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Agriculture Investment

When Henk Blok outlines the regions where he has worked over the past 40 years, you would never guess that his adult life has been spent farming. From the US to the former East Germany, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Austria, Mr Blok was a man on the move as he pursued his chosen career. A native of the Netherlands, he now owns and runs a 140-cow dairy farm with his wife in Germany’s Rhineland.

Mr Blok did not grow up in a family of farmers, much less inherit a farm of his own, and so had to jump from farm to farm as he was entering this line of work.

He was keen, but he is aware of farming’s limited appeal to younger generations.

“If you show your kids that this is all work and not much fun, why should they take over this job?” he says. “I see people quitting all the time. Most of them, their sons and daughters are not interested in the business.”

At one time, he even had a business that offered vacation cover to farmers although he stopped the service several years ago, however, partly in order to devote more time to buying his own farm.

He is not alone in noting farming’s declining appeal to younger people — a problem the EU is looking to address through policy initiatives.

In a 2013 EU public consultation, respondents named “ageing and succession” as one of the three main challenges to family farming. The other two were the burden of dealing with red tape, and striking adequate commercial terms with larger trading partners such as supermarket chains.

Family farming represents the bulk of European agriculture. According to 2013 EU statistics, farms on which only family members work, or where they make up more than half the labour force, accounted for more than 95 per cent of the number of holdings and more than 65 per cent of utilised agricultural land.


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