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Tesco Future Farmer Foundation: Open for applications

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The programme which is fully funded by Tesco was set up in 2014 and aims to support and inspire young people in UK and Irish farming.

It is available to people aged 20-35 years from all farming sectors, including new entrants and next generation farmers, who look to develop a successful future in agriculture, aquaculture and horticulture.

To date 400 young farmers have participated in the programme with 50 places available on the 12 month programme which starts in January each year.

Around 33% have been industry new entrants with the remainder next generation farmers. The programme focuses on core elements including; Business planning, obtaining land, leadership skills, personal development and understanding the supply chain.

Applications for the 2018-19 Future Farmer Foundation are now open – start your application today. In the mean time, check out our Facebook page for all the latest news and information.

There is nothing quite like the Future Farmer Foundation

Our fifth intake are now well under way with their Future Farmer Foundation year. This means 250 young farmers from around the UK and Ireland will have attended the programme to develop their future in our amazingly diverse farming and aquaculture industry.

The programme has been shaped from the very start by asking young farmers what they need to build their careers.

They told us they wanted to build their business skills, to learn more about today’s fast-moving supply chains and to find out from industry experts what they need to know to be successful. The programme meets these needs and delivers a whole lot more.

You will meet some amazing people

Anyone who has been on the programme will tell you this. First of all you’ll get to know a group of like-minded young farmers who face many of the same challenges as you.

But you also get to find out from them what works, where they see future opportunities and how they manage key challenges, like succession and obtaining land.

You also meet and learn from top industry professionals across banking, law, consultancy, accountancy as well as senior executives in food businesses.

Fully funded

The programme is fully funded by Tesco, we know this might seem too good to be true.

Tesco Future Foundation is about equipping young farmers with the skills they need to thrive and diversify within a challenging yet rewarding industry.

What’s on offer

A remarkably diverse range of activities are organised to develop personal skills and industry knowledge.


• 26 supply chain visits across a variety of farming sectors

• 5 workshop which address the challenges for young people in agriculture; succession planning, finance, business plans, obtaining land, succession planning, sustainability and leadership training

• An alumni event, 2018 will be the first year we will hold an alumni event for all past and present farmers

• Peer and industry mentor opportunity – Each Future Farmer will be matched with an individual peer mentor as well as the opportunity to be matched with a mentor within the agri-food industry.

• Each intake has the opportunity to access a £10,000 training fund in order to upskill and develop themselves and their business

Laura Hodgkins

What is your background and what made you decide on farming as a career?

I’m not from a farming background by any stretch. I came into farming 18 months ago after working in marketing and advertising.

My husband and I took on a long-term farm business tenancy in 2016 and that prompted my transition into farming.

We now run a 2,000-strong extensive flock of New Zealand Romney sheep on the South Downs in Sussex.

What qualifications do you have?

GCSEs, A-Levels, a Fine Art Foundation, Graphic Design BA Hons Degree – all very useful for the farming world!

What farming experience do you have?

During the past six or so years I had occasionally helped out during lambing times on my husband’s family farm

But it is only in the last 18 months that I have been working full time on our own farm that I have really gained any real sense of what farming entails.

During that time I have built up experience with the sheep, and the calves that we rear on a contract basis as well as some basic tractor/machinery skills.

What is your current job?

Shepherd and co-manager on our own tenanted farm

What attracted you to the Future Farmer Foundation?

Having not been part of Young Farmers, or having done an ag degree, I was really after a course that would give me a baseline knowledge of all of the sectors within farming – I also needed a course that I could carry on working alongside.

The TFFF was great, as it was not only designed to give an insight into all areas of farming and the supply chain, it was also an opportunity to make valuable contacts within the industry and to meet other young like-minded farmers.

What were your expectations and have they been met?

I was slightly nervous going on to the course, as it was all a bit out of my comfort zone having not come from a farming background.

But after the first workshop I was instantly relived to find such a rich mix of different farmers from all different backgrounds.

The course has exceeded my expectations in many ways, the supply chain visits have been invaluable for me this year and have really helped me in building my knowledge in all sectors of the farming industry.

What is the one stand-out memory/experience from your time on the scheme?

For me it was a couple of the supply chain visits. Visiting a large-scale vegetable/salad producer was mind-blowing – I just had no idea how the system worked and it was amazing to see it all in action.

The same goes for the Dairy Centre of Excellence visit; believe it or not I’d never been to a dairy farm, so it was an eye-opener for me.

How have you benefited?

The scheme has really helped me build my confidence within my business at home and made me motivated to bring ideas to the table that perhaps I would have been too unsure of to do so before.

It has also given me a great range of contacts within the industry as well as a soundboard of individuals in my fellow TFFFs.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully with a thriving sheep enterprise that has survived Brexit, with perhaps a side diversification project that is bringing its own money in.

Rob Wickham

What is your background, and what made you decide on farming as a career?

I grew up on the family farm, with my father growing fruit and hops. What really spurred me into choosing farming as a career was the way that no two days, seasons or years are the same and therefore it is rarely stagnant, with fresh challenges presenting themselves regularly.

What qualifications do you have?

GCSEs, A-Levels, BSc Agriculture with Industrial Training (Reading University).

What farming experience do you have?

Plenty of summers spent doing arable harvest on neighbouring farms. Blackcurrant harvest at home since I was a youngster.

I have spent time in Research and Development of soft fruit, working for Haygrove Ltd in Herefordshire.

What is your current job?

Assistant Farm Manager at Adrian Scripps Ltd. We grow apples, pears and blackcurrants.

What attracted you to the Future Farmer Foundation?

I liked the idea of being surrounded by like-minded, driven individuals who are on a similar journey to me, perhaps in need of some direction or guidance in order to take the next step in their career or just to gain confidence in what they’re doing.

What were your expectations and have they been met?

I expected to potentially learn a little bit about business planning and personal development.

What I have ended up gaining from the foundation is a great deal of motivation and confidence to point my career in the direction I want it to go rather than just bumble along.

I have also gained a large group of friends within the industry who are great for bouncing ideas around with.

What is the one stand-out memory/experience from your time on the scheme?

One thing I enjoyed was a supply chain visit to Arla where we were tasked with pitching a new yoghurt product to the mock Tesco buying panel.

This was great to learn the powers of negotiation and get a feel for how the supermarkets and their suppliers work together.

Negotiation skills are something that was focused on in workshop three, with an excellent session.

How have you benefited?

I feel I have more direction and confidence as a result of the scheme. I have been trying to transfer as much as possible that I have learned during the scheme on to the farm.

I have also benefited in the form of a fantastic industry mentor who is on the end of the phone should I need to discuss anything with him, be it technical growing questions or more broadly about the fresh produce industry.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

At the helm of a successful fruit-growing business.

Gwesyn Davies

What is your background, and what made you decide on farming as a career?

Having been brought up on the family sheep and beef farm in mid-Wales. I have always been heavily involved on the farm from a young age.

Passionate about livestock, I began my own sheep flock from the age of 13.

On finishing school education it was a natural next step for me to study agriculture at Harper Adams University before returning home to the family farm.

What qualifications do you have?

BSc (Hons) Agriculture Harper Adams.
(A levels in Geography, History and Economics).

What farming experience do you have?

From the age of 18 I went into partnership with my father, over the past few years I have increased the sheep flock to 600 Abe field ewes and very recently finished with the suckler herd and introduced a calf-rearing enterprise.

In addition to my sheep and beef experience at home, I have worked on several farms to broaden my experiences on a variety of production systems, this was important in opening my eyes to new approaches for the home farm.

During my placement year at Harper Adams University, I spent 12 months within the poultry sector and felt that there is much to gain in adopting similar forward thinking approaches to genetics and efficiency that this sector has mastered.

What is your current job?

I am developing the home farm. I’m currently farming the business on my own after a period of change within the family.

Having the responsibility for the outcomes of all decisions, both good and bad, is a sobering thought!

What attracted you to the Future Farmer Foundation?

I was recommended to join the Foundation by friends who have previously been on it.

Seeing benefits that they have had from their year with the Foundation, and the wider benefits to them as an individual and to their business, motivated to me to join.

What were your expectations and have they been met?

I approached the Foundation with an open mind. My greatest expectation was to meet new like-minded farmers.

The foundation provides a variety of industry-leading speakers as well as the opportunity for supply chain visits into a wide range of sectors within the industry, such as looking at free-range eggs and egg-packing plants.

What is the one stand-out memory/experience from your time on the scheme?

Meeting the other future farmers for the first time and being overwhelmed by the calibre of young farmers within the Foundation.

How have you benefited?

Being part of the Foundation has given me the confidence to implement significant changes at home such as the introduction of the 165 calf rearing unit.

Utilising the network of contacts through the Foundation, I am working within an integrated supply chain for a major calf-rearing company on a set price per kilo, which was something that the bank managers guest speakers at the workshops had said is a favourable move given the current market.

The Foundation workshops develop your wider understanding of market influences, both in the UK and globally. Although the agricultural industry is very volatile, this understanding makes you aware of any risk when looking to invest.

In addition, I have joined the Tesco Cost of Production contract for my lambs. By being a part of this producer group, I am able to benchmark my performance against other suppliers, and ultimately work towards reducing my lamb cost of production.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself developing my sheep and calf enterprises, focusing on improving the efficiency to help make my business more financially sustainable within an uncertain future.

James Saunders

What is your background, and what made you decide on farming as a career?

I come from a family of dairy farmers who have always encouraged me to go out and find experience away from home.

My father managed a number of farms during my childhood, which left me unafraid to move around.

My initial interest stemmed from wanting to spend more time with him but by the age of 16 I realised I far preferred farming to more years in the classroom.

What qualifications do you have?

After secondary school I spent two years at Bicton College and left in 2015 with a Distinction in agriculture.

I have since completed the Velourt trainee farm management programme.

What farming experience do you have?

I furthered my college education by travelling to NZ in September 2015. I worked on a 600-cow dairy from calving through to the end of mating as a junior herdsman.

I learned a great deal about grassland management and extensive dairy in my time there.

I then did three months of a maize harvest on the North Island which was a great way to look around multiple farms and pick up new ideas.

I ended my travelling by completing a muster on a 1 million acre station in Western Australia.

What is your current job?

Since returning home in August 2016 I have been employed by Velcourt and have been through its trainee farm manager scheme.

I spent the first six months on a 1,200-cow dairy on the Dorset coast. I then moved to my current farm. In the past 17 months I have managed the day-to-day running of a vastly changing dairy.

What was a 200-cow unit with followers has transformed to a 330-cow flying herd. Milk is sold through Arla on a Tesco contract.

What attracted you to the Future Farmer Foundation?

I was looking for a new source of personal development after finishing the trainee manager course. I came across the TFFF on a Facebook advert and thought it sounded like the perfect next step.

I discussed the Foundation with a past future farmer who was very much in favour of applying.

What were your expectations and have they been met?

I didn’t 100% know what to expect. I was hoping it would give me greater knowledge into the supply chain of agriculture.

This has far exceeded my expectations. The supply chain visits have given an honest behind-the-scenes view of some large agricultural companies that few people are lucky enough to see.

It is so important to understand all points of the supply chain so we can make sure we are producing what consumers actually want.

I also hoped to improve my financial and business management. This has been aided by the excellent speakers during the workshops.

More than anything it has really driven home the importance of these skills to running a sustainable business

What is the one stand-out memory/experience from your time on the scheme?

The Arla Westbury supply chain visit is a personal highlight. I was amazed by the autonomy and efficiency of the place.

It seemed crazy that so much milk was being processed with only a handful of people doing the work.

How have you benefited?

I have found the workshops to be the perfect environment for stepping back and accessing my own situation away from the hustle and bustle of routine work.

The lessons of goal-setting and self-awareness I believe will really aid me in the future to be a better leader.

Also, having so many young farmers to discuss challenges with has been a great help. I certainly see myself looking to the contacts I have made for advice going forward.

Chris Appleton

What is your background, and what made you decide on farming as a career?

I come from a family farming background; I’m the fourth-generation on our 450-cow dairy farm in Sussex.

There has never been any real doubt in my mind that my future lay in agriculture and, having worked in a few different areas of the industry, it confirmed that dairy was what I wanted to focus on and where my passion lay.

What qualifications do you have?

A degree in Agriculture from the University of Reading.

What farming experience do you have?

I’ve grown up on a family farm; I also have experience in the New Zealand dairy industry, having spent a year out there.

Prior to settling within dairy I have also had experience in working within a large-scale arable and veg farm.

What is your current job?

Farm manager and director at our family business – my main duties include cattle nutrition, staff management and an increasing role in strategic business decisions.

What attracted you to the Future Farmer Foundation?

The opportunity to meet like-minded young farmers and build key contacts as well as developing business management and financial skills.

What were your expectations and have they been met?

It has certainly exceeded expectations – I feel I’ve made some fantastic contacts and gained clarity in making key business decisions.

What is the one stand-out memory/experience from your time on the scheme?

For me, all of the evening speakers have been really inspirational.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I would like to be at the helm of a top-performing dairy business that is then able to provide opportunities for other young farmers who are looking to get ahead in the industry.

Applications for the 2018-19 Future Farmer Foundation are now open, and you can start your application today. Or to find out more, visit the Tesco Future Farming Foundation website