Society focuses on next generation food and farming

Students from Plumpton College sheep shearing at SOES

Agricultural colleges from across the region will join forces with the South of England Agricultural Society (SEAS) to showcase the next generation of food production and farming at the South of England Show in Ardingly on 11, 12 & 13 June, as part of a joint campaign to encourage more young people into agricultural careers.

Colleges from across the South East including Plumpton College in East Sussex, Sparsholt College in Hampshire, Chichester College (Brinsbury Campus) in West Sussex, Berkshire College, Hadlow College in Kent and Merrist Wood in Surrey are working with the Society throughout the year and at the South of England Show will demonstrate skills from sheep shearing to cheese making, forestry to poultry keeping as well as horticulture, floristry and the main ring display of vintage to modern machinery.

President of the Society, Clare Scheckter, who runs Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire, said, “As the demand for quality British food has grown, land based colleges and other educational establishments are seeing an increased interest and demand from both students and employers which has resulted in the expansion of the courses they offer. However, we still only grow 63 per cent of the food that we eat in the UK, and in the future we will need to increase this hugely to feed our growing population.”

The good news is that most colleges from across the South of England region have seen a steady increase in students studying land and food production courses, with some seeing up to a 30% increase in student take up over the last five years. Specialist courses in niche careers are proving particularly popular, such as degrees and masters courses in wine making, for example, or equine dentistry, as well as gamekeeping, agricultural machinery and fishery management.

Agriculture is at the cutting edge of research and development and the Research Council for the industry (BBSRC) spends £500 million each year on agriculture, bioprocessing, chemical, food, healthcare, pharmaceutical and other biotechnological related industries, offering a huge range of ‘white collar’ and laboratory work in the sector as well.

Courses in agriculture have one of the highest rates of graduate employment in the UK. For example, 98% of first degree graduates at Harper Adams University (ranked in the top ten for higher education in UK) are either in work or doing further study and the number of female undergraduates entering agriculture and forestry courses is also on the rise.

Said Carole Hayward, Vice Chairman of SEAS, “The food and farming sector employs 3.5 million people in the UK, nearly one in every seven jobs, and the Society is here to help promote and support innovation in food, growing and all aspects of the countryside and attracting young people into seriously considering a career in the agricultural industry.

“The Society plays a significant role in introducing young people to the countryside and is committed to the on-going support of young people in the agricultural industry through its shows, events, competitions, bursaries and scholarships.”

Creating a footprint of learning and discovery through education is a priority for the South of England Agricultural Society and the important work it does with schools, colleges and businesses from across the region has fuelled its focus on the future of farming.

Secondary schools from the South East region will be exhibiting their visions of farming in the future at the South of England Show and there will also be a primary schools competition called ‘Fabulous Food in the Future’ showing how children think food will be produced in the future.

Zones such as the Skills and Craftsmanship area – featuring the Young Craftsman of the Year Competition, WI and the Farriers Horse Shoeing Competition – will showcase the outstanding work of dozens of young people; and the Countryside Learning zone – incorporating Wildlife, Farming & Forestry and the Knowledge Box – will also be looking at new thinking, new technology and new ways of working with information for young people to find out more about careers and opportunities in food and farming.

The South of England Agricultural Society is allowing under 16s to enter all its major events for free, when accompanied by a paying adult, and they hope that this will tempt more young people and families to come along and bring friends to enjoy their country shows and events throughout the year.

Visit now to take advantage of the online ticket discounts and early bird offers.

To find out more about agricultural colleges in the region, see – or visit the South of England Show on 11, 12 & 13 June.




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Notes to Editors:


The sector continues to undergo a process of radical change driven by the globalisation of production and markets, rapidly changing consumer tastes and an increasing focus on high value products. (Lantra)

There will be a need for nearly 250,000 new workers between now and 2020, with roles in customer service and managerial and skilled trade occupations, such as agricultural engineers, offering the most opportunities. (Lantra)

The land-based sector has historically suffered from an image of poor pay and long hours and has been pushed as a non-academic route for students. Consequently, there is a lack of understanding of the sector and the career opportunities it offers. (Lantra)

Within the South East, estimates give a total of around 15,171 businesses or organisations that operate wholly or principally in the land-based sector. (Brighton University)

The total land-based workforce within the region is currently estimated at 105,610. This figure is a conservative estimate and may not reflect the large numbers of temporary, casual and migrant workers known to work in areas such as production horticulture. (Brighton University)

With a quarter of the workforce aged 55 or over, there is a growing need for more graduates to enter the environment and agriculture sector. (Brighton University) 

The South of England Agricultural Society is a registered charity that was founded in 1967 from a consolidation of agricultural societies going back to the 1830’s. The Society operates from the South of England Showground, a 150-acre site situated just outside Ardingly village in the heart of the West Sussex countryside.

Working across the six counties of Berkshire, East Sussex, Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, Kent, Surrey and West Sussex, the Society’s aims are to showcase farming, agriculture and the countryside through annual shows and serve the community through the provision of education, grants, awards, bursaries and scholarships for people with an interest or involvement in farming, agriculture and other related land based industries.

The Society’s flagship event is the South of England Show which takes place in June each year. In 2015, the Society will be hosting the following events and initiatives:

Shows: Spring Garden & Leisure Show – 3 & 4 May (incorporating The Open Dog Show, The Alpaca Show) South of England Show – 11, 12 & 13 June (incorporating The Hackney Horse Show and The Hound Show) Autumn Show and Game Fair – 3 & 4 October; Festive Fair – December 5 & 6.

Educational events & competitions: Connect with the Countryside; Jim Green Memorial; Young Craftsman of the Year Competition and The Student Assignment.

Industry events and schemes: The South of England Farming Conference – 18 November.

Awards and bursaries: Award of Honour, travel bursaries, Nuffield Scholarships and grants to land-based colleges.





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