The exciting new Farmers Club Monday Evening Lecture series got off to a flying start with over 45 members and guests attending the inaugural lecture on Monday 26th January, where agricultural education expert Liz Philip delivered a fascinating paper and fielded a wide range of questions.
Liz, who is Principal and Chief Executive of Askham Bryan and Newton Rigg Colleges, tackled the topic: Is Agricultural Education Delivering? Judging by progress at her colleges it certainly is.
Establishing a successful format for future evening lectures the talk was delivered in the Club’s Committee room, starting at 6:30pm and lasting for an hour, including questions. Attendance is free, open to all members (and one guest each), and includes a glass of wine.
“These events reflect, in a modest way initially, the original aim of Mr Shaw of the Strand, for the Club to be debating the key issues facing our industry,” explained Club Chairman Anne Chamberlain, who had the original idea for a series of pre-dinner lectures. (Members can also engage in the Club’s on-line discussions in the Debate area of the website www.thefarmersclub.com),
The lectures are timed to run just before or after the Club’s Committee meetings, ensuring good attendance to create a stimulating ‘buzz’, with plenty of vigorous, healthy debate.
In her role as Principal and Chief Executive of the combined Askham Bryan and Newton Rigg Colleges and leader of the National Centre of the Uplands Liz is firmly at the sharp end of agricultural education.
Under her leadership Askham Bryan College near York successfully took over and rejuvenated Newton Rigg College in Cumbria, showing just what was possible. Formed in 1896 as a dairy school it hit difficult times in 1997, lost its dairy herd to foot and mouth disease in 2001 and was threatened with closure after an “inadequate” OFSTED report in 2009.
Askham Bryan won a competition to take on the college, invested £5.438m, including £2.6m for a state-of-the-art high health and welfare dairy unit, and now provides expert learning for a new generation of young people seeking inspirational careers in the farming industry.
From a low point of 1100 students the two colleges are now equipping 5,000 students with the skills needed to support a vibrant farming industry. Their combined turnover is £29.5m, with 500 staff and five farms covering over 1000ha (2,500 acres), including 460 dairy cows, 50 suckler cows, 1100 ewes, cereals, oilseed rape, potatoes, peas and carrots.
One measure of success is that 94% of final year students secure jobs or go on to further education, Around a third of them come from non-farming backgrounds, their fresh thinking providing a much needed “hybrid” vigour.
“Our aim is to remove every bar that could prevent a young person from developing and to help them raise their horizons. The aim is to turn out students who are thoroughly grounded, so they can do the jobs required within the industry,” Ms Philip said.
A wide range of questions addressed topics as diverse as the need for a National College, attracting the highest calibre applicants to the industry, inspiring the educators, the role of industry support and the benefits of community engagement. See the next issue of the Farmers Club Journal for a full report.
* The next Monday Evening Lecture, looking at animal feed technology, is scheduled for Monday 13th April at 6:30pm. Watch out for further details and how to book your place soon.