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Rural Economy

Business Case Studies

Report Segment: The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers - Suffolk

John Patrick is one of three managers who run the 3 Musketeers Ė a marketing consortium involving six farms with a total of 30,000 acres along the southern coastal strip of Suffolk. The concept is about creating the selling power of a large farm, by clubbing together and selling as a single group. The venture started in 2000 and now turns over £16 million of cereal and other vegetable supplies.

John Patrick doesnít have a great deal of faith in the local student market. First, they donít have a good understanding of the sector, so they donít appreciate that much of the land based work is automated and undertaken by a single person and his tractor or combine harvester. So the key work is done in the office, in front of computers and on the phone Ė making the deals at the most advantageous price. Secondly, students from the local college donít appear to have the right attitude especially in terms of hard work. John suggests that many farms employ non-UK workers for tractor driving because they are willing to work hard and learn fast.

John Patrick suggests a breakdown of the farming labour market as follows:

- 50% older farm hands who continue to drive the tractors; - 20% new young people coming into the sector, often with a family background in farming, trained at Harper Adams, and keen to become the new farming managers; - 30% Eastern Europeans who provide manual labour Ė and are generally hard working.

If this is at all close to the actual breakdown of farm labour one has to ask how the FE sector can help influence young people to train up for the industry in order to minimise its reliance on non UK labour.