Prince Charles is set to unveil an additional £250,000 for rural projects to mark the first anniversary of his fund for the countryside.
The announcement is due to made at the Great Yorkshire Show during National Countryside Week (11-18 July) – a week-long celebration of the UK countryside and the people who look after it.
Since it was launched last July, the Prince’s Countryside Fund has raised well over £1million for rural communities. Already, nearly £500,000 has been given in grants to 13 projects throughout the countryside from Devon to Scotland.
The fund has three goals. It aims to improve the sustainability of British farming and rural communities, reconnect consumers with countryside issues and support farm crisis charities through a dedicated emergency funding stream.
It achieves this by using donations from range of businesses and distributing the money to charitable projects and other good causes to improve the long-term viability of the British countryside and its rural communities.
In its first year, the fund has helped an estimated 1,000 beneficiaries, including £15,000 to the Farm Crisis Network where casework had doubled due to pleas for help from farmers affected by delays to Single Farm Payments.
Earlier this year, the fund also donated £25,000 to the ARC Addington Fund to support farm businesses suffering financial hardship after forage shortages saw applications for help soar by 350%.
Other beneficiaries include an apprenticeship scheme to train the next generation of hill farmers, a project to help young farmers find rural employment and computer training for isolated communities (see case studies).
Supported by 14 founding companies, so far the fund has supported 10 projects. Countryside Week has been devised to raise the profile of the initiative further. It will see the fund promoted in Waitrose supermarkets across the country.
The intention is to inspire other businesses and the general public to get involved and recognise the importance of the countryside to the nation’s wellbeing and the wider British economy.
In a video message to mark the occasion, Prince Charles said: “I hope that it will provide us all with an opportunity to celebrate the people who make our countryside the very precious national asset that it undoubtedly is.”
Recipients of the next round of funding will be announced by the Prince as part of a royal tour of rural projects he has helped. The week will include visits to Cornwall, Devon and Yorkshire.
Fund partner Waitrose will be celebrating the week by offering savings on some of the groceries produced by companies that have stated their commitment to the countryside and supported the fund.
Waitrose chief executive and fund trustee Mark Price said: “All the companies that have partnered with the Fund have a special connection to the British countryside through the products and services they make or sell.”
He added: “We hope to inspire the general public to recognise the importance of the countryside to the nation’s wellbeing and the wider British economy and to take time to appreciate it and the people who care for it.”
Brands and businesses involved in the Prince’s Countryside Fund include:
Asda, Barbour, Barclays, Booths, Birds Eye, Dairy Crest, Duchy Originals, Ginsters, Hovis, Jordans, Lloyds TSB, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, McDonald’s, Musto, Twinings, United Biscuits, Walkers and Waitrose.
CASE STUDY: Hill farmers
The Farmer Network is a not-for-profit organisation working to improve the sustainability of farms in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales.
The Prince’s Countryside Fund is supporting the network’s Hill Farming Succession Scheme, which is training eight people over a two-year period in hill farming skills so they can take on their own holdings.
Trainees are mentored by farmers in a local valley. As well as farming skills, trainees are taught how to maintain the infrastructure of the countryside that results in Cumbria’s unique landscape.
The aim is to improve the chances of sustaining hill farming significantly, by using the community to help educate and involve young people and help to give them a first chance to farm by themselves.
It will also provide much needed hands on support to hill farmers who are involved in the scheme at lower costs and promote a better maintained landscape, through extra work by the young people.
CASE STUDY: Computer training
The Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Service was an early beneficiary of the Prince’s Countryside Fund. It received just under £40,000 to help farmers cope with form filling.
In particular, farmers had highlighted their worries and concerns surrounding the increasing levels of complex paperwork and the associated penalties if the slightest of errors were made on forms.
Working with UTASS, farmers were provided with computer training to enable them to run their businesses more efficiently and deal with the increasing focus on online information.
“As a result of our grant from the fund, so far we have managed to train 42 farmers in computer skills,” said UTASS manager Diane Spark. Good IT skills were vital for business management, she added.
“While most of our farmers are good with tractors and cattle and sheep, pressing little keys at a desk is not their strength and computer skills are essential for farmers today. Thanks to the fund, farmers can make their businesses better.”
CASE STUDY: Young farmers
Lincolnshire Federation of Young Farmers Clubs received £43,742.40 for its Rural Development Community Project, designed to enhance the opportunities for young people living and working in Lincolnshire.
The money is enabling the project to provide £250 grants to 150 young people over the next three years to assist with training costs so they can secure employment in their chosen rural industry and continue living in the area.
As well as gaining certificates in rural crafts, practical tasks and first aid, the project will also encourage the development of IT and interview skills. Two networking events each year introduce young farmers to potential employers.
YFC county organiser Angela Bruntlett said: “There has been a lot of excitement among our members about the small grant project.” The first grants were allocated by the end of May and more are set to follow.
Donations to the Prince’s Countryside Fund can be made over the counter at Post Office branches. Alternatively, a £3 donation can be made by texting PCF to 70300. To find out more, visit www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk.