Jennifer MacKenzie is an agricultural photo journalist with almost 30 year's experience. Operating from her base in Cumbria, Jennifer undertakes mainly industry-related freelance writing and photography.
New scheme helps young people work down on the farm
Ten young people have pulled on their wellies and started work down on the farm, thanks to the Rural Futures Farm Assistant Scheme.
|Rural Futures co-ordinator and farmer Will Rawling explains the future management of the Ennerdale Valley as part of the Wild Ennerdale project to trainees, left to right, James Hodgson, Ian Wilson and Louise Case.|
The scheme, launched this summer in Cumbria, aims to recruit new people into farming and help them set up as self-employed farm assistants.
It has been directed by a group of farmers from across the county who are concerned about the lack of young people taking up agricultural work.
Agriculture is still the main employer in many rural areas of Cumbria with 6,000 farms employing 15,000 people, second only as an employer to tourism when considering the county as a whole.
The scheme follows the success of the Fell Farming Trainee project where six young people worked with clusters of four farmers each in the Lake District and Rural Futures, the county network of farmers, set up a wider programme covering the whole county, involving lowland farmers for the first time.
The scheme was the brainchild of Geoff Brown of Leader+ in Penrith in response to the concerns voiced by farmers and it has been brought together thanks to the hard work of Rural Futures co-ordinator Eileen Simpson.
The 10 young people from across the county have spent several weeks training in the basic skills, including tractor and ATV handling, fencing and walling and stockmanship to obtain proficiency certificates before starting out on farms to gain hands-on experience.
James Hodgson, aged 16, of Moor Row, Whitehaven, is working on three different farms in West Cumbria.
“My grandfather farms and runs sheep and I help him at weekends.
I have always wanted to farm and this is a good opportunity to
get into the job.
One day I would like to have my own farm,” added James, who already has his own sheep and hens.
Louise Case, aged 19, did A levels at school before completing a course in small animal management but is keen to farm.
“Hopefully, I will take over the small farm at Whicham, near Millom, which my parents run. Currently, my dad does most of the work. This scheme is giving me the opportunity to learn more about farming in a practical way.”
From another farm in the Millom area, Ian Wilson is intent on working on a farm. “The farm assistant scheme is helping me to get a start and I think it is better to have training on someone else’s farm,” he said.
|Trainees from left to right at an ATV training day at Newton Rigg College, Chris Purdham, of Gamblesby, Sarah Lowthian, of Brougham, Penrith, Louise Case, of Whicham, Millom, James Hodgson, of Moor Row, Workington, Ian Wilson, of Whicham, Millom, Stuart Ramsay, of Burgh by Sands and Michael Dean of Dalston.|
For the new scheme, the Rural Futures team raised a minimum of £5,000 in sponsorship from the private sector which was used to draw in £15,000 Defra/EU funding for the training.
Sponsors include the National Trust, Friends of the Lake District, Ernest Cook Trust, the Learning and Skills Council, Penrith and District Farmers’ Mart, Dodd and Co., Schering Plough and Harrison & Hetherington, Carlisle.
As well as giving the young people 20 days’ free training in the basics, the new programme also included a course to set them up in business as a self-employed “farm assistant”, with funds allocated for their own equipment.
The supportive group of forward looking livestock farmers is also giving them help in getting regular work and honing new skills to work as farm worker and also in landscape maintenance after two or three years.
“We see the scheme as creating an opportunity for young people who perhaps have had no experience of rural work and life to come into the agricultural industry,” said James Raine, who farms in a family partnership in the Kirkoswald and Renwick areas.