5 April 2002

GET A BUSINESS BOOST ON APRIL 10

WHAT does it take to build a successful farming and rural business in todays tough circumstances? Thats a question that several organisations hope to answer comprehensively at Rural United on Apr 10 at Staffordshire County Showground.

Thanks to organisers Advantage West Midlands – the regional development agency – and Business Link Staffordshire, who are financing the event, the regions farmers will be given a one-off, free opportunity to unlock the door to better ways of doing what they are doing and to help them discover new ways to build long-term business success.

The venture is supported by farmers weekly, alongside the Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society, the Royal Agricultural Society of England and the Rural Economic Forum for Staffordshire.

Peter Atkins, chairman of the Rural Economic Forum, says all these bodies have a track record of offering farmers and other rural businesses ideas that have worked, established best practice and practical advice.

Typical is Jill Norman, development manager of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. Using funding from the single regional budget – a national pot of money allocated for economic and social regeneration – she brought together all in the region who were involved in computer technology training for rural businesses.

They established the level of computer competence among the districts farmers, the type of training they needed and where and when theyd like to have it.

Taster sessions planned for March 2001 were scuppered by the foot-and-mouth epidemic. But when re-launched last autumn they enabled farmers without any experience of computers to see what they could do.

This was followed up by lending the same farmers laptop computers, complete with modems for internet access, to enable them to familiarise themselves with computing at their own pace.

Rural United is not just about computer technology and training, Ms Norman points out. But when it comes to doing things better and to opening new economic opportunities, she says computers, combined with the skill and confidence to use them, are vital keys to all the opportunities Rural United organisers have lined up for Apr 10.

These include a series of half-hour briefings on a wide range of topics runs throughout the day.

RURAL UNITED

Where: Staffordshire County Showground, Weston Road, Stafford.

When: Wed Apr 10, 2002.

Times: 10am to 4.30pm. Seminars 10.30-4.30pm

Seminar speakers: Trevor Sheard, Farm Business Advice Scheme; Paddy George and Robin Bassett, Business Link; Caroline Drummond, LEAF; Penny Hadland, Heart of England Tourist Board; Sue Prince, rural entrepreneur; Owen Davies and Jamie Inglis, DEFRA; Melvyn Askew, Central Science Laboratory; John Bailey, ADAS; Nick Young, Countryside Agency. Other speakers from the Soil Association, Taste of Staffordshire and Heart of England Fine Foods.

Exhibitors: Organisations and companies involved in midlands rural business.

Further information: 0700-220 2122.

Cost Entry and parking free.