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New plan to attract youngsters into food and farming

By Mike Stones , 02-Jan-2013
Last updated on 02-Jan-2013 at 10:54 GMT

The government has launched a new plan to attract more young people into the food and farming industries.

The food industry, farming and related sectors such as engineering and science, will need to fill thousands more high-skilled posts in coming years, confirmed the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  

“This is because of the huge potential for growth caused by a rising global population, increasing demand for western-style diets around the world and the need to reduce the environmental footprint of food production,” pointed out a DEFRA statement.

Farming minister David Heath added: “With rising world population, Britain has a massive opportunity to grow and export more food, and to do so sustainably. So we need to encourage new blood into the industry.

“I’m not just talking about giving people more access to land or getting them on production lines but allowing youngsters to really embrace new ideas and technology for rewarding, well-paid careers.”

Entrepreneurial young people

The Future of Farming review will investigate how to improve access for talented, entrepreneurial young people and how to make it a more attractive career choice, he said.

The review will be led by David Fursdon, chairman of the South West Rural and Farming Network and former president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLBA).

The group will aim to combine expertise inside and outside farming by touring the country seeking ideas and views from a wide cross-section of the agricultural sector from farming to science.

Fursdon said producing food more sustainably was a huge challenge, which could be met only by having the right people entering the industry.

“To make this happen, we want to listen to young people’s experiences to make sure the right people are entering the industry and have the support to establish their businesses,” said Fursdon. 

“I’m looking forward to pushing on with this work and building on the work already being carried out within industry to come up with some new ideas.”

The Future of Farming Group will examine:

• Future workforce and skills needs of the industry

• Different entry routes into farming, such as buying property, tenancy, share farming, contracting, farm management, employment, apprenticeship

Graduate schemes in science

• Wider opportunities that are offered in agriculture, such as graduate schemes in science, engineering and research

• The challenges facing new entrants such as lack of training, access to land, access to capital

• The challenge facing employers in finding the right people, such as the image of the industry.

Members of the group include: Robert Law, National Farmers Union; Des Lambert, Plumpton College; Martin Redfearn, Barclays Business; Ross Murray, CLBA; Jeremy Moody, Central Association of Agricultural Valuers; Jo North, young farmer; George Dunn, Tenant Farmers Association; David Yiend, Careers in Farming and Food Supply initiative; Nick Ritblat, consultant, chair of the Bank of England Residential Property Forum; and Richard Longthorp, Agri-Skills Forum.

To hear the views of as many people as possible, Heath is launching a twitter competition for five young people to meet him and discuss the issues.

Young people have been invited to tweet @Defragovuk with what they see as the key barriers facing their future in farming, using #meetfm.

All entries must be tweeted by Thursday January 24 2013. Heath will review the responses and invite five people to meet him at the Houses of Parliament to include their ideas into the review.

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