8 March 2002

Skills for Cumbria

CUMBRIA livestock producers will be paid to learn new skills from top professionals in the industry as part of the "Rural Futures" programme which has just been launched in the county.

The scheme, which has attracted a grant of around £250,000, will provide training for "natural leaders and bright sparks" who are committed to Cumbria farming.

If it proves a success in Cumbria it could soon be introduced into other regions.

Those who are selected must be prepared to learn new skills over a six-week induction period and will then be paid to act as co-ordinators for two days a week to encourage the uptake of new projects within their own farming community.

The DEFRA-funded Rural Futures scheme is specific to Cumbria and is in direct response to the limited help available to farmers through the Farm Business Advice Service during the foot and mouth recovery period.

"The first part of the Rural Futures scheme will identify the natural born leaders within the farming community and we initially need 10 from any farming background," says organiser Kate Braithwaite of the rural business support group Voluntary Action Cumbria.

"These 10 individuals will be exposed to a curriculum that will quickly bring them up to speed on a whole range of agricultural issues. We want them to gain hands-on experience across a wide range of food and farming businesses and to talk and meet with the movers and shakers in the industry. After six-weeks of intensive exposure to their specific subject the individuals on the scheme will return home to build their network of local farmers.

"Its a bit like disciples spreading the gospel. Each will set-up a group of local farmers. It will attract additional funding to enable the group to finance further study. &#42

visits, travel to Europe or engage in other activities with the aim of improving their farm businesses at home."

The groups will run for 18-months to two years.