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COLUMNS: Young Agrarians coming to town

Much has been said of difficulties young farmers and ranchers have in getting access to land

David Zirnhelt

Special to the Tribune

Much has been said of the difficulties would-be young farmers and ranchers have in getting access to land.

Some of these young farmers have formed a B.C. chapter of the Young Agrarians and they intend to be in Williams Lake for a “mixer” in February of 2019.

Their objective is generally to connect people with land (to sell/lease/rent) with new entrants into farming and ranching.

At this point they are looking for ideas on discussion topics. If you have an interest you should contact Robin Hunt who is the Young Agrarian co-ordinator for the event. She can be reached at 604-767-4627.

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She and her partner have recently started up a mixed farm in the 100 Mile House area.

Successful programs elsewhere have partnered young people with retiring farmers willing to mentor the new entrant, pay them for several years and allow them to have deferred income in the form of sweat equity which helps them later to make payments for the land and business.

Most people I know here really want their next generation to take over, but the ability of the ranch to pay dividends to the retirees and to pay a salary to a new operator is somewhat limited because most of the equity ranchers have is sunk into land and equipment rather than off farm investments.

Some ranchers with a lot of land might be able to “sell” new farmers parcels of land in exchange for their work which generates retirement income for the retiring rancher.

It seems many ranchers would like to stay for life on the old place as long as their health makes that possible.

This could work as long as the retirees let go and not continue to micromanage the operation. People learn by trying and making mistakes.

Unfortunately, much of the “tried and true” practices have not led to profitability.

Did I mention that cattle prices have dropped dramatically in recent weeks? This does not help a retiring rancher put some cash away.

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One of the key success factors in integrating returning offspring to the ranch or taking on non- family successors is the new people bringing a new enterprise to the enterprises which constitute the ranch core business.

From our perspective as would-be retirees, we could welcome new energy and support further diversification of our enterprises. We are not land limited but rather energy limited.

There just might be a bank of knowledge and wisdom to share with new or returning operators!

If you have an idea which might help young people get into farming and ranching, please be in touch with Robin at the above phone number.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.