Norfolk Scholars competition offers industry insight and inspiration

RNAA Norfolk scholars Thomas Oates and Emma Slater (centre) pictured with James Brooke of Bidwells (

RNAA Norfolk scholars Thomas Oates and Emma Slater (centre) pictured with James Brooke of Bidwells (left) and Royal Norfolk Show director Julian Taylor (right) - Credit: Darren Carter

The search is on for two aspiring agriculturalists who can embrace the opportunity to network with politicians and scientists at the Oxford Farming Conference.

The annual Norfolk Scholars competition for this year was launched at the Royal Norfolk Show.

Last year's two successful applicants, Emma Slater, 23, and Thomas Oates, 21, discussed their experience with the initiative's organisers, RNAA chief executive Greg Smith, and James Brooke, partner at property consultancy Bidwells.

'The variety of talks and the people you meet is amazing, I left feeling inspired,' said Miss Slater. 'It's definitely an exciting area to work in, there's so much going on.'

She and her fellow scholar Mr Oates are both students of Harper Adams University in Shropshire and are on work placements in Norfolk.

Mr Oates said the desire to support aspiring young farmers on the part of the RNAA was obvious.

'They're interested in young people. They're doing their bit to encourage young people in,' he said. 'We had quite a good spectrum of speakers from across the industry, which was great.'

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Mr Smith said the RNAA was keen to support young people in their careers, and that ensuring a sustainable future for farming in the county is a 'core part of the organisation's purpose'.

'The three-day conference in Oxford will provide the winners with an excellent opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best minds in the industry and to hear from some of the most influential speakers in farming,' he said.

'And the scholars have then come back to Norfolk as ambassadors to present at the RNAA, which inspires the next generation of young farmers.'

Mr Brooke, head of farm and rural agency at Bidwells and also a council member of the RNAA, said the greatest opportunity from going to the Oxford conference in January was the range of speakers.

'There are politicians, agriculturalists, scientists, and the opportunity to meet them all,' he said. 'This is about developing a better understanding of what is available, and lifting the profile of the industry as well.

'Young people are vital for the future of farming, yet they can find it difficult to break into the industry. Therefore this scholarship is a really valuable opportunity for them to learn more about this ever-changing sector and meet with experts and farming professionals.'

The Norfolk Scholar programme, now in its third year, is open to young people aged between 18 and 35, who live, work and/or study in Norfolk.

As part of the initiative the winning pair will attend the prestigious three-day Oxford Farming Conference, where they will hear from leading international and national speakers within the agricultural sector.

To qualify for the fully-funded scholarship applicants need to submit a short précis on how their attendance at the conference could benefit their professional lives and what they feel are the challenges facing UK agriculture.

The closing date for entries is October 9. For further information, click here.