Securing a much sought after place on the Farming Connect Agri Academy has not only broadened Lea Williams’ knowledge and outlook of agriculture but unexpectedly landed her a new job.
Lea, who grew up on a beef and sheep farm at Llansannan, Denbighshire, had recently completed her course in agriculture at Glynllifon College when she embarked on two Agri Academy Junior Programme residential study visits, one at Penllyn in Gwynedd and the other in the Netherlands.
It was while on the Welsh leg of those visits, which involved some time at a dairy farm, that she heard of a job vacancy within that business.
She applied and is now working as a herdsperson in the 700-cow dairy herd at Cefnamlwch, and loving it. She was able to strengthen her application by using Storfa Sgiliau to access her CPD record, which provided a list of the courses and events she had attended to date.
“I didn’t want to go to university, I felt that I could gain more from learning on the job, so I was delighted to get this position,’’ says Lea, who had gained experience of dairying working part-time on a local farm.
In her new job she can put into practice some of the skills she acquired on multiple Farming Connect training courses that she had previously completed, in DIY AI, cattle foot trimming, cattle scanning and cattle mobility scoring, all 80% subsidised.
Her new employer also encourages staff to take up training opportunities. Lea is planning to sign up for further Farming Connect courses on a subject that will help her in her new job on a dairy farm.
“I’d like to look at some of the courses available on the technical side of farming,’’ she says.
Lea’s childhood was immersed in farming, with her parents, Meurig and Iona, and two younger sisters, Efa, 16, and Non, 14.
The family runs a flock of 750 Welsh Mountain sheep and 70 Black Limousin suckler cows on 400 hectares of upland and hill land. They also buy in 60 British Blue dairy cross calves a year and rear those through to stores.
As Lea looks ahead to her future career, which she hopes might include one day running her own business, she says the knowledge she has gained on the Agri Academy Junior Programme will have been invaluable.
For her, some of the standouts from the visit to the Netherlands was a tour of a floating farm in Amsterdam, a concept shaped around cutting out the need to transport food to feed the city’s population.
Seeing how farmers in that country make the most of their existing resources was enlightening too.
“A dairy farmer with 60 cows would never think about expanding the herd but instead adding value to the output from what they already have,’’ Lea explains.
“It was also interesting to visit a ‘dairy day care’ where city children could go to day care on a farm and be able to be among farm animals, and another for dementia patients.’’
Lea now has a residential visit to Llangrannog ahead of her, where she is looking forward to meeting up with the other programme members again.
“There are 10 girls on the course which is really nice,’’ she says. “I knew some of the people from the north already but I have now made connections with people from down in the south too.’’