Doors open to help young people with no on-farm experience get their foot on the agricultural ladder as Harper Adams University launch new scheme.
A turnaround in the educational sector has opened the world of farming to students who have little or no on-farm experience.
Work experience regulation had previously wiped out all chances for a young person with no experience to study an agricultural course at university as it demanded at least 10 weeks of on-farm activity.
But a new scheme, Access to Agriculture, introduced by Harper Adams University, hopes to encourage those who would have previously been denied the opportunity, the chance to develop agricultural skills during their first year of study.
It came as farming leaders refreshed the demand for further training and opportunities to help young people to begin a career in the industry at the CLA’s Rural Business Conference last week.
Laura Harper, head of admissions at Harper Adams University, said: “Applicants are normally expected to complete at least 10 weeks of work experience on commercial farms before they can commence one of our agriculture courses.
“However, we understand that it can be challenging to meet this requirement for those from non-farming backgrounds who do not have access to family or friends with farms or to the kind of contacts who can help them to secure work experience.”
Activities which count towards the programme are expected to include elements of land-based and farm skills modules which lead to certification in tractor driving, tele-handling, pesticide application and animal handling, including any university on-farm work such as milking and lambing duties.
Farming experts at a recent event hosted by the Prince’s Countryside Fund in London, reiterated the importance of providing training and opportunities for young people wanting to get their foot in the agriculture door and suggested the industry should work harder to find solutions.
The need for social innovation and stronger partnerships were recurrent themes when discussing ways to help improve the long-term viability of family farms and rural communities.
Chairman of the Prince’s Countryside Fund Lord Curry said: “It is easy to forget just how much we depend on our rural businesses and family farms in our everyday lives.
“It is therefore vital we continue to support grassroots initiatives to ensure we maintain a thriving and sustainable future for our rural communities.”
Norfolk farmer Helen Reeve, winner of The Prince’s Countryside Fund’s Land Rover Bursary, works as an agricultural assessor and lecturer for apprentices at Easton & Otley College.
She said: “After realising that farming wasn’t a fad when I was younger, my mum and dad bought me a pedigree Dexter heifer and many years later, I now have a herd of 50 which produce Waveney Dexter Beef.
"As well as an inner determination, this support and encouragement was so vital to me. It is increasingly important that the next generation of farmers have access to new opportunities to gain skills and forge a new career in rural management to make sure that the agricultural sector is protected for the years ahead.”