7 June 2021


Are you ready for a challenge?  A challenge that could help you achieve your personal ambitions, create new professional development opportunities and give you the confidence to aim high, to believe in yourself and what you can achieve?   

“If you are ambitious, keen to develop more business acumen and achieve your potential as an individual, we want you to apply for this year’s Agri Academy programme,” says Einir Davies, development and mentoring manager with Menter a Busnes, which alongside Lantra Wales, delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. 

The application window for this year’s Agri Academy will open from Monday, 7 June until Wednesday, 30 June. Interviews for shortlisted applicants will take place virtually during the week commencing Monday, 5 July.  With two distinct programmes, the Business & Innovation programme is aimed at supporting and inspiring the next generation of farming and forestry innovators and fostering entrepreneurship, while the Junior programme, a joint collaboration with Wales YFC, will support young people (16-19 years) who hope to follow a career in the food, farming or land management industries.  

“For many of the 260 individuals all living, working or studying in rural Wales, who have in the last eight years, been through the ranks of the Agri Academy, the experience proved life-changing.   

“The Academy’s unique formula of providing mentoring, training, study visits and networking, all centred around three short but intensive study periods, has given them new skills, new contacts and friends, a new sense of confidence and for many, an all-important extra notch on their cv,” says Ms. Davies.

Because of Covid 19 which has impacted on arranging overseas study visits in advance, this year’s Academy candidates’ will be combining online ‘meet and greets’ and sector-specific webinars with visits to different parts of the UK, but Ms Davies says this brings its own benefits. 

“During the height of the pandemic last summer, it was apparent that there is a ready audience of individuals delighted to join online webinars, which means of course that we can widen our speaker and mentor bookings to include experts from almost anywhere in the world that has WIFI.  

“So, no fact-finding missions in Europe this year, but a speaker line-up that might take you much further afield,” says Ms. Davies. 

All arrangements for this year’s programme will adhere strictly to any Covid-19 travel and social distancing restrictions which may be in place. 

For further information on the Agri Academy 2021 programme and to download application forms, click here. 


Case studies:

Dr Edward Thomas Jones – Agri Academy 2018 

‘The Agri Academy gave me the chance of a lifetime’    

In 2018, well-known Anglesey-born academic and part-time farmer Dr Edward Thomas Jones, decided to apply for a place on Farming Connect’s flagship personal development programme, the Agri Academy, an experience he describes as ‘unique and life-enhancing’. 

Alongside life as a Lecturer in Economics at Bangor University, a role which has involved Dr Jones (41) advising both UK and Welsh governments on a wide range of projects and initiatives, he lives and farms part-time on his family’s beef and sheep farm on Anglesey.  Upon returning to live on the farm, he also renovated his great-grandparents’ farmhouse, becoming the fourth generation to live there. 

So why did he feel the need to develop his career further? 

“Because I knew that participating in such a unique personal development programme would expose me to the decision-making process and policy makers tasked with determining the future of agriculture and the rural economy in Wales,” says Dr. Jones. 

His CV was already impressive, having attained a BA in Economics and Mathematics, a Master’s degree in Banking and Finance and a PhD in Economics. He has held various senior management positions within the banking industry and has professional qualifications from the Chartered Management Institute and the Royal Statistical Society.  

Yet Dr Jones credits his experience as an alumni of the Agri Academy with giving him both the confidence and skills to play a greater role in the industry he is so passionate about and to apply for a Nuffield Scholarship.   Not surprisingly, his Nuffield application was successful at the first attempt and had it not been for Covid 19, which scuppered his chances of a research visit to America and Europe last year, he would by now be well on the way to completing his dissertation on innovation and technology in agriculture. 

Why this topic?  Again, he credits the Agri Academy with setting him on a path of discovery, professional development and perhaps most importantly of meeting new friends and mentors, many of whom he remains in touch with on a regular basis.  They helped him with his application! 

“In 2018, together with my cohort of Academy candidates, we met many inspirational and influential individuals in Wales, in the UK and in Brussels.  We had the opportunity of attending meetings in the ‘corridors of power’ as ministers and policy gurus gave us their perspective on the future of the industry following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. 

“It was a fascinating time to be at the sharp end and a privilege to meet so many knowledgeable people; from those at the helm of our industry to those working at grass roots level, and whose opinions and friendships I value to this day. 

“The Agri Academy gave me the chance of a lifetime and I would advise anyone interested in the future of agriculture, our rural communities and the professionalisation of our industry to apply.”  


Elin Orrells – Junior Agri Academy 2020

Elin Orrells is a first-year student at Aberystwyth University, studying Agriculture. Welsh speaker Elin lives at home on a mixed arable and livestock family farm in Montgomeryshire.   

She enjoys helping out with all the stock, assists with the farm paperwork and has undertaken numerous courses to enable her to drive ATVs and other farm machinery and equipment safely.  Her most recent adventure took her to Carlisle to buy two pedigree Limousin heifers which she hopes to AI and start her own small Limousin herd.

Actively involved at both club and county level with the YFC, she has participated in numerous competitions, particularly enjoying street dancing competitions and also public speaking, representing Montgomeryshire at a national competition.

A ‘Silver Sports Young Ambassador’ Elin has coached pupils of all ages in a range of sports and helped organise various sporting events at school to encourage pupil participation.   Her willingness to ‘get involved with anything and everything’ both in the YFC and her local community, contributed to two of her proudest moments. In 2019, Elin won the Lantra Land-based Learner of the Year award and in 2021 she was awarded Wales YFC’s Junior Member of the Year.

“I loved being part of the Agri Academy Junior programme and learned so much from industry professionals and the many other ambitious young farmers I met and who I keep in touch with.

“The Agri Academy helped us all focus on what we as young people can do to help secure a viable future for agriculture at this important time as the industry prepares for a future which has now changed so much because of Brexit, the pandemic and the world’s increasing focus on environmental issues.”


Caryl Haf Davies – Junior Agri Academy 2019

Caryl, a member of the 2019 Junior Programme, credits the Agri Academy for widening her vision for career prospects having gained an insight into different sectors and avenues within the industry. 

After leaving school, Caryl completed a year’s apprenticeship on a dairy farm in Fishguard before returning home to work on the family farm in Pembrokeshire, where her parents have 600 Welsh mountain ewes and 100 pedigree Limousin cattle.   

She loves working with animals and before the pandemic struck, enjoyed taking the Limousin cattle to local shows, but is also interested in modern machinery and technology.  

A keen member of Eglwyswrw YFC, she enjoys taking part in many competitions including stock judging, public speaking and ‘young handler’ competitions. 

A keen hockey player, she represents a local ladies’ hockey team. She’s also an enthusiastic horsewoman and in the winter months turns out with the Tivyside Hunt. 

Caryl says that although she’s very interested in genetics, stock breeding and agronomy, it’s too early to plan her future career path, but she is keen to follow a career in agriculture and make an active contribution to the industry.  Before that, she has set her sights on attending Aberystwyth University to study Business and Agriculture. 

“Being part of the Agri Academy Junior programme was such an enjoyable experience as it gave me the confidence to reach out, learn and get involved with different areas of the agricultural industry. 

“Looking ahead to the future, I’m positive that the contacts and relationships I acquired throughout various sessions will be there for me to call upon in the future as part of my personal development.”

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