A GROUP of potential tenants shortlisted to take over a Devon County Council farm in North Devon were putting their hopes and fears to a panel today in the main part of the selection process.
A fortnight ago they viewed Lower Northchurch Farm, near Yarnscombe, to see how the 125-acre holding matched up to their ambitions for a life on the land.
The farm has come up for a new tenancy after the previous holder decided to vacate early in favour of another enterprise.
And the council's decision makers were impressed by the quality of candidates even before they saw any formal applications, according to the managing land agent Dan Meek: "We saw some very promising people with different business plans, with interesting ideas and models.
"I think, although the numbers were down on some previous viewings, we will certainly have, in our opinion, six good candidates and some who will be absolutely delighted for the opportunity."
Although the buildings at Lower Northchurch need some repairs Dan was particularly impressed with the quality of the land for grazing and arable crops.
"Somebody could go in there and immediately start viable beef and sheep farming," he said.
One couple who came for the experience of looking round were 22-year-old Alex Wilson-North and his fiancée, Claire Sexon, 27, from Chulmleigh.
"We're only just starting out, we're newbies," said Claire, who admitted that although they've been saving towards their new life, finding the investment is a difficult task for people beginning their farming career.
Alex explained that he has some stock, has been milking cows for nearly seven years and their ambition is to go into dairy.
"So this is really a look-around, it wouldn't be appropriate for what we want. We'd like to milk our own cows."
The county council will be spending a sizeable sum updating the house with central heating and on repairs to the farm buildings.
Dan said although the buildings haven't been used for stock for 12 months, some of the would-be tenants said they were in better shape than others in the private and council sectors.
He said: "It will be a completely different house by the time the new tenants come in. And on the buildings the roof sheets, gutters and other damage will be repaired so it will be functional."