Tarset farmers are to find themselves on telly, seemingly this Sunday evening no less (7th March), on the weekly farming programme Countryfile.
The telly cameras turned up in the area a fortnight back to film and highlight the Apprenticeship scheme. A scheme backed by Northumberland National Park to encourage youngsters to go into farming.
There are three areas in Northumberland other than the North Tyne where farmers are taking on apprentices, these being the Roman Wall, Wooler and the Coquet. Three apprentices are designated an area each and spend a fortnight at a time on each farm signed up to the scheme, seemingly also spending a week at college in between times.
The farmers who signed up have a subscription fee to pay with the remainder of the wages being made up by the Park itself.
A sound idea, one which has already run in many other areas of the country. These youngsters are getting an opportunity to learn hands on about farming and what it entails, working on different farms in the area and therefore gaining different ideas from each farm. A scheme intended to get youth back into farming.
In many ways we are lucky as there is a fair bit of young blood in Northumberland. The local group of the Blackfaced Sheep Breeders Association recently released figures which said a third of its membership is made up of people below the age of thirty, so there is hope for the future of farming if these figures are anything to go by.
Some of these apprentices have no previous knowledge of agriculture at all which is a difficult position to be in if you wish to have a career in it, especially as agricultural colleges are closing courses due to lack of interest. This scheme is enabling those who think they would like to enter the industry an opportunity to have a taster of what it is all about and hopefully inspire them to 'join up' full time. Whether there will be jobs available for them at the end is a different matter. Things have changed drastically. When I first came into the valley many years ago (hired as a full time shepherd on an out-bye farm) there were nine shepherds employed in this area, now there is only one full time shepherd, hence the reason, due to redundancy, I ended up self employed.
To date the 'kids' seem to be enjoying the challenges thrown at them and are appreciating the opportunity they have been given. To learn more you'll just have to tune in to BBC 1 on Sunday evening.
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