Yorkshire conference calls for a GSCE in farming to be added to school curriculums
In the interests of teaching the next generation that “strawberry milk does not come from pink cows”, it was put forward at the Agribusiness Growth Conference hosted by Red Stag Media in Leeds last month, that farming and food should be put on the curriculum.
It would create awareness and understanding of where food comes from and how it is produced and open up farming as a possible career.
The suggestion came as part of a debate about how to get young people in farming despite the challenges of buying a farm or land due to high prices and reduced numbers of tenancies becoming available.
Eleanor Durdy, mixes working on the family’s arable farm in South Yorkshire with being a criminal barrister but is passionate about promoting farming and does so via her social media platforms.
It was here that she asked the question as to how people would get into farming if they were not born into a farming family – and no-one had the answer.
Addressing the conference she said: “It is a question I put out there on my instagram.
"’If you weren’t born with an agricultural silver spoon, like I was, how do you get into farming?’
"It is a question that nobody can answer, other than go to agricultural college or join Young Farmers. It is something we need to address if farms are going to be depleting over the next ten years.
“It is a question that needs to be put to everybody. That starts at grass roots level. We need to be in school, we need something like GCSE agriculture and showing kids that strawberry milk does not come from pink cows.”
Also on the panel was James Herrick, a beef and arable farmer who has taken over the family business from his father.
He said the younger generation are not as interested in farming because of long hours and low pay.
"With livestock you have to work every day”, he said.
"You can’t just have a weekend off and disappear. It becomes a ball and chain and a lot of the younger generation move around, travel, go to university and see other jobs and see that people can get £30,000 a year, 30 days holiday and weekends off and go to the pub with their mates."
He is working to a rota on his farm so he and staff can get some time away from the farm but it is one of the biggest challenges.
Dairy farmer Cath Morley said she was actively encouraging her 13-year-old son to look at other jobs away from farming as they were becoming so despondent with the industry.
She said: “My oldest son is 13 and is tractor mad and loves farms and I am actively trying to get him a different career. That is controversial.
"There are lots of jobs that have a better work life balance and I am actively encouraging him to go and follow those options. If he wants to work on a farm, I have no problem, but if there will be a business for him in ten years time at our farm, I don’t know.”
The lack of appreciation for dairy farmers and difficulty in making a profit was leading them to look at diversification options.
She added: “We are maybe not as sustainable being a smaller farm as some of the larger ones. It is really hard for new entrants to get on that ladder, whether that is renting or tenancy, and I don’t know what the solution is to be honest.”