A NOT-for-profit organisation is seeing its membership climbing at a time when Cumbrian farmers are facing changes in agricultural policy and support payments.

The Farmer Network says they have supported farmers for the past 20 years.“We try and fill the gaps in support” says Chair Rob Hitch. “We are led by farmers and so we have an understanding of what is needed, and we then look to deliver it”.

The Farmer Network supports farmers to look at their business incomes, save business costs, providing critical knowledge and information to farmers and promoting the value and benefit that farming delivers in a positive light to the public and those with interest in rural affairs.

This month a new Northumberland Network is being launched alongside the Cumbria and Yorkshire Dales networks.

Within the last year the Farmer Network has delivered an array of farm related projects, covering business support, grants and other funding, changes to legislation, fund, animal health, support for young people in farming and other meetings to look at health and wellbeing.

Last year the network moved to larger office premises within Penrith Auction Mart, and from their the team continues to operate the popular fuel buying scheme which last year again topped more than 4.7m litres of fuel secured on behalf of members.

Yorkshire Dales Farmer Network Chair Richard Stockdale says “As a farming family in the Dales, we’ve enjoyed hosting Network meetings and sharing our experiences with other farmers including the young people who will be the future of farming and foremost in looking after the natural environment. The network wants to support them as much as possible”.

Cumbrian upland farmer James Raine of Fog Close says “We all know our farms better than anyone, but there is always something new to learn. We cannot stand still and attending Network events such as those within the Fellfoot Forward Programme recently, gives farmers confidence to at least look at new and innovative ways to farm and manage our land”.

Farmer Network Managing Director Adam Day thinks farmers are facing a particularly challenging time with much uncertainty within the industry and a lack of appreciation towards the work that farmers do. “As a team we are confident in future that the value and benefit that farmers bring to food production, the environment and as an essential part of rural communities, will grow stronger.”