Learn­ing from the land

It has been a spe­cial year of cel­e­bra­tion for the Coun­trysiders in Nor­folk

EDP Norfolk - - County Life -

THE ROYAL Nor­folk Agri­cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion (RNAA) is a keen sup­porter of Coun­trysiders – the ju­nior section of Nor­folk Young Farm­ers - which has spent 2016 cel­e­brat­ing its 20th an­niver­sary. Coun­trysiders of­fers young peo­ple aged be­tween 10 and 16 years the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cover the world of agri­cul­ture and land-based in­dus­tries.

Coun­trysiders was set up in 1996 as a re­sponse to a gen­eral de­cline in the num­ber of school clubs linked to a ru­ral syl­labus or school farm. The vol­un­teer-run meet­ings take place once a fort­night across 15 Nor­folk-based Coun­trysider Clubs.

“Coun­trysiders is for any young per­son who has a pas­sion for the ru­ral as­pects of our county,” ex­plains Moira Har­ri­son, Coun­trysiders devel­op­ment of­fi­cer at Nor­folk Young Farm­ers. “The chil­dren can stay with their Coun­trysider Club un­til they feel ready to move on to a Nor­folk Young Farm­ers club or un­til they reach the age of 17, which­ever hap­pens first. The fact that we have grown to 15 clubs in the past cou­ple of decades is some­thing I’m hugely proud of and says a lot about the en­thu­si­asm young peo­ple have for their ru­ral en­vi­ron­ment.”

Coun­trysiders’ meet­ings can range from a talk by the RSPB to a visit to the hunt ken­nels, and from mak­ing piz­zas to stock judg­ing at a farm. Clubs also have ac­cess to var­i­ous train­ing cour­ses held at Eas­ton and Ot­ley Col­lege, rang­ing from trac­tor driv­ing and engi­neer­ing to dairy­ing - in­clud­ing milk­ing, calf han­dling and lamb­ing.

“Each year we have a Con­ser­va­tion Cam­pout at a dif­fer­ent farm, where Coun­trysiders un­der­take tasks such as bridge build­ing, owl nest box mak­ing, cre­at­ing ma­ter­nity bat roosts, ot­ter holts and much more,” says Moira.

“Reach­ing out to younger peo­ple is es­sen­tial if we are to pos­i­tively im­pact on their im­pres­sion of the ru­ral and agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity. If we en­gage, mo­ti­vate and in­flu­ence chil­dren from an early age then we can only hope they feel pos­i­tively about the coun­try­side which they will hope­fully choose to live and work in.” “Coun­trysiders will have shaped and in­spired a gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple in­volved in mod­ern day agri­cul­ture across the county”

Ed­u­ca­tion is a core aim for the RNAA, and helping young peo­ple de­velop a bet­ter aware­ness of the im­por­tance of food, farm­ing and the coun­try­side through an un­der­stand­ing of the is­sues and chal­lenges is a core rea­son why the char­ity sup­ports Coun­trysiders.

“As we draw to the end of our 20th year we are mind­ful that Coun­trysiders will have shaped and in­spired a gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple in­volved in mod­ern day agri­cul­ture across the county,” com­ments Moira. “Our hope is we con­tinue to en­cour­age many more over the com­ing decades too.”

To find out more about Coun­trysiders and how to join, con­tact the Coun­trysiders’ county of­fice on 01603 731307 or email nor­[email protected] east­onot­ley.ac.uk or visit www.nor­folkyfc.org

The Coun­trysiders in ac­tion

At a farm auc­tion

Toby Cooke, Coun­trysider mem­ber of the year, cut­ting the cel­e­bra­tion cake with county vice-chair­man Becca Horner

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