FARMING Connect has announced the names of those selected to take part in the Agri Academy Class of 2020.

The successful candidates’ ‘academic year’ of intensive mentoring, study visits and activities has had to be postponed due to the current situation, but in the meantime, they are all looking forward to their first official ‘meet and greet’ via ‘Zoom’ when they will learn when the programme can commence and what it will include.

The 24 new candidates will be split equally between the Business & Innovation programme, which is led by North Wales businessman and farmer Llyr Jones and the Junior programme, a joint collaboration with Wales YFC, which will be led by rural surveyor and radio presenter Aled Rhys Jones from Carmarthenshire. Both leaders are themselves Agri Academy alumni.

The judging panel, which also included leading figureheads from Welsh agriculture, Wales YFC and Welsh Government, who for the first time had to select candidates ‘remotely’ via an online process, agreed that this year’s intake of focused, dynamic individuals was again of a very high calibre.

“We are looking forward to working with the class of 2020 – they are a talented group of individuals with a cross-section of backgrounds, interests and ideas.

“All ambassadors for our industry, they are certainly ones to watch for the future!” said Aled Rhys Jones.

This year’s intake of candidates includes farmers, would-be lawyers, and land agents as well as college and school students whose collective hobbies range from rugby to singing and from breeding pedigree stock to public speaking.

For many of the Agri Academy’s alumni, which including this year’s intake now totals 260, the intensive programme of mentoring, training and study visits has given them the confidence and new networks which have already helped them achieve their personal ambitions and create new business opportunities.

Congratulating the ‘Class of 2020’, Llyr Jones said,

“The Agri Academy is widely acknowledged by many employers as providing a valuable addition to a CV.

“Each year we see more alumni taking up positions of importance and influence, personally contributing so much towards making Welsh agriculture sustainable, profitable and resilient, which is so important as we cope with the effects of Covid-19 and prepare for the uncertain trading conditions widely expected as we leave the EU.

“They are all excellent ambassadors for the Agri Academy and demonstrate the value of continual professional development.”

The Farming Connect Agri Academy, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, provides an intensive programme of mentoring, support and training provided by some of the industry’s most successful figureheads and personalities both in the UK and overseas.

Both programmes have previously involved numerous visits and an overseas study tour, although until the current Covid-19 restrictions are changed, it is unclear what this year’s programme will include or when it will commence.

Check out the Class of 2020 by visiting our website https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/

Here is what four of the newly selected candidates have to say…

Laura Lewis, Llanbister – Business & Innovation programme

Qualified teacher Laura Lewis is married to a sheep farmer and the couple have two small children. With two hugely popular ‘treehouses’ having put their farm business in Llanbister firmly on the tourist map and planning permission recently approved for a third, Laura has now taken on the full time role of marketing and promoting their expanding business.

“I will market the entire enterprise myself going forward, by focusing on social media marketing and taking direct online bookings.

“I believe being part of the Agri Academy Business & Innovation programme will give me the confidence, networks and skills to help get our brand for both the treehouse retreats and our new website known and ‘out there’ for the clients we have already started to approach.”

Tomos Huws, Llanrwst – Business & Innovation programme

Tomos Huws, a countryside management graduate, says that his background growing up on the family beef and sheep farm and a working visit to New Zealand, convinced him that he wanted to be a hands-on farmer.

His current role is managing a 300 cow dairy herd near Llanrwst. Open minded about the future, his main ambition is to develop his own business.

“I am optimistic that being part of the Agri Academy Business & Innovation programme will help me progress within the industry, by giving me the skills I need to create a profitable, successful business.

“I am sure that expanding my network of contacts and mentors will help me set realistic targets, open new doors and give me new ideas on how best to create a prosperous business.”

Rhun Crimes, Ceredigion – Junior programme

Rhun is a lower sixth form student currently studying for his AS Levels and a BTEC in engineering at Ysgol Aberaeron in Ceredigion. Brought up on the family beef and sheep farm in Mydroilyn, he hopes to study agriculture at university.

“I think being part of the Agri Academy Junior Programme will help me learn more about farming in a modern setting and how we need to adapt to both current and future economic and political changes.

“I am looking forward to meeting and learning from people of my age who share the same interests in farming as me.”

Elan Thomas, Carmarthenshire – Junior programme

Elan Thomas is a student at Ysgol Dyffryn Taf in Whitland. Brought up on the family dairy farm in Carmarthenshire, she enjoys working with the calves both at home and at a nearby farm, where she has a part time job looking after and showing the stock.

Elan’s dream is to qualify as a lawyer and practice in her home county while also running her own herd of pedigree Jersey cows.

“I think being part of the Agri Academy Junior Programme will enhance my personal development, build my confidence and help underpin my core values and belief that family farms are the backbone of our country.”

Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

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