Helping older farmers age in place

La Trobe University has partnered with social enterprise organisation, Cultivate Farms, to investigate and improve a service matchmaking retiring farmers with the next generation of aspiring farmers.

Making a match increases options for older farmers to age in place and helps younger farmers build a farm of their own. Cultivate Farms has been operating since 2016 and so far has placed 29 aspiring farmers across Australia with new owners.

Dr Sean MacDermott and Dr Clare Wilding, from La Trobe University's John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research, have been evaluating how older farmers are best involved, and the matching process from their side.

Dr Wilding said the farming industry is a much older workforce than most in Australia.

"Succession planning is complex and can be a very difficult conversation to have in families. Increasingly, the traditional model of retirement and passing a farm down to the oldest son is no longer viable. Children go off to have their own careers or do not want to farm," Dr Wilding said.

"And yet at the other end of the spectrum, there are younger people who are passionate about farming but yet don't have the resources capital to buy a farm."

Cultivate Farms founder, Sam Marwood, said this is the first business of its kind which is targeted at getting young farming families to own their own farm.

"Keeping families on farms is a challenge, either there's no one to pass it onto or the children don't want to continue the farming legacy," Sam Marwood said.

He remembers the conversations while growing up as one of six children on the family's dairy farm at Dingee in Central Victoria. It was clear from the age of eight he wouldn't get the farm.

"That's where I got the idea from. I was one of six kids and Mum and Dad couldn't figure out how to get the money out - they had to sell," Sam Marwood said.

Cultivate Farms works to help aspiring farmers develop their business plans and match them with potential investors, and a farm.

"The model aims to allow people who own land to retain land ownership but help them meet people with business ideas who could run the farm as a separate business," Sam Marwood said.

Cultivate Farms helps aspiring farmers find non-traditional investment sources. Sometimes this will come from the retiring farmer in a 'vendor finance' arrangement, but Cultivate Farms encourages aspiring farmers to explore other alternative avenues for finance.

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