IT was standing room only when over 70 farmers and prospective young farmers gathered to hear about the National Trust’s Future Farming Programme, supporting farming in the Lake District.

At the open meeting at Mitchell’s Auction Mart in Cockermouth, which the trust says will be an annual event, people listened to presentations from the charity’s Lakes Future Farming Programme manager Jez Westgarth, and farming advisor Will Cleasby.

The National Trust has ambitious plans for its 90 working farms, managed in conjunction with its tenants, to deliver a broad range of conservation objectives as well as supporting young people at the beginning of their farming careers.

Mr Cleasby said: “We have been working with young people for 18 months now. They have stated they would like earlier notice of farms coming to the market and the opportunity to learn more about how future agricultural support will affect them.”

Those attending the meeting were encouraged to sign up for the Trust’s 2020 training programme, after being given an update on 2019 activities to support young people in developing business plans for farm tenancy applications. The evening finished with a lively questions and answer session with a panel of local experts ably fielding questions about common grazing practices and scrub management, letting dates for farms, sheep grazing numbers in agri-environment schemes, the trust’s tree planting schemes, and what may or may not constitute ‘public goods’ in future farm support payments.

“Having open and constructive conversations with our tenants, future tenants and the wider farming sector is critical for us all,” said Mr Westgarth.