Co-op Group extends its Farming Pioneers programme

The scheme offers business skills and a support network to farmers aged 18-34, in a bid to strengthen the future of the industry

The Co-op Group is continuing its Farming Pioneers programme, which gives young farmers business skills, after the two-year trial launched in 2016 proved successful.

The announcement was made at the annual Co-op Agricultural Conference in Manchester. The extension will ensure that by 2019 over 100 farmers, aged 18-34, will have taken the course.

Modules include succession planning and supply chain relationships, and the course also creates a network where young farmers can share knowledge and experience.

Ciara Gorst, the Group’s head of agriculture, said: “We’ve always been vocal about the need to promote and support Britain’s farming industry.

“Actions speak louder than words, which is why we’re delighted to confirm our plans to extend our Farming Pioneers programme. Investment in farming means investment in farmers themselves – and we want to help promote those people who may be just starting out in their careers, but who could be the next leaders of British agriculture.

“It’s fantastic to see so many of our farming partners and suppliers here with us today in Manchester as we look to a diverse and challenging year ahead.”

Jim Moseley, Red Tractor’s chief executive, addressed the 200 guests on the merits of greater industry collaboration.

He said: “If UK consumers are to continue to buy and be proud of British food in our rapidly changing world, it is essential that we work together to maintain and uphold standards right along our supply chain.

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“We applaud the Co-op for continuing to make substantial investment in agriculture. Today’s announcements should give consumers further assurance that retailers are doing the right thing and that they can buy with confidence.”

The conference featured speeches from Charlie Cleaver, technical manager at fruit giant Minor Weir and Willis; and James Cracknell OBE, British athlete, rowing champion and double Olympic gold medallist. Mr Cracknell talked about how to succeed under pressure and handed out trophies to the winners of the Co-op Farming Awards 2017.

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