The Prince’s Countryside Fund has teamed up with Land Rover once again to help and inspire young farmers kick-start their career in agriculture. Emily Ashworth talks to the winners of this year’s bursary to find out how it has helped them.
Trying to establish yourself in agriculture as a young farmer can be a difficult task. With funding, chances and land hard to come by, The Prince’s Countryside Fund has teamed up with Land Rover to create a bursary to encourage younger generations in to rural careers.
With more and more youngsters aware they must be more pro-active in marketing their business, applicants for the fund, which offers a vehicle for 12 months, have been growing for the last five years since its launch. This year’s five lucky winners were whittled down from 70 applications and were recently announced at the Royal Cornwall Show.
Claire Howlett, a 2017-18 bursary winner, said: “The bursary really boosts your confidence in your business – I’m so proud to have it, and seeing the other winners’ businesses is so inspiring and makes you think how you can progress.”
Open to UK residents aged 21-35, applicants were asked to state how the vehicle will have a positive im- pact on their business, whether that be to help you push it to the next level, tackle logistical prob- lems or provide a resource to enable them to work more closely with local communities.
Find out more about the bursary at www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk
Living on a remote family farm in Exmoor National Park, the free use of a vehicle for a year meant much more to Abbie Westcott than simply being a luxury. Abbie is also affected by Lyme disease, a bacterial infection which affects her mobility, and the opportunity has given her the boost she needed to progress with her career aspirations.
“I still can’t believe I have won,” she says. “I chose to enter because it seemed like such a fantastic opportunity and I currently have to fight for use of our old, battered farm Defender, or I have to rely on my parents to drive me to shows.
“To be able to have the use of my own vehicle for a year means I can be more independent and expand my business, as well as helping to combat rural isolation and loneliness. I can now get to the
remote locations and across my own farm.”
Farming on 61 hectares (150 acres), Abbie runs 180 pedigree Exmoor horns and Exmoor Mules, 15 pedigree British Blonde cattle and 100 red deer. Abbie successfully shows her cattle and, from that, started to produce cattle for other people alongside the family business.
“It’s incredibly difficult for a young person to start out in farming and that’s why industry support is so incredible.
“I’m very grateful and lucky that my parents are stepping back and letting me take over the running of the farm to expand my cattle enterprise. Not everyone has that chance.
“It’s even harder when you are in remote parts of the countryside – a 4x4 is a necessity to survive but they come at quite a cost.
“It means I can connect with other farmers that are even more remote than me. Even if it’s only being able to see someone for a couple of hours, it not only helps my business but improves their quality of life by giving them that vital interaction with someone different, and that understands their challenges.
“A lot of farmers don’t leave the farm from week to month, which seems hard to believe but is true.”
Abbie is also keen to help run more educational clinics where she can offer to teach people different skills. With a great passion for showing, she is enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge and promoting her cattle.
“At the educational clinics I teach people how to clip and dress a cow as well as how to lead them.
“I’ve done this privately and for Young Farmers clubs before, along with helping at cattle open days, teaching people to make halters,” she says.
“I advertise for my cattle show team sponsors too. This means I inform people about farming technology to help improve their returns, and advertise my vet practice to try and teach people about the importance of cattle foot care and correct trimming.”
Although growing up on a beef and arable farm near Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, William Groom moved away from the family business after becoming more interested in beef and sheep.
Pursuing his passion at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, he is currently studying animal science and working as a trainee farm consultant, all while establishing his new start-up, Ewetrack.
Along with two others, Chris Puttick and Sam Hewett, their idea is dedicated to solving the growing industry problem of livestock theft.
Their team of engineers, technologists and farmers together have developed a clip-on re-usable eartag that monitors erratic behaviour within livestock, a fresh and innovative angle that led them to winning The Prince’s Countryside Fund Land Rover Bursary award.
“We felt we truly had an idea and project that was unique to the agritech sector,” says William.
“The fund stated it was looking for businesses helping the rural community, and the missions and goals of Ewetrack are exactly that.
“As the business is still in its very early stages too, any help and support we can receive from the sector helps us achieve our goals.”
William believes this really could be revolutionary in terms of how it could prevent the devastation caused by livestock attacks, but as young farmers trying to make a name for themselves, they have to overcome some obstacles first.
He says: “We recently attended the Sheep Watch UK national sheep worrying event in Sussex. Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, spoke about a farming family who couldn’t go and watch their daughter move into university because they were worried about dog attacks within their flocks.
“These stories drive us even harder to solve the issues of theft and worrying.
“As a young farmer who has diverted away from the family farm and running an agritech start up, I would say the biggest problem is the uptake and adoption of new technologies.
“We really need to have the industry behind us if we are to solve some of these global issues for the livestock industry and create a sustainable structure for uncertain times ahead.”
They also realise how important marketing and contacts are to ensuring success for their product, which is why winning the bursary has been so incredibly important to them.
“Business-wise, The Prince’s Countryside Fund and Jaguar Land Rover have already helped us hugely with press coverage, networking events and contacts that all assist driving the business forward”, he says.
“The use of the Land Rover Discovery will ensure we have an adequate vehicle to access our testing fields situated in some very remote areas of the UK. Upon our product launch, we will also use the Discovery to attend UK shows and events wide and far, and it will give us the ability to help our customers fit devices within their own fields.”
So far, the trio have done extremely well in terms of pushing Ewetrack forwards, and are nearing the end of the prototype testing phases with the Royal Veterinary College. With a sincere passion for helping livestock farmers with one of the most horrific threats they face, William says that although Ewetrack has had a great response from the livestock industry so far, to take them and the industry to the next level, they all need to embrace, trial and test the technology to its limits.
“We have all seen the brutal images over social media, but hopefully they can rest easy knowing that Ewetrack will be watching.”
Rearing rare breed British saddleback pigs in the North West, Jack Flusk and his partner Katie Swift have started their business, Conservation Pigs, from scratch.
With a passion for pigs and rural conservation issues, the pair began the project five years ago and produce rare breed pork from piglet to finish, grazing them on conservation sites.
Both had no prior farming experience, but through studying and pure hard work, their product is now in more demand than they could ever have imagined.
He says: “We have no previous links to farming but with a passion for pigs, awareness of rural conservation and a respect for the work that goes into producing the meat we consume, we began Conservation Pig five years ago.
“We cover lots of different woodland habitats and manage the pigs to meet different conservation objectives.”
After entering the Prince’s Countryside Fund Land Rover Bursary and winning, the prospect it offers them in terms of elevating their business is undeniable.
In terms of conservation, the distance to travel to visit other prestigious conservation sites will no longer be an issue and will help them develop business faster and more efficiently.
“A long-term positive is that we cover a lot of ground with our work and the use of a Land Rover Discovery Sport opens up more opportunities for us to get to the more remote and special sites which are a privilege to work on”, says Jack.
“We are really passionate about our pedigree saddleback bloodlines and keep our eye out across the country for new lines.”
With their own on-site butchery and eager to start new, rare breed beef herds as well as grass-fed lamb, they have their work cut out for them.
“The demand for high welfare, locally grown meat is a growing market in our area and if you couple this with our unique selling point of conservation supported agriculture, there are definitely exciting times ahead for us.”