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    Help At Hand For Northumberland's Enterprising Farmers

Enterprising farmers across the north east are being offered a helping hand to turn their innovative business ideas into reality. Advice clinics run by the Rural Development Service (RDS) in the North East will give local farmers the chance to find out about accessing funding through Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES).

RES, which is delivered by RDS, aims to help farmers diversify and to strengthen rural economies and communities. RES grants have already assisted thousands of North East farmers in diversification projects, helping to create over 200 new jobs and safeguard around 380 existing jobs. RDS is keen to encourage more Northumberland farmers to apply for grants and by attending the clinics farmers will be able learn more about the scheme.

Two clinics will be held at Hindmarsh Village Hall, Alnmouth on Thursday, 7 July and the Cheviot Centre, Wooler on Friday, 8 July.

RDS advisers will be on hand throughout the day to offer one-to-one advice to farmers. They will use real-life examples of local farmers who have already successfully diversified to highlight what can be achieved. These will include:

* The Maxwell family, of North Doddington Farm, near Wooler, who used the support of RES to establish the highly successful range of Doddington Dairy Ice Cream.

* Plant ecologist Judith Baker who launched "Northumberland Wildflowers" in 2002 with the help of RES funding and now supplies a range of native wild flowers and seeds to developers, farmers and local councils seeking to restore and recreate the region's native habitats

* "The Lamb Man" Jimmy Bell, of East Wingates Farm, Longhorsley, who started selling his range of meat products direct to consumers five years ago and with the help of RES funding last year, launched a new image with a colourful trailer and stall and expanded the on-farm butchery. He now has a thriving business with a large number of loyal customers who buy the meat, butchered and packed on the farm, through Farmers' Markets, the internet and mail order.

And an open day will take place at Archer's Ice Cream Parlour, New Moor Farm, Walworth Gate, near Darlington, on Friday, 15 July (2-4pm). RDS advisers will be on hand to offer one-to-one advice to attendees on applying for RES grants.

John and Sue Archer were awarded RES funding to help renovate redundant farm buildings to create the new ice cream parlour and a children's play area.

The couple's homemade ice cream is produced using milk from their herd of Jersey cows. Since its launch last year, the business has gone from strength to strength and the couple are now looking at how to further develop the business.

Adrian Vass, an adviser for the Rural Development Service in the North East, said:

"We awarded RES grants totalling £2.1 million last year to support a wide range of innovative projects including helping farmers to process and market their own products.

"Many farmers have already proved they have the imagination, drive and determination to diversify, ensuring a successful and sustainable future for their farm businesses.

"We're keen to support more innovative business ideas from farmers and what better way to show them what can be achieved than by highlighting real examples of farmers who have already taken advantage of the support on offer through the Rural Enterprise Scheme."

To find out more or to book your place contact Jayne Thompson at the Rural Development Service North East, TEL: 0191 229 5454 or email:

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