Young people are being offered a new opportunity to get free training
in Cumbria to enable them to work in the agricultural community.
Following the success of the Fell Farming Trainee project where
six young people worked with clusters of four farmers each in the
Lake District, Rural Futures, the county network of farmers, has
set up a wider scheme covering the whole county, involving lowland
farmers for the first time.
Farmers from the Croglin area who are backing the new scheme, left to right,
Randal Raine, James Raine, John Thirlwall and Paul Stobart.
The aim of the Rural Futures Farm Assistant Scheme is to recruit
new people into farming and help them set up as self-employed farm
assistants and it already has the backing of a group of farmers
on the Pennine fellside 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.
Rural Futures assistant farmer network manager Will Rawling, said: “We
are responding to the fact that the average age of a farmer is
over 50 and that many farmers we are working with complain about
a lack of young people coming into the industry from outside farming
“To make this work we need to find groups of between two
and six farmers who are looking for some extra labour and who will
take a young person under their wing by giving them help and support.”
For the new scheme, the Rural Futures team needs to raise at least £5,000
in sponsorship from the private sector over the next few weeks,
which will be used to draw in £15,000 public sector funding
in order to train 12 people from July 2005.
The new programme will give young people 20 days' free training
in the basics, plus a course to set them up in business as a self-employed “farm
assistant”, with funds allocated for their own equipment.
Working with a supportive group of forward looking livestock farmers
they will give 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.
The Rural Futures network was closely involved with the successful
Fell Farming Trainee scheme, with several members participating.
Richard Maxwell, who farms at Ennerdale and was involved with
the original Fell Farming Trainee project, said: “The Lake
District scheme was particularly successful. Trainees each had
the benefit of learning all the practical tasks from four different
farmers as well as getting some excellent training off-farm from
“In return, the farmers had the benefit of some extra labour
from someone they came to trust, without having to pay for someone
As result of this scheme, after 18 months, four trainees have
successfully set up as self-employed farm workers, and all with
full order books from local farmers.
Vicky McCartney with her sheep dog Glen.
Vicky McCartney, aged 24, who is originally from Coniston, has
now set up her own business based in Cockermouth after successfully
completing last year's course.
“I wanted to go into farming since I was four when my dad
was a shepherd but I struggled to find a place. So until last year
I did various jobs including working on a caravan site and in a
bar and a café,” she said.
“During the course I worked with five different fell farms,
mainly working with sheep and cattle although I did some tractor
work. The training I had was excellent and it has worked out very
well for me and I am not short of work in the area doing a variety
of jobs from walling to gathering sheep and lambing,” added
The new scheme is supported by farmers from the Croglin area. “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.
His uncle, Randal Raine, said they were concerned that in the
area along the Cumbrian fellside there was a lack of young people
working in farming.
While the Raines employ full time staff there are occasions when
they would use the services of self-employed workers as would John
Thirlwall and Paul Stobart, who both farm at Croglin on their own
“There are a lot of people who could use the help of someone
one or two days a week but currently there are no people available,” said
Farmers, young people or sponsors interested in the Rural Futures
Farm Assistant Scheme can get further information from Eileen Simpson
at Rural Futures at The Old Stables, Redhills, Penrith, Cumbria,
CA11 0DT, tel 017683 41821.
Rural Futures project
The aims of the Rural Futures project is to assist the farming
community in Cumbria to respond to the need for change, support
farmers to help them change and to foster increased collaboration
The project has a team of coordinators drawn from the farming
community; their role is to help farmers and their families to
improve their businesses, working jointly with other farmers, involving
other experts if needed.
Currently, there are some 25 farmer groups being assisted by the
Rural Futures network in Cumbria, including groups that are developing
new markets for meat, milk products and breeding animals and also
groups looking to improve efficiency through sharing machinery
and improving technical knowledge.
Rural Futures was set up by Voluntary Action Cumbria in April
2002 and will run through to July 2006. This project is supported
under the England Rural Development Programme by the Department
for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the European Agricultural
Guidance and Guarantee Fund.
Rural Futures is a project of Voluntary Action Cumbria. Registered
Charity No. 1080875 Company Limited by Guarantee 3957858.
For further information please contact project leader Paul Harper
contact details 01768 242130 or communications co-ordinator Glenis
Postlethwaite 01900 85616.
© Copyright 2005 Jennifer
MacKenzie All Rights