Fund helps young farmers bring ag-dreams to life

Hayley Parrott speaks to two recipients of the Henry Plumb Foundation about their projects and plans and brings you all the details of how to apply.

Henry’s Hero 2014: Sarah Stobart
Education, livestock and diversification

Sarah Stobart, 21, from Cumbria, was one of the latest recipients of a coveted Henry Plumb Foundation award.

See also: Video: Campaign seeks next generation of farmers

As the surname and hometown might suggest, Sarah is a relative of Eddie Stobart. He was her grandfather in fact, but Sarah is much more interested in Herdwicks than haulage and teaching than trucking.

Sarah has been awarded a grant of £2,700, as well as business mentoring for the installation of information boards around her family’s 101ha grassland farm and the investment in her on-farm gift shop.

Sarah farms with her parents at Howbeck Lodge, Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria.

Their main enterprise is the flock of Swaledale ewes that they cross with Blueface Leicesters, and their herd of suckler cattle.

Sarah describes herself as “passionate about livestock”.

However, there’s a lot more going on at Howbeck beyond the livestock.

From April to October, they have a constant stream of international visitors who come to stay at the Feather Down lodge on the farm or arrive as part of the bus company Trafalgar’s Britain and Ireland Panorama tour.

When the bus tour arrives, Sarah walks the group around the farm and speaks to them about the farm itself and the bigger picture of British agriculture.

This fits nicely with Sarah’s other passion after livestock – education. Sarah is a work-based learning assessor for level two agriculture students at Newton Rigg College, Penrith.

“Balancing it all is difficult at busy times, but I can work around everything.

“I take all my leave from work to be on the farm and make sure I save holiday for lambing time,” says Sarah.

The grant

Sarah initially found out about the Henry Plumb Foundation through searching online when she was looking for resources to help young people in farming.

She’s keen to spread the word about the help it can provide.

“The Henry Plumb Foundation needs to be more publicised, I had never heard of it before, but it’s so good for young people.”

Once Sarah was notified that her application had been shortlisted, she made her first visit to the capital city for her interview at the Farmers Club, London. And it was worth the trip as she was successful.

The information boards around Howbeck that the grant will be used for will “transfer knowledge about British agriculture to visitors,” says Sarah.

After hosting so many visitors of all nationalities to the farm, Sarah identified a “big gap” in many people’s understanding of British farming and where food comes from, and this is something she wants to change.

“When we have families to stay at the Feather Down lodge, we give them a real-life, hands-on farming experience.

“If it’s lambing time, then they’re straight in the lambing shed.”

The other opportunity Sarah has identified as a profitable addition to the farm is retail.

Sarah has created an on-farm gift shop where visitors can buy The Herdy Company products, but she plans to use the grant to expand her range of stock and create some original Howbeck Lodge items.

As the first step of the project, Sarah has found a lady who will take photos on the farm, which can then be turned into cards, key rings and fridge magnets.

“People often arrive on the bus tour from Scotland and have a Scottish souvenir with them, so I want to give them something to take away from here.

“We’re in the Lake District and we need to utilise our location,” says Sarah.

The long-term vision is to make the gift shop part of a larger farm shop to sell meat from their Herdwick flock and Highland cattle, as well as other farm produce, gifts and souvenirs.

Stephen Jones

Henry’s Hero 2014: Stephen Jones
Commercial crops with a difference

Stephen Jones, who recently featured in Farmers Weekly talking about British quinoa (Arable, 15 August), received a Henry Plumb Foundation grant earlier this year.

Entrepreneurial food scientist Stephen, who graduated with a PhD in crop science from the University of Nottingham, received his grant of £3,000 in January this year for the production of oca (Oxalis tuberosa) tubers.

Oxalis tuberosa is the plant that produces stem tubers known as oca. It’s originally from New Zealand and South America and has become a popular eating vegetable in New Zealand.

“What I am trying to do is see if we can create a commercial crop of oca on the farm here in the UK,” says Stephen. He has been experimenting with the growth of oca and quinoa since 2006, but says that the trials with oca have been a slower process.

Stephen is trialling eight varieties on his family farm in Shropshire – four varieties from New Zealand and four with unknown heritage. “We’ve got our largest field trial in at the minute and we’ll be ready to harvest in winter. They’re just developing foliage at the moment, we should see tubers in October, and then in December the crops will be ready for assessment.”

All this work and Stephen has only spent £400 of his HPF grant so far. However, he says that next year is when he plans to spend most of it. While Stephen will do most of the manual work himself and his parents and “everybody on the farm chips in”, they will need specialist potato-harvesting equipment for the small tubers, so this will use a lot of his grant money.

As well as the financial support, the HPF provided Stephen with a mentor, Michael Bubb from Newport. “To have the backup of someone experienced has been fantastic,” says Stephen. “I saw the mentor as a minor aspect of the award at first, but I have now realised it isn’t; it has been very, very helpful”.

Michael has experience of both potato production and farm diversification in the form of Shropshire Petals, a family-run business that produces dried flowers and natural petal confetti. Stephen has found that Michael has been particularly helpful in finding solutions to the inherent problems involved with the project, drawing on his own experience. One example of this is the meetings they have had to dig up plants and look at what is happening beneath the soil and Stephen says that Michael asks questions he would otherwise not have thought of.

So now it is a case of waiting until December and seeing how the eight varieties fare before moving on to further trials next year.

You can find Stephen tweeting at @BritishQuinoa.

Who, what, how, when?

Who is Henry Plumb?

Lord Plumb, who announced the creation of the Henry Plumb Foundation (HPF) in October 2012, is a farmer who went into politics and has been the president of the NFU.

The aim of the foundation is to “help young people to realise their dream of finding a future career in the farming and food industry”.

What help does HPF provide?

Help could be provided in a number of practical ways.

Usually, an award from the HPF would take the form of a grant or a mentorship. Frequently Henry’s heroes are fortunate to benefit from both.

A grant, which could be used for a business start-up, funding as an intern, overseas exchanges, attendance at technical, management or leadership courses, for example.

Mentorship for up to two years, the foundation might provide a business mentor with relevant experience, to offer guidance.

Who will it help?

Anyone aged between 18 and 35 who has a plan for the future that involves farming or food.

You don’t need any academic qualifications or agricultural experience, so long as you have a workable plan and the ambition to make it happen.

What sort of plan?

That is entirely up to you. Your project could be education, research, training, a social media project or an idea for a business.

How do you apply?

There is an application form on the website, which you can complete and submit online.

You will need to give 500 words on the idea for which you would like support or funding.

Successful applicants will be invited to an interview.

When is the cut-off for the next round of applications?

The next closing date for applications is 22 December 2014.

The next interview day is 19 January 2015.

What are the contact details?

Visit the website:

Send an email to:

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