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From sitting tenants to freeholders

Published: 19th November 2020

When the Gore family were offered first refusal on the sale of the farm they had rented for 75 years, AMC were delighted to be able to support…

Owned by James and Catherine Gore and their son Tom, Ringshill Farm in Rochester, Kent is based on combinable crops and a beef suckler enterprise. The 560-acre farm lies to the south of the Medway Bridge which carries rail, motorway and Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and has been the Gores’ home since 1934 when the family farming business began. The farm is based around the Medway Valley, where the arable soil is productive and the riverside marshland is suitable for low-cost cattle grazing.

As sitting tenants of the farm, rather than freeholders, the Gores were somewhat restricted over how they could make use of the land and its buildings. This made it challenging for some of the family’s plans for the site to be realised. In 2018, however, all this changed with a telephone call saying the landlord was planning to sell the freehold to Ringshill Farm.

A generational dream made reality

After many decades renting Ringshill Farm to the Gores, the owner was keen to give the family first refusal when he sold. The Gores knew this was an extremely rare opportunity and they needed to act fast to raise the capital needed. Working alongside their trusted advisor Mike Bax from BTF Partnership, the family set to work to prepare their AMC funding application.

‘I’ve known the Gore family for 40 years and it was a pleasure to help them achieve this particular aspiration. I helped them negotiate on the sale with the previous landlord and recommended AMC as a lender who would understand the importance of this unique opportunity,’ said Mike Bax, AMC Agent and Chairman of BTF Partnership.

In autumn of 2018 the Gores were happily able to purchase the freehold of 560-acre Ringshill Farm outright from the current landlord, thanks to funding from AMC. The family also sold a cottage and an off-lying set of farm buildings (without planning) in order to raise the full agreed asking price, which, thanks to negotiations supported by Mike, was a very fair price for a sitting tenant purchase.

Tom Gore, Partner at Ringshill Farm said: ‘I could tell that AMC were invested in this deal and really wanted us to be able to buy the farm. It’s that level of positivity and passion that stands them apart from other lenders.’

How the land lies

Following the purchase of the Ringshill freehold in 2018, the Gores have made several significant changes to the site. With additional smaller AMC loans in 2019 and 2020, they designed and built a new farmyard site with an additional road entrance, which included an extra grain store, livestock barn and hay and straw barn. They also decommissioned the old Victorian-style buildings which were not fit for modern farming purposes – these are now undergoing conversion into commercial properties for rental.

In addition to 560-acre Ringshill Farm where they live and work, the Gores are agricultural tenants of a nearby farm, 130-acre School Farm in Wouldham. They also occupy various other parcels of land including 750 acres in the Medway Valley and 1,200 acres of contract farmland with a further 1,300 acres on the Isle of Grain from April 2021.

Income stream diversification opportunities

Situated only 25 minutes from Central London and just a mile from the Medway Towns, Tom saw a number of opportunities to diversify at Ringshill Farm. All of his expanded ventures have brought the Gores valuable increases in income stream.

While the core focus is still very much on farming, the Gore family’s portfolio of businesses now includes:

  • Livery, paddock rentals and other equestrian services
  • Sale of hay and straw
  • Dog walking paddocks
  • Rental of storage containers
  • Commercial rental of older buildings on the site, which are less suited to modern farming practices

Crucially, the family had not been able to pursue many of these activities on a medium-large scale while they were sitting tenants.

A solid relationship with AMC

For AMC, this was a real example of a solid, family-run farming business ready to look to developing additional income streams servicing the needs of the local population.

‘I see the Gore family not as farmers with a few diversification-based business interests, but as business people who also farm,’ said Jon Drew, Regional Agricultural Manager at AMC. ‘As a family they are outstanding farmers, and with Tom’s entrepreneurship and energy they have successfully branched out into new revenue streams.’

Mike Bax, AMC Agent and Chairman of BTF Partnership continued: ‘It’s only been two years since the deal went through and Tom has already further strengthened the ability of the business to service the AMC loan. He’s brilliant at thinking outside the box and crystallising opportunities, as evidenced by the diversification projects he’s been undertaking to great success.’

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For us, the best part of being able to buy the farm is that we now have complete control.

Tom Gore, Partner, Ringshill Farm

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