Exciting and rewarding opportunities in the farming sector await bright young people, BBC Countryfile presenter and farmer, Adam Henson told teachers and careers advisors in Yorkshire.
Dr Deidre Rooney of Askham Bryan College, Speaker Adam Henson and Steve Willis, Chair of the Food & Farming Forum with a Red & White Holstein calf on the College's Westfield Farm.
Mr Henson was speaking at a conference at Askham Bryan College, York aimed at moving the farming and food industry to the top of the careers agendas of young people.
“For youngsters today, agriculture is really exciting,” said Mr Henson. “The need in the industry is for those who are hard working, entrepreneurial, innovative and technologically minded - we need to attract young people like that. And they have to be business minded too, that's hugely important.
“The key is to get the right people into the right jobs and there is something within our industry for every student. Agricultural colleges are full again and in time the industry will be able to cherry pick the best. “
In terms of public popularity and interest in where food comes from, farming was on the crest of a wave, said Mr Henson. “We need to ride that wave and ride it well. Yes there are people who are struggling and for whom life is hard but agriculture needs to be smart, forward thinking, sexy and attractive and in particular we need to look to the consumer, that's so important.”
Mr Henson runs the Cotswold Farm Park which pioneers rare breed conservation and is part of the 650-hectare Bemborough Farm which he farms in partnership.
The conference took place on Thursday 20 October, and was organised by The Food & Farming Forum in conjunction with Askham Bryan College and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. Forum Chairman Steve Willis said he was delighted with the response from both the delegates and the inspirational speakers.
“We have had teachers and careers advisers attending from across the north of England and our aim is that they go back and inspire their students about the huge variety of opportunities out there. Students need to be signposted to what's available – whether they're interested in science, business, land management or technology, farming has something to offer. And for those who are prepared to work hard there are potentially great rewards both in terms of quality of life and financially.”
Mrs Marian Farrar of St Aidan's C of E High School, Harrogate said she was impressed at the quality of the event and at what she had learnt. “The typical image of farming is of a man in his wellington boots and on his tractor but that's only one tiny part of the story – I've really had my eyes opened today. Young people tend to be blinkered and if they're academically able, they want to be lawyers or doctors, but it's clear that within farming there are extensive opportunities for all abilities and students need to know that. I now just want to pick up my entire sixth form and bring them to hear what's been said today.”
Looking to the future, David Neale of Masstock Smart Farming emphasised the positive long term prospects for the industry. “There couldn't be a better time to look at an agri-business career. It's well known that farming leads the way and is one of the first industries to come out of a recession, and that's the case today – and there are jobs out there. In the next 25 years the world needs to increase its production by 2% per annum to keep up with the population growth from six to nine billion. People need to eat so the future couldn't be more positive.” Mr Neale is a farm business advisor and Business development Manager with Masstock Smart Farming.
Workshops at the event highlighted four sectors - “From Farm to Fork”, “Going Green & Social Responsibility” and “Science and Education” and “Business.” Delegates had the opportunity to hear the varying career paths of the business representatives who ranged from locally based rural companies and organisations, to national food producers to science and technology companies. They also toured the College farm and chatted to students who acted as guides.
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