Meet the 2018 Farmers Apprentice finalists

The Farmers Apprentice is a unique opportunity for young people aged 18-25 who have their hearts set on a career in agriculture.

With the applications for this year’s competition read and the entry videos watched, we now we can reveal the 10 Farmers Apprentice candidates who’ll be going head-to-head at bootcamp this July in the hope of winning the £10,000 prize to kick-start their farming ambitions.

Tess Gosney

Tess Gosney, 19

Tess is in her first year at Durham University, studying for a Business and Management degree.

While she’s picked up valuable skills working in the hospitality sector, her heart is definitely at home on the family’s organic beef farm in Dorset.

She has always been a staunch advocate of agriculture and says one of her goals is to change the public’s “blurred” view of British farming.

What is Farmers Apprentice?

Farmers Apprentice is a unique competition which puts 10 young people through a week-long bootcamp seeing them tackle a range of tasks. At the end, one will be crowned Farmers Weekly Farmers Apprentice 2018, winning £10,000 to get a foothold on the farming ladder.

Farmers Weekly works with partners from across the agricultural industry to deliver a bootcamp that exposes the apprentices to some of the best in technical equipment and expertise reflecting the real challenges UK farmers face .

Why she’s one to watch

Her organisational skills have been honed at uni and she thrives in a deadline-driven environment.

She says: “I pride myself on being able to face difficult situations in a professional manner and having the ability to stay focused when the pressure is high.”

Multiskilled Tess also reckons she’s got a lot of common sense – which, she says, is paramount on a farm.

Interesting fact

Her favourite tractor is the Fendt 939. “Or it was until I heard about the 1000 series – but I’m yet to achieve my goal of seeing one of those in real life!”

Mitchell Park, 22

Mitchell, who’s in the final year of an Agricultural Technology Degree at Queen’s University in Belfast, is from a family farm in County Antrim, which is where he plans to make his career after he graduates.

Mitchell ParkHe seized the opportunity to spend six months of his year-out in Australia, where he got an insight into problem-solving Aussie-style and saw first-hand how farmers there were cutting costs.

He spent the rest of that year back in Ballymena starting to put into place some of what he had learned on his travels.

Why he’s one to watch

Mitchell has a clear idea what he hopes to get from bootcamp. “It would give me an excellent opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills, as well as learn from the other contestants and to see how people my age from different backgrounds address problems that I may face or have already faced.”

Interesting fact

He’s been scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Ben TheakerBenjamin Theaker, 23

Benjamin works at Worksop Manor Estates in Nottinghamshire, where he’s gone from “picking ragwort and sweeping sheds to becoming a key member of the team by earning my stripes”.

His commitment and talent prompted his employer to sponsor him, age 20, to take a level three extended diploma in agriculture at Nottingham Trent’s Brackenhurst campus, where he achieved a triple star distinction.

Why he’s one to watch

A great believer in lifelong learning, Benjamin never misses an opportunity to broaden his knowledge and reckons he’s lucky to work with a team that’s “the best of the best”.

Though not from a farming background, he’s immersed himself in the agricultural way of life and even founded a YFC while at Brackenhurst. “I will put everything I have into the bootcamp experience,” he promises.

Interesting fact

One of his hobbies is chainsaw carving.

Lauren SalisburyLauren Salisbury-Arndt, 21

After leaving school, Lauren attended Llysfasi agricultural college, achieving the highest grade possible, along with netting an award from Lantra.

She’s in the final year of an Agriculture with Animal Science degree at the University of Aberystwyth where her extra-curricular activities have included serving as president of the university’s Agricultural Society and being involved with a naked charity calendar.

Why she’s one to watch

Reared on a beef and sheep farm in North Wales, Lauren’s roots are definitely in farming and she’s notched up notable stock judging and public speaking successes with Young Farmers.

“Taking a placement at a livestock trading company, working on local farms and for a local vet in Wrexham has opened my eyes to what’s out there,” she says.

Interesting fact

Lauren loves to set herself challenges – the latest one being buying a huntaway pup, Kim, to train.

Tayla HardingTayla Harding, 19

Originally from Northamptonshire, Tayla is in the second year of a degree in Applied Farm Management at the Royal Agricultural University, where she enjoys hunting with the RAU beagles.

Having grown up on a livestock farm from the age of seven, she has a passion for the sheep sector and has done shepherding work at college.

This has helped shape her understanding of the traits required for a successful career in agriculture – “management and practical skills, motivation, a lot of hard work and incredibly long days.”

Why she’s one to watch

Long-term Tayla wants to develop her own consultancy firm, helping farmers make their enterprises as sustainable and efficient as possible.

“My ambition is to work alongside breed and genetic advisers, developing complex, highly desirable composite sheep breeds.”

Interesting fact

Her middle name is Blayze because she had bright ginger hair when she was born.

Sam CooteSam Coote, 22

County Durham lad Sam is studying an agricultural management degree at Askham Bryan.

Sam’s had a great passion for the outdoors and agriculture from a young age, but his journey into agriculture only really began in 2011 when he left school at 16 and studied a Level 2 Diploma in Agriculture.

Since then, he’s gone from he’s being a self-confessed townie kid who knew nothing about farming to someone who’s worked his way through further and higher education, “striving year on year to be the very best that I can possibly be”.

Why he’s one to watch

Approaching the end of his degree, versatile Sam is well aware of how winning the Farmers Apprentice could change his life.

“Not having a family farm to go back to, any opportunity that might allow to me get on to that farming ladder and begin my own adventure in the industry is worth a shot.”

Interesting fact

Sam is chairman and treasurer of Durham City YFC.

Libby RamsdenLibby Ramsden, 18

Hailing from the North Yorkshire Dales, Libby is studying A-levels at Hartpury in Gloucestershire and working part-time on a beef farm.

Why she’s one to watch

Not being from a farming background has never held her back – in fact, it’s merely spurred her on.

She’s done lots of voluntary work to gain experience, including regularly getting up to help with the 4am weekend milkings at Hartpury.

Hard-working Libby has her heart set on a career in the livestock sector, possibly as a nutritionist, and believes taking part in Farmers Apprenctice can help get her closer to that goal.

“I have always been a girl who isn’t afraid of anything, who’ll stand up for herself, will get her hands dirty and speak out for the things that she believes in – and I believe in the future of agriculture and desperately want to be a part of that,” she says.

Interesting fact

As a child, Libby completed triathlons.

Harry MadinHarry Madin, 21

Harry is studying a degree in Applied Agriculture at Askham Bryan College and has his heart set on becoming a tenant farmer in the Lake District as he’s passionate about hill and upland shepherding.

It’s a big ambition, but he says he has the necessary traits of “resilience, determination and commitment”. 

Why he’s one to watch

Alongside studying, working part-time and playing football and cricket with local teams, versatile Harry runs his own rare breed Derbyshire Gritstone and Herdwick sheep. The store lambs from his small flock achieved the second highest price at Leek market at his first attempt at an auction sale.

Interesting fact

Although having no previous experience of the endeavour, he’s had a lot of success training his border collie, though admits to employing an unorthodox method – using a football because initially she had no interest in stock. “Now she is now a fantastic working dog,” he says.

Abbie BruniAbbie Bruni, 25

Originally from Surrey, Abbie is studying Veterinary Medicine at the Royal Veterinary College.

She’s very conscious of the big issues that farmers face, such as global warming, the growing trend towards plant-based diets and the dwindling numbers of smaller, accessible and economically viable abattoirs.

She wants to promote a more sustainable UK farming system and is a big believer in the power of social media to help get the message out and educate the public.

Why she’s one to watch

One of the people who inspires Abbie is 2016 Farmers Weekly Awards Sheep Farmer of the Year, Gordon Wyeth, who she’s helped with lambing. She says:

“I’ve learned lots from Gordon – mainly that no matter how tired and stressed you feel, always stay patient, kind and understanding.”

Interesting fact

Up-for-a-challenge Abbie took a year out from uni to work as cabin crew for British Airways.

Ashley GallagherAshley Gallagher, 23

Ashley is a stockman with a pedigree Jersey herd near Chepstow in south Wales, producing high-quality milk and ice cream.

Growing up in Northern Ireland he made it his mission to work at weekends and during holidays for his uncles who were farmers and, suitably inspired, he “moved across the water” to develop his career after A-levels.

Why he’s one to watch

He has a lifelong interest in animals, the countryside and working with machinery. Adaptable Ashley says taking part in the Farmers Apprentice will help him figure out the best way to realise his dream.

He’s energised by the prospect of meeting like-minded people – and says if he did win he’d try to get a farm business tenancy or share-farming agreement and use the prize money to buy livestock.

Interesting fact

Ashley says even though he can’t sing very well, it never stops him from singing along to the radio in the tractor or parlour.