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
management of the Ennerdale Valley as part of the Wild Ennerdale
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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