The Farm Business Mentoring Programme, which has already helped almost 1,800 Northern Ireland farming families, is closing for applications on Friday, 28 February.

Commenting on the news, Greyabbey, Co Down farmer John Martin urged more families to apply before this free mentoring offer closes.

“For us this programme was an excellent opportunity to step back from daily chores to consider the longer term future of our family farm. As a family we were able to have ‘kitchen cabinet’ meetings with our mentor and prepare a ‘to do’ list, which has now been worked through. This gave us peace of mind and clearer ideas as to the way ahead for our family and our farm business.

“Even highlighting simple admin steps such as having more than one name on Single Farm Payment forms, flock or herd books makes for clarity in the event of totally unexpected injury, chronic illness or worse.

“On a family farm there is always the risk of becoming so familiar with our own enterprises and so busy that the bigger picture is ignored. Tough questions need to be asked: are the returns making this a viable family business or do we need to look at different production systems or even alternative enterprises?”

“Certainly for me, having an unbiased and experienced outsider discuss the way ahead with us in confidence had huge benefits. After several meetings the mentor produced an action plan and we then took up a £250 sterling grant towards using the professional services of an accountant and solicitor for succession advice.”

Mentoring discussions can cover a range of issues impacting on family income and lifestyle as well as the longterm viability of a farm business. Issues such as, do I stay as a sole trader or is partnership or a limited company a better business model?  Training options can also be considered especially if farm diversification is needed to generate income for another generation joining the business.

A review of income, finance and succession planning taking into account individual family circumstances and taxation is of course a critical part of mentoring.

To apply for free farm business mentoring tel; 0845 026 7539 or email [email protected].

Pictured Greyabbey farmer John Martin, right, and mentor David Workman are urging more families to apply now for this confidential and free service