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More options for owning a farm

SO, you want to be a farmer and own your own farm – but you won’t inherit one – what are your options?

Interest rates are low, but land prices are increasing rapidly, stock prices are high – it almost seems impossible – but do not give up hope, there maybe a new solution.

Cultivate Farms connects aspiring farmers with retiring farmers and investors to own and operate a farm together.

Cultivate Farms works with aspiring farmers to develop a farm ownership pathway. 

How did ‘Cultivate Farms’ begin – I caught up with founder, Sam Marwood, to find out.

Sam grew up on a dairy farm in central Victoria and had aspirations of being a farmer and owning his farm.

But when his parents told him at the age of eight they were selling his farm, his dreams were crushed

Twenty-five years later, after the family had sold the farm and Sam had taken on a government job in Melbourne, his good friend, Tim Hicks, mentioned he’d love to own his farm but access to capital was the barrier.

Along with Tegan, Tim’s wife, they decided to start a business that made farm ownership possible for anyone with the dream. Not just those who will inherit.

After five years of research, discussions and hard work they uncovered the solution was to partner farmers together to share ownership

The core component was for aspiring farmers to first be a great farmer and then to have a plan, to have a pitch for a farm they want, which they can then use to discuss with anyone in their community to uncover farmers or investors who might be willing to partner with them.

JF – Can anyone apply – singles, married, from all states and territories?

SM - We encourage anyone who has a dream for farming and farm ownership, believes they have the skills to own and operate a farm and are willing to be persistent to make their dream happen.

The path isn’t easy nor straightforward, but with a farm pitch, we are proving that you can find people to partner with, to own your farm.

We have applicants from overseas as well. The problem and solution are universal.

JF – What are the plans for the program going forward?

SM - We will be running two to three cultivator programs each year. The current is our fourth and planning on another around September 2021.

JF – What has the feedback been like for those who take on the program?

SM - We kicked off our fourth program, and you can see the spark in the farmer’s eyes.

They just need to know that ownership is possible, that there are people who can back them.

They know the ball is in their court to develop their proposal and start talking with as many people as they can.

Feedback has been really positive.

Some farmers drop out as they think they aren’t ready just yet, some just can’t find the time to develop their pitch in their busy schedules, but most make it through and develop their full pitch – a five-year model, summary pitch and three-minute video. All the tools they need to open doors.

JF – What do you think about the timing for entering the farming industry?

SM - We think if you have the bug for farming, that the best time is all the time to get farming.

Of course, the farm has to stack up financially, but if you are able to uncover many opportunities, you only need one to be viable to be on your farm.

JF - How long has the program been running, and can it expand?

SM - We started the first program in 2017 and we have been refining and tightening ever since.

We have capacity for hundreds of farmers to be in the program. There is no limit.

If farmers have the dream and want to put in the effort, we are here to help.

JF - Farmers looking to future retirement can contact Cultivate Farms to find themselves a share farmer as part of a succession plan?

SM - Yes absolutely. If you want to share ownership and slowly step back from your farm, we can help uncover the best matched farmer for you.

Someone who share’s your values and you get along with.

Another view

TO get some feedback on what it’s like to be an aspiring farmer partaking in the ‘Cultivate Farms’ program – I caught up with Joel Simmons.

Joel had been searching for a joint venture on the internet.

Joel’s plan was a mixed, broad acre farming in the Mildura area – cropping cereals, legumes and sheep.

He first met Sam at an information night in Coleraine in 2019.

It was a year later that Joel signed up for the Cultivate Farms program.

The program involves defining and developing your prospective farm enterprise, budgets, with a mind to managing environmental impacts and biodiversity improvements, carbon credits etcetera.

Joel had no hesitation in recommending the Cultivate Farms program.

“It’s a lot of work, but it builds confidence and addresses the farm as a complete business model – the availability of a mentor is also a big bonus,” he said.

Cultivator offers aspiring farmers the chance to prove their skills and to dramatically increase their chances of finding a partner to co-own their farm.

Cultivator is delivering farm ownership outcomes for an aspiring farming family with this investor, and the most recent 2020 program has wrapped up where at least two farmers are now being matched with investors into farm ownership.

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