Wraps come off NSA Ambassador Programme for young shepherds
A scheme to encourage more young people to enter sheep farming has been launched in the South West.
The National Sheep Association unveiled its Ambassador Programme and a new website as part of its Next Generation project at an on-farm event in Wiltshire.
"This project brings together the different elements of NSA's existing activity for young people, such as our Young Shepherd of the Year competitions, the scholarships our regional committees offer, and helping people find work experience placements and employment within our network of farmer members," said NSA chief executive Phil Stocker.
The event, held jointly with RASE, had a very positive feel and attracted 60 young people interested in getting onto the sheep farming ladder.
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It was hosted by Tim White, a first-generation farmer, who opened the gates at Manor Farm, Sutton Mandeville, and spoke about his experience of having no family farm business behind him but building up a thriving enterprise, now running a flock of Exlana sheep on rented ground over a 100-mile radius.
He was joined by four other speakers all under the age of 35 and running successful sheep farming businesses.
Mr Stocker continued: "This was the perfect opportunity to unveil the next phase of NSA Next Generation, which now has its own branding and a dedicated website signposting young people to opportunities within the sheep sector.
"The www.nsanextgeneration. org.uk website provides links to training, funding and scholarship opportunities, it lists colleges and universities around the UK offering agricultural courses, and offers advice on starting your own sheep flock.
"It also brings together all the existing NSA activity, including our very popular matchmaking service for students looking for on-farm placements at lambing time.
"The NSA was also delighted to open the application process for the NSA Next Generation Ambassador Group 2014 today, which is the next stage of our project and something we are very excited about.
"By the end of this year we shall have selected 12 young people with a real enthusiasm for the sheep sector and provide them a unique experience throughout 2014, offering technical and personal development, covering elements such as market selection, food-chain development, sheep husbandry, brand development and adding value, optimising genetics, time management, business planning, presentation skills, conflict resolution and promotion of the sheep sector.
"The programme will provide the opportunity to meet like-minded people throughout the UK, as well as key people within the sheep sector."
Next Generation is supported by the NSA regions, Dunbia, Eblex and Two Sisters, epitomising the enthusiasm among t the sheep sector to bring on the next generation, support and encourage them, he said.
"We believe the sheep sector had a very positive future and hope this project will strengthen that further," he added.
The NSA Next Generation Ambassador Group 2014 closes at the end of November. Application forms are online at www.nsanextgeneration.org.uk.