Great Yorkshire Show trials new way to ignite teenagers' interest in farming careers

A new generation of young talent has a vital role to play in helping farming flourish as the industry strives to innovate and meet defining domestic and global challenges, according to the organisers of the Great Yorkshire Show.

Yorkshire Agricultural Society's charitable activities manager Katy Brown and chief executive Nigel Pulling get ready for the Great Yorkshire Show's new Gen Z zone, which aims to promote careers in agriculture to secondary school visitors. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

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The new Gen Z zone will be located next to the show's existing Discovery Zone, which is aimed at younger children and families. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Farm businesses cannot afford to stand still as emerging technology, a forthcoming overhaul of the industry’s publicly-funded support payments model and the need to feed a growing population change the face of food production in this country.

These factors make it all the more important for bright young minds to seek careers in the industry, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society said.

To stir the imaginations of a fresh cohort of future agricultural workers, the Society is setting out to challenge perceptions of what jobs in the industry involve at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate next month.

A new ‘Gen Z’ area will promote careers in agriculture to teenagers.

Visitors will be able to use technology to spot animal ailments, see agronomists analyse fresh soil samples and deliver a ‘calf’ using a realistic model cow, while special guest Hannah Jackson, 26, the ‘Red Shepherdess’, will talk about how she left city life in The Wirral to work in the Cumbrian hills.

The idea is to entertain visitors, but there will be representatives on-hand from Yorkshire’s agricultural colleges Bishop Burton and Askham Bryan, as well as from Leeds and Newcastle universities, promoting a range of agricultural career options.

Katy Brown, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s charitable activities manager who has led the development of the Gen Z zone, said: “The whole idea with Gen Z is, it’s not farming as people know it, there are so many other careers that are tied into farming. It’s saying anyone can get involved if they are passionate enough.”

She added: “For farming to change and to feed a growing population we are going to have to have a lot of innovation so it isn’t necessarily all about being behind the tractor wheel on a working farm, it’s all the elements that go into producing food.”

According to the Society’s chief executive, Nigel Pulling, it is crucial young people are attracted into farming now so that the industry has a breadth of talent and ideas to adjust in a period of enormous change post-Brexit.

“Farming is going to have changes to the funding system and farmers will have to be more competitive and know exactly what they are doing and achieving – and they need good people to work on farms, so it’s about attracting good people,” said Mr Pulling, who sits on the steering group behind the new Grow Yorkshire initiative. Launched in April, Grow Yorkshire is co-ordinated by the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership to initiate collaboration between government, local leaders and farm businesses to help enterprises flourish as change comes.

“There is no doubt farming will be under pressure in the next few years as Brexit unfolds and it’s recognised it’s going to be the biggest change in generations, and without good people it will be much harder to achieve the goals in food production and managing the countryside that everyone wants,” Mr Pulling said.