“Being part of the Farming Connect Agri Academy was an inspirational experience and I would urge anyone wanting to work in the farming, food or forestry industry to apply – it will change the way you think and the way you work,” says Aled Wyn Davies who lives at home on his family’s 350 acre beef, sheep and dairy farm near Llangadog, Carmarthenshire.
Farming Connect, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government, first launched its innovative personal development programme in 2012. Now approaching its fourth year and with nearly 80 alumni, the Agri Academy programme comprises three separate elements. Aled was selected as one of the first intakes of candidates for the Junior Programme, a joint collaboration with Wales YFC. The Junior Programme is open to individuals aged between 16 and 19 who hope to work in the food, farming or forestry industry. The Rural Leadership Programme, a joint collaboration with the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, aims to develop and nurture a new generation of rural leaders while the Business & Innovation Programme offers personal and business development.
Together, the three programmes bring together some of the most promising people making their way in the agricultural industry in Wales today, giving them the inspiration, confidence, skills and contacts they need to become future rural leaders, professional business people and entrepreneurs.
Aled, now in his final year studying agriculture at Coleg Sir Gar, says that the confidence and new skills he gained through the Junior Agri Academy helped him secure the title of Wales YFC’s Junior Member of the Year.
“The Agri Academy has been a life-changing experience for me. The people I met and was mentored by taught me that if you have the confidence to believe in yourself and your abilities, a willingness to learn about new or different ways of working and sufficient ambition, anything is possible. “
“Hearing at first hand from other farmers who had the courage and confidence to investigate in new markets, to introduce new ways of working or invest in new ventures, really had an impact on me. My ambition is to return home to work on the family farm, but I feel that I can make a more significant and informed contribution having been through the Academy and learnt from those who have ‘been there, done that’ when they were younger.”
"Although I’ve always enjoyed public speaking and the YFC gave me fantastic opportunities, the Academy’s media training polished those skills, which we all used to full effect during a study tour to the European Parliament in Brussels when our group members found ourselves being asked for our opinions by the Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan and many other high-ranking MEPs who are influencing the agricultural agenda in Wales today.”
Director of Rural Programmes with Menter a Busnes, Eirwen Williams explained that the Agri Academy’s format of three short but intensive study periods, usually over a weekend, and outside term time for the Junior candidates, now has a fantastic track record of paving the way to business success for its alumni, with many crediting the action-packed programme of skills and media training, business mentoring, study visits, support and guidance with their current success as well as ambitious plans for the future.