Co Armagh young farmer James Speers regards his involvement with the 2016/17 Tesco Future Farmer Foundation as one of the most rewarding experiences of his career to date.
“I was made aware of the scheme through a friend in England around the middle of last year,” he said.
“When I inquired I was told that the scope of the Foundation project had just been expanded to include the island of Ireland. Prior to 2016, only young farmers in England, Scotland and Wales were eligible to participate in the initiative.
“I immediately thought that it would be worthwhile to submit an application, which I did. There followed an interview process, after which it was confirmed that I had been included amongst the 50 young farmers accepted for the 2016/17 intake.”
The foundation was established by Tesco four years ago. It has been designed to provide 50 young farmers annually with a kick start to their careers. The initiative provides those involved with an opportunity to participate in five two-day workshops. These cover a range of subject areas including: business planning, land acquisition, the development of leadership skills and the acquiring of new marketing techniques.
Also included are bespoke training initiatives, tailored to meet the specific needs of each participating young farmer, and supply chain visits. Tesco covers all the costs associated with the delivery of the foundation-related activities.
“All of the workshops are hosted in England,” said James.
“However, specific supply chain visits are organised in Ireland for those participating on this side of the Irish Sea. For example, all the Irish young farmers recently enjoyed a visit to the Kepak plant in Co Meath.”
James, who is currently the Deputy President of the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster, farms in partnership with his father Jim. They run a herd of suckler cows and a flock of breeding ewes. All calves and lambs are finished on the farm.
“The foundation activities will continue through until June of this year,” he said.
“To be honest, I wasn’t that sure of what I might gain from participating in the scheme. However, it has served to give me a new perspective on how to run a farm business and so much more.
“I am the only person from Northern Ireland taking part this year. However, I am actively encouraging as many local young farmers as possible to get involved. The foundation accepts applications from young farmers between 20 and 35 years of age. The application period for the 2017/18 scheme will open later in the spring. ”
Young farmers who want to find out more about the Tesco Young Farmer Foundation should visit the following website: www. tescofuturefarmerfoundation.com