Land Mobility - The new and the wise

Access to land and finance are the two biggest issues facing young, aspiring farmers, the Land Mobility Programme proposes a solution to both, writes Tracey Donaghey.
John McCallisterJohn McCallister
John McCallister

Succession planning is the easiest conversation to put off to another day, explains Land Mobility programme manager John McCallister.

In June 2022, a NFU Mutual study showed that among farmers polled in the UK, around 47% have a formal succession plan in place. However, 14% of those hadn’t undertaken a review while the majority polled, had no plans in place at all.

Perhaps it is due to fear of preparing for a time beyond your own, but while the joint initiative Land Mobility was created to improve succession planning amongst farming families, it’s anything but doom and gloom. The scheme focuses very much on meeting farmers’ needs today by bringing young, aspiring farmers into the equation.

The end result, a succession plan that allows farmers to lighten the workload and step back at their own pace while giving a passionate agri enthusiast their first step on the ladder.

“Land Mobility came about looking at where we were in succession planning with agriculture. The average age of farmers is in the late 50s, and what were the plans in place to bring in the next generation, new skills, new ideas, new ways of working...and create land availability.

“Many farms don’t have an identified successor. How do we make arrangements that can meet the needs of an older generation wanting to step back or retire but still tapping into the expertise these farmers have built up over a lifetime,” says John.


Launched over five years ago, the Land Mobility programme has entered another funding year. The success of the previous round has helped to ensure a new generation is stepping into frontline agriculture and that the facilities built up on NI farms are being maximised. This is extremely critical with the global population forecast to grow to 10 billion by 2050.

“The year we are about to complete on, close to 30 arrangements covering something like 4,600 acres across all six counties and sectors, and a range of arrangements. From profit share type arrangements to partnerships to heifer rearing agreements.

“I don’t want anyone thinking ‘we wouldn’t fit in to that’ because it has to be specifically one thing or another. This is about what you would like or what we can find to match you with…which is why it works so well.”

Catering to both

We’ve long past the era where the oldest son automatically becomes the farm inheritor. Today, some farm families need a successor outside the family and with a growing number of young aspiring farmers having no farm inheritance or agri background, Land Mobility opens up a real opportunity for both parties.

“Many farms I’ve gone on to where the kids are grown up but didn’t want to farm, the vast majority would like to see the farm continue on. That can be a real strength to the programme if you bring in a young farmer, that the family are all involved and keen to see it continue.

“There are so many people who are not brought up on a farm but are really keen to get into frontline farming and because the entry barriers are so hard, without something like Land Mobility those young people quite frankly wouldn’t exist (in farming). Agriculture as an industry can’t afford not to provide avenues to bring those talented young people into farming.

“One of the things I found dealing with older farmers, it allows people to step back at their own speed. It allows them to say, ‘I don’t want to do 14 milkings a week but I’m happy to do five’. So, it’s that level of flexibility and you’re providing a real opportunity to bring a young farmer in and get them on the first rung of the ladder. I see it as a win win.”


Various things come into play when matching up two farmers through the scheme, but the relationship is pivotal and sometimes, plain to be seen.

“The more mobile the younger person is, the more opportunities. Everybody might want a good opportunity, but they might like it three miles from home or at the end of their road. Now that can happen. One example I can give is one farmer wanting to retire and one wanting into dairying. These two people lived on the same road so that was quite an interesting one that worked very successfully.

“The relationships are the hardest bit to get right. What the arrangement looks like after that generally can be easier, but making sure that relationship is sound and workable is the hardest part of my job. You may want to take out more than one person on to the farm to watch the dynamic and see is there a match or is it looking like a really bad first date.”

Supporting the next generation

Land mobility has helped young farmers massively. However, John would like to see more steps being done to help them gain access to land and finance.

“If we take access to land, down south they changed the tax system to allow land to move away from a traditional conacre system into longer term leasing. That, by all the evidence, has proven quite a game changer in Ireland. It’s something that I think in NI we should try and replicate.

“Access to finance…if we move into things like longer term leases, profit shares, how can we encourage banks and our lending intuitions to recognise and make it easier for a new entrant to get some financial backing. What that looks like and the policy levers we could pull. I’m open for that debate but those are two big things.”

If you would like to have a conversation about succession planning or are a young farmer keen to find out more about what Land Mobility can offer at no cost, visit or email [email protected]

You can also listen to the full interview with John on Spotify. Simply type UFU podcast Farming 24/7 into the search bar.

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