Farmer Focus Livestock: Support for youngsters is crucial, believes Mathew Cole

Since my last article I have had a little misfortune. While playing rugby for my local team Tavistock I broke my leg. As you can imagine I am pretty frustrated and have those words of wisdom ringing in my ears “You are too old for that game” and I think we can conclude, they were right.

You may ask what does my misfortune have to do with farming? Well, very little, although my absence has put a strain on the rest of the family and I’m grateful for their support.

The farm is also involved with a great scheme called Moorskills. This is a small group of farms on Dartmoor who run farm apprenticeships. We have seven students who rotate between eight farms in co-operation with Duchy College. It was set up to try and generate skilled young farmhands to work and gain experience on Dartmoor farms.

Many young people who would like work on farms often never get the chance, and with farmers getting older it is essential we pass these skills on to the next generation. Personally for me right now, without these students my farm would be struggling.

We have been teaching the current crop of students for a considerable time and now that I am off leg they are more than able with a little supervision to pick up tasks and get on with the day to day work. For that I am grateful and therefore am taking the opportunity to champion their cause. I would recommend this kind of apprenticeship for farms everywhere and would also encourage farmers to engage with local agricultural colleges and funding bodies. As we have found out along our road with Moorskills, these sorts of schemes are not easy to run and need support.

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