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Bursary to boost young businesses

A decent set of wheels is a necessity for any farm business and perhaps even more so when you are just starting out. Danusia Osiowy discovers more about how the Prince’s Countryside Fund Land Rover Bursary is helping two young farmers.

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Ashley Stamper, 24, contract shepherd, Northumberland

Prince's Countryside Fund Land Rover Bursary

  • The Prince’s Countryside Fund Land Rover bursary was established in 2013
  • It aims to recognise the need for a rising number of new entrants into farming and related careers
  • This year’s bursary is focused on supporting five young people aged 21-35, with the loan of a Land Rover Discovery Sport for a year to help them pursue their rural careers
  • Applicants are asked to apply online via The Prince’s Countryside Fund website by filling in an application form and submitting a short 90-second video, which could be filmed on a smartphone, explaining a little more about the individual and their area of work
  • For more information, visit www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk

Ashley Stamper works at Featherwood in the Redesdale Valley, Northumberland, a 2,833-hectare (7,000-acre) area rented off the Ministry of Defence on the Otterburn Ranges.

 

Working as a shepherdess, the 24-year-old helps manage an extensive hill system running Blackface ewes, gathering stock, lambing and handling medicine, movement and record keeping.

 

It was her thesis research into which prompted her to apply for the Prince’s Countryside Fund Land Rover Bursary.

 

Ashley, who is studying agriculture at SRUC in Edinburgh, says: “My thesis is a study of sheepdogs, how they gather the hills, their energy consumption and behaviours."

 

Her subject was inspired by her experience with sheepdogs – a hobby which has now become a livelihood for her.
“There’s a welfare issue with sheepdogs in the UK and there’s no research about them in the UK specifically. There are other studies in New Zealand and Switzerland, but conditions there are very different.
I really believe the more we understand sheepdogs and their behaviour the better.

 

“There’s a huge knowledge gap for the trade and Government is threatening to replace sheepdogs with drones to survey hills. I hope my research can prove this would be detrimental to the trade and is also much less effective.”
After asking her agricultural lecturer if there was any financial help with her project, she was advised to apply for the bursary.

“I’ve done 10,500 miles since June, but I knew I would cover more ground because of my project.

 

My little Rover Streetwise, known as Pea Green to everyone who knows me, is past his best; a hatchback filled with collie dogs, half a tonne of feed bags and endless shepherding equipment is a lot to ask.”

 

“Out on the Otterburn ranges, we have a huge amount of ground to cover – in fact it is 90sq.miles between all the shepherds.

 

“We can only do it because we have quad bikes, it’d be just impossible otherwise. The vehicle tows a quad-bike trailer to land we rent away from the main farm. The car is very capable off-road, even on road-biased tyres.”

 

Ashley is keen to use as many opportunities as she can over the next 12 months, so she has passed her trailer towing test allowing her to tow livestock to the mart and move stock in between farms.

 

“In winter it will be safer to travel the 100 miles to university every week. Altitudes are high on the Otterburn ranges, with more snow and ice.

 

“Where I farm is quite simply beautiful. My work is as much as a hobby as a job and, most of the time, I really enjoy my job as a shepherdess.

 

“In June, I hope to complete my thesis and honours degree, it will be then I decide whether a graduate job is looming or if I carry on shouting at sheepdogs and rallying round on the quad bike.”

 

“Where I farm is quite simply beautiful. My work is as much as a hobby as a job and, most of the time, I really enjoy my job as a shepherdess.

 

“In June, I hope to complete my thesis and honours degree, it will be then I decide whether a graduate job is looming or if I carry on shouting at sheepdogs and rallying round on the quad bike.”

 

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Lewis Steer, 21, Lily Warne Wool, Devon

Lewis runs his own wool business, taking sheared wool from his flock of rare breed Greyface Dartmoor sheep.

 

His Lily Warne Wool business – named after his great, great grandmother – is one of a few in the country to carry out the entire woollen process from ‘farm to yarn’, and it focuses on reconnecting people with British Wool.

 

The 130-hectare (321-acre) farm, a mixture of owned, rented and seasonal lets, is run by Lewis who also manages the marketing and sales of the wool business.

 

Three local Devon breeds are run in separate flocks comprising a mixture of breeds to retain purebreds and commercial pure-bred rams.

 

All lamb is sold via a lamb meat box scheme which offers full UK postage and Lewis retains the sheepskins to sell direct to the public at shows, music festivals, online and through local stockists, varying from the National Trust to local farm shops.

 

He says: “I have been expanding the flocks and business while studying at Royal Agricultural University and have been relying on my 40-year-old Series 3 Land Rover for all farmwork and transporting all products to shows and stockists.

 

“Now I am working on the business full-time and looking to rapidly expand. I was in serious need of a vehicle which would be capable of farmwork and towing, as well as cruising up and down the country visiting shows, festivals and stockists.

 

“Being a small start-up company and personally not being in the position to buy such a suitable vehicle after my studies, I applied for the bursary scheme, although I never imagined I would actually win one.”

 

Lewis is looking into gaining more customers in the catering trade as well as implementing plans to take his produce to more music festivals and shows in the next 12 months.

 

As well as helping cover this mileage and the 10,000 he has done since he won a couple of months ago, the bursary has helped him promote products to many schools and organisations across the South West.

 

“We give educational talks on the process behind the production of lamb, sheepskins and yarn and help reconnect the public with farming once again.

 

“There are many more similar events booked in in the coming months and we now look forward to being able to even take a few of our flock along with us to really show people where their lamb, skins and yarn come from.”

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