YOUNG farmers in Cumbria have formed a new organisation to help promote their interests and counter ‘negative public perceptions’ about upland farming.
Twenty five new generation farmers attended the inaugural meeting of Cumbria Young Commoners (CYC), held at the King’s Head, Thirlmere, last week.
The organisation says its aim is to represent the interests and views of existing young commoners and to help preserve Cumbrian hill farming for future generations.
Among the issues it is keen to tackle are the ‘misconceptions’ about upland farming voiced by environmentalists like George Monbiot.
CYC spokesman and Great Langdale farmer Jonathan Benson said those attending the meeting expressed particular anger at views expressed by the Guardian columnist on the Countryfile programme, during which he said sheep should be removed from large parts of the Cumbrian uplands so the areas could be ‘re-wilded’.
Mr Benson said Mr Monbiot’s comments were ‘like a kick in the teeth to young farmers’ and demonstrated why an organisation like CYC was so important.
He said another key issue the organisation would address was the lack of financial support for young farmers seeking to get farms of their own.
“The Single Farm Payment helps established farmers, but there’s nothing for young farmers such as myself who would love to have a farm of their own but can’t afford the rents,” said Mr Benson, who farms 30 cattle and 150 sheep in Great Langdale but also has to work at other farms to ‘make ends meet’.
Although no officials were elected at the CYC’s inaugural meeting, Mr Benson said the organisation was now officially up and running with its own Facebook site.
In addition to the 25 young farmers who attended the meeting, he said many others who could not make it had still expressed an interest in joining the organisation.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, who is chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hill Farming, applauded the formation of the CYC.
“I support the organisation’s aims,” he said.