John is a dairy farmer from county Armagh, keeping a herd of 60 cows on a flying herd basis. John also runs his own agricultural consultancy company offering a form filling service for SFP, Nitrates, grant applications etc.
John was educated at Armagh secondary school and then attended Greenmount Agricultural Campus.
Free time is something of a luxury for John, when he and his family have free time, they like to go away, for short periods locally in Ireland, or for longer periods they travel to main land Europe.
Why did you decide to get involved with Rural Support and what does your role as a mentor entail?
‘My path to Rural Support started when I attended Greenmount Agricultural Campus, and gained an Agri. Qualification, this led me into the Focus Farm programme then to an Agri Environmental Trainer. I then worked for the Agri-Rural Partnership as a business Mentor. All this gave me experience in dealing with the farming community, both on an individual and group basis.’
‘My experience and skills I felt were aptly suited for role of mentor within Rural Support. If I can even help one client through the stress of the current farming financial situation, my time would be well spent.’
What sort of situations have you encountered during your time as a mentor so far? What are the main issues and barriers facing your clients?
‘The main issue I have encountered recently is the situation where the family farm has been reasonably secure in the past, but because of the prolonged down turn in farming returns, overdrafts have been extended, re-extended and the bank is now considering its position as the main lender.’
For anyone considering contacting Rural Support to avail of mentoring can you tell me about the mentoring process and what is involved?
‘The Financial Mentoring process starts when the farmer contacts the Rural Support team, at this point a referral can be made to the mentors.’
‘Initial contact is by telephone, where we try to get a feel for the main issues on the farm, at this point we may request some basic information, to make our first visit more worthwhile, but each client’s needs are individual to their own situation, there is no one fit suits all!’
How do you feel the finance mentoring process is helping individuals?
‘The mentoring process can help farmers take an objective look at their farming business, this could include, input and output figures, which is crucial at a time of low margins and cashflow projections, which can help when dealing with lenders.’
‘We aim to help farmers move away from a position of despair to one of hope for the future.’
What would you say to someone who is experiencing farm finance or debt worries?
‘I think the most important thing to do is to talk to someone about the situation. Get good advice or talk to;
- Accountants, with a good understanding of agriculture.
- DAERA (DARD) advisors.
- Rural Support.
- A trusted friend.’
What issues do you think farming families will face in the future? What can be done to minimise financial problems?
‘I feel the main threats to farm families will be poor prices for the produce we produce for prolonged periods, which leaves it very difficult to service debt pay bills or plan for the future.’
‘What can be done? Simply, the dreaded paper work, keep good records, benchmark each farm enterprise, complete cash flow projections and understand basic business principles of the cost of efficient production against achievable product price.’
‘If you are unable to do the paper work yourself then seek assistance from someone who could help you.’
Sincere thanks to John King for this interview.
If you or someone you know could benefit from talking with someone from Rural Support or if you would like to avail of the financial mentoring currently being offered please contact Rural Support’s helpline (0800 138 1678, 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday). All calls are confidential.