Search for next generation rural leaders

DEPUTY farming and food minister Rebecca Evans officially launched Farming Connect’s annual Agri Academy during the FUW annual farmhouse breakfast at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on January 26. The Agri Academy, now approaching its fourth year and with nearly 80 alumni, brings together the most promising people making their way in the agricultural industry in Wales today. It gives them the inspiration, confidence, skills and contacts they need to become future rural leaders, professional business people and entrepreneurs. The Rural Leadership programme, a collaboration with the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, aims to develop and nurture a new generation of leaders while the Business and Innovation programme offers personal and business development to help meet the challenges of farming in the future. Young people aged 16-19 considering a career in the food and farming industries are also invited to apply for the Junior Academy, run in partnership with Wales YFC. The deputy minister said: “The Agri Academy has a fantastic track record of paving the way to business success for its alumni, with many of them crediting the action-packed programme of training, mentoring, support and guidance with their current success as well as ambitious plans for the future.” First generation farmer Rhidian Glyn, 30, took part in the Business and Innovation programme in 2013 and found the Agri Academy instrumental in helping to secure a business tenancy on his own farm. He said: “The Agri Academy gave me the confidence and belief in myself that I could succeed. We did a mini business plan for a case study which definitely helped when I applied for the tender for my own tenancy.” As well as keeping 900 sheep at Rhiw Griafol, near Machynlleth, Rhidian is contract rearing dairy heifers, which is a direct result of the Agri Academy. “I’m rearing heifers for one of the other members of the Agri Academy, who was in the same programme as me, so the networking certainly helped and gave me good connections with people I might not have met or known about otherwise,” he added. Joy Cornock, age 29, grew up on the 600-acre family farm Cefn y Dre, near Fishguard, where her parents, brother and sister-in-law run a 300 Friesian dairy herd, 240 beef and 350 Suffolk cross and mule sheep. Joy, an accomplished soprano, harpist, and freelance television producer still finds time to help out with all the chores on her family farm. She said being selected as a candidate for the Rural Leadership programme in 2013 provided her with a unique opportunity to meet other like-minded and ambitious individuals keen to progress their careers in the agri-industry in Wales. “My Agri-Academy experience inspired me in so many ways. I made so many great contacts who I still keep in touch with and it has been an invaluable stepping stone to developing my career and my knowledge of the industry in Wales and in Europe.” Nineteen year old Marged Jones from Penlanymor Farm at Llanarth in Ceredigion, was one of the first candidates on the new Agri-Academy Junior programme launched in 2014. She said the experience gave her focus, drive and the ambition to put into practice on her family farm what she learned. This year’s successful candidates, selected by a panel of agricultural experts, will participate in a series of challenging workshops and seminars during three residential weekends, including an overseas study tour for each of the senior programmes. All this year’s Academy members will be invited to a ceremony and networking event at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair 2016 in Llanelwedd. The closing date for applications is April 1. For further information visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect

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