Inspiring Ballarat: Farm incubator a foot in the door for new farmers

IT is an age-old problem - literally. Australia has an ageing farmer population but how to introduce young people to farming if they don't have their own land to have a crack at it?

Ballarat Permaculture Guild convenor Steve Burns believes he has seen an answer - the so-called farm incubator.

Mr Burns, who is a guest speaker at Inspiring Ballarat's Inspiration Night, on Thursday at Jackson's and Co, visited a farm incubator on a trip to Pennsylvania in the United States.

Farm incubators are small plots which allow young people who want to be farmers to test their farming ability in the real world, without being weighed down with an enormous farm mortgage. They can rent up to two hectares of land for up to five years, while having access to a commercial greenhouse, vegetable-wash facilities, a packaging line and all required farm machinery.

After five days staying with the manager of a farm incubator, Mr Burns believes it is an idea which would work just as well in Australia.

"I don't know anyone here who is doing it but it is a fairly easy thing to explore," Mr Burns said.

"The farm incubator I saw was on a property of a few hundred acres donated by a farming family to the county to support new farms.

"They provided the opportunity and the support, and ongoing guidance from the farm manager, who is an organic vegetable grower himself. It would be difficult for beef or broad acre farming but it is fine for horticulture, for example."

The farm incubator system isn't a free ride. Equipment must be rented. The operators do benefit, however, from peer and farm manager support.

Mr Burns will be one of three Inspire Ballarat speakers on Thursday night, along with Sandy Thai, who volunteered at the Baan Kingkaew Orphanage, in northern Thailand, and Yvette Knights, who will share her story of how she became passionate about helping children with learning difficulties, becoming a neuro-developmental therapist.

Entry is $10, which will be donated to Baan Kingkaew Orphanage.

AT A GLANCE

Inspire Ballarat's Inspiration Night

WHERE: Lawless Room, Jackson's & Co, corner Mair and Lydiard streets

WHEN: Thursday, 7pm-9pm

COST: $10 donation to charity

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