In September we launched our Future of Food 2030 ambition, which includes our commitment to source and create with care by championing sustainable agriculture. One of the areas we focused on was supporting young farmers through the launch of our Farming Pioneers Programme in 2016.
I’m proud to share that our first cohort of Farming Pioneers have now graduated. Our 20 graduates have learned how to become future industry leaders, acquiring the business skills they need including: succession planning, building successful supply chains and developing retailer relationships.
I’m really glad the programme has been championed by leaders across our Food business. Matt Hood, Trading Director, has said: “Our support for British agriculture remains steadfast – and that means continued investment in a new generation of farmers in order to future proof this essential industry, providing genuine cohesion between farmers, growers, suppliers, processors, and retailers. I’d like to say a big congratulations to everyone who is graduating today – they’ve each made a huge personal contribution to Britain’s agricultural economy.”
We’ve had great feedback from our graduates as well, which really shows the difference that it’s made to them.
I spoke to Matthew Brownlee, from Northern Ireland, a member of the Co-op’s Beef Farming Group, who has recently been hailed ‘Farmer’s Weekly Mixed Farmer of the Year’, said: “After joining the Co-op Farming Pioneers programme in 2016 I have been able to get an insight into the day-to-day management of the most successful businesses within the farming industry. Joining the Farming Pioneers has made me look at situations and challenges from a different angle, allowing me to make more rounded and business-minded decisions; I cannot thank Co-op enough for the opportunity. “
Caroline Morris, 26, from Buckinghamshire, who is also a member of the Beef Farming Group and recently named Co-op Farming Ambassador of the Year 2018 said: “This has been an amazing experience. The scheme has allowed me to meet likeminded individuals within the Co-op Farming Groups, as well as helping me to build on my own skills set. I’ve been able to implement many of the key learnings from the programme in our family business, improving our efficiency and productivity. It is fantastic that Co-op is so committed to ensuring the young farmers within their Farming Groups have the support they need to make their businesses sustainable for the future. “
This is just our first set of graduates, we’re now taking on a fourth cohort of youngsters in 2019 – meaning that a total of 100 farmers will have had the chance to embark on the course. Take a look at Future of Food 2030 to see how this supports our ambition and how you can help.