in your preferred location and within your budget.
4. Obtain necessary permits and licences
Starting a farm involves many legal requirements that vary depending on the location and type of farming operation you plan to establish. To ensure that you operate within the law and avoid penalties, you need to obtain the necessary licences and permits.
Before you start farming, you should research the regulations and requirements for your area, including any permits or licences required for farming, land use, water usage, and animal care. In the UK, for example, you need to register with the Rural Payments Agency and obtain a unique business identifier number. You may also need to apply for a CPH number, which identifies your land and enables you to move livestock.
In addition to the above, you may need to obtain permits for building structures on your land, installing irrigation systems, or using pesticides. You should also familiarise yourself with the relevant health and safety regulations, including those related to food safety and handling.
You need to obtain planning permission from the local council before starting any farming activity. The planning permission process ensures that the proposed use of the land is suitable and complies with environmental regulations. Depending on the type of farming you plan to do, you may need to obtain permits and licences from local and national authorities. For example, if you plan to raise livestock, you may need an animal welfare licence from the local council.
The UK government’s business support website has a directory of permits and licences required for different types of farming activities.
5. Secure funding
Starting a farm can be an expensive venture, so you may need to look at ways to fund your farm, such as investors, lenders, crowdfunding, government grants and subsidies. It is important to carefully consider your funding options and develop a realistic budget for your farm business.
According to a survey conducted by the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, access to capital is the most significant challenge for young farmers. It’s important to have a solid financial plan and to explore all funding options available to you.
6. Register your farm business
You’ll need to register your farm business with Companies House and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for tax purposes, as well as relevant authorities including the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). Registration allows you to access financial support and other benefits. You may also want to consider joining a trade association, such as the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales (NFU), to access support and advice from other farmers.
If you’re keeping cattle, you also need to register with the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), which is responsible for maintaining a database of all cattle movements in the UK.
7. Choose your farming methods
You need to decide on the farming methods you want to use, such as organic or conventional farming. Organic farming requires certification, so you should contact the The Soil Association for advice.
8. Acquire equipment and supplies
You’ll need to invest in equipment and supplies to run your farm, such as tractors, livestock housing, and feed. You can find suppliers of farm equipment and materials on the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) website.
9. Get advice
Finally, you should seek advice from experts, such as agronomists, veterinarians, financial, legal and business advisers. They can help you with farm management, animal health, crop production, business planning, as well as financial and legal compliance.