Co-op beefs up farming investment with extension of Farming Pioneers programme

The Co-op has beefed up its British farming investment programme with a blue-print to give young farmers the business skills they need to accelerate their agricultural careers.

The extension of the retailer’s “Farming Pioneers” programme, which launched in 2016 and was initially intended to run for two years, will mean that by 2019 over 100 young farmers will have embarked upon the course.

The announcement was made at last week’s second annual Co-op Agricultural Conference in Manchester and comes off the back of the retailer’s £2.5bn boost to British farming which back in May, saw it become the only supermarket to source 100% British own-brand meat.

Farming Pioneers aims to develop the industry’s future leaders, with delegates aged between 18 and 34 benefitting from modules including succession planning and supply chain relationships.

Ciara Gorst, the Co-op’s Head of Agriculture, said: “We’ve always been vocal about the need to promote and support Britain’s farming industry. As with anything, actions speak louder than words, which is why we’re delighted to confirm our plans to extend our Farming Pioneers programme. Investment in farming means investment in farmers themselves and we want to help promote those people who may be just staring out in their careers but who could be the next leaders of British agriculture. “It’s fantastic to see so many of our farming partners and suppliers here with us today in Manchester as we look to a diverse and challenging year ahead.”

Jim Moseley, Red Tractor’s Chief Executive, who addressed the 200 guests on the merits of greater industry collaboration, said: “If UK consumers are to continue to buy and be proud of British food in our rapidly changing world, it is essential that we work together to maintain and uphold standards right along our supply chain. We applaud the Co-op for continuing to make substantial investment in agriculture. Today’s announcements should give consumers further assurance that retailers are doing the right thing and that they can buy with confidence.”

As well as speeches from Charlie Cleaver of fruit giant Minor Weir and Willis, conference-goers also heard from keynote speaker, British athlete, rowing champion and double Olympic gold medallist, James Cracknell OBE, on how to succeed under pressure. The 45 year old sportsman was also on hand to hand out trophies to the winners of the Co-op Farming Awards 2017.

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