Easton and Otley College’s investment in farming will continue in 2017, pledges principal
- Credit: Archant
A drive to increase farming content at an East Anglian college is set to continue in 2017 as it seeks to become one of the most important agricultural colleges in the country.
Easton and Otley College principal Mr David Henley, who is set to celebrate his second year in charge of the fifth largest land-based college in the country next year, said efforts to encourage a new generation to take up a farming career would continue in earnest, as he and his team try to address a sector shortfall in skills and new entrants.
'Having spent the vast majority of my working life in education, I'm incredibly passionate about making sure everyone who studies with us gets an experience that they enjoy and allows them to progress,' he said.
'To ensure that happens, we have committed to an investment plan that has seen £40m of new facilities in the last 10 years. Part of the big plan since I joined is to continue with such investment, particularly within farming – so this is what we are now doing.
'The aim is to try and encourage more young people to consider the huge diversity of career opportunities that are available in agriculture and its related industries. The industry needs a variety of different skills and our agricultural investment is aimed at providing a new generation who have that wide range of skills.'
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The college has increased its agricultural investment in both Norfolk and Suffolk, with the Easton campus outside Norwich welcoming a new flock of 200 breeding ewes and four new Texel rams.
In Suffolk, the last 12 months has seen the farm at Otley being extended by 55 acres of land with help from the Felix Thornley Cobbald Agricultural Trust, and the Charlotte Cobbald flock of ewes has expanded from 60 to over 200 thanks to continued support from farmer Stephen Cobbald, of Acton Hall, near Sudbury.
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Plans for the future include the creation of a farm shop in Norfolk, the development of a new suckler herds of cows in both counties and a new degree in agribiosciences which is due to start in September 2017.
The college's farm manager, Andrew Vernon, said: 'We need to do our best to up our game in terms of facilities. This, in turn, will help attract the students that we need, and we will then be able to attract more staff to support the students and hopefully all of this will come together.
'Our ultimate aim is to turn out the students that industry needs – this is at the root of it all. The quality and amount of students that we have seems to be improving.
'For example, we are challenging some big hitters at national competitions and gaining success, we have had students representing their country in farming challenges and we generally do very well at our county shows in terms of showing livestock. With more investment planned we are very excited about 2017 and what it will bring us.'
COLLEGE SUCCESSES IN 2016
Student successes continued at Easton and Otley college this year, as students came second in two national farming challenges.
In June, the college narrowly missed out on a third consecutive win in the Cereals Challenge at the Cereals 2016 arable show in Cambridgeshire, and in November a team of four students came second in a stock judging competition, going up against 30 teams from 14 different colleges during the Smithfield Festival held in Peterborough.
College students have represented their country in a competition called Agrolympics, taken part in an international ploughing competition in Estonia, participated in a stock judging event in Paris, and attended Agritechnica, an agricultural showcase in Germany. Recently, a group of agricultural degree students went on a study tour of the Czech Republic.