The Prince's Countryside Fund - the Prism Youth Project in Bradford
PUBLISHED: 00:00 31 January 2014
Joan Russell Photography
Young people explore and develop the skills they need to begin a career in agriculture and farming on a city farm in Bradford supported by the Prince's Countryside Fund.
The arduous work, the long hours and for many, little financial return, has seen the steady decline of the British farming industry, with fewer people seeing farming as a promising career. However training young people to continue careers in agriculture is vital to preserving water sources, protecting wildlife and landscape and producing the UK’s food and drink of which just over half is produced here at home.
It is estimated that 60,000 new people are needed in the farming industry during the next decade to ensure its sustainability but with few training and apprenticeship schemes focussed on rural studies, this poses a great challenge.
In Bradford, youth unemployment has risen significantly over the last four years. A staggering 6,040 young people aged 18-24 years claim Job Seeker’s Allowance, a rate of 11.3 per cent, higher than the national rate of 8.3 per cent. There are also over 1,100 16-18 year-olds who are not in employment, education or training.
The Prism Youth Project aims to offer young people in Bradford the unique opportunity to make improvements to the quality of their lives and learn skills to improve their chances of employability, whilst encouraging them to consider a career in the farming and agricultural industry.
With funding from the Prince’s Countryside Fund, over 60 young people are being trained to receive recognised accreditation in horticulture, animal care and land-based studies. Thirty per cent of these young people are also receiving mentoring from 20 community volunteers who are long term unemployed and are now receiving hands-on experience at the Prism Youth Project City Farm in Girlington to help improve their future prospects of employment.
Here they gain skills in practical tasks such as sheep shearing, grooming, feeding and mucking out, providing them with the knowledge needed to pursue careers in farming and agriculture. As well as working with livestock on an inner city farm, the young people grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables which is donated to community organisations to increase awareness of organic produce grown in the region. They also make monthly visits to veterinary practices and rural farms.
Tracy Wheatley, the project’s development manager, said: ‘Many of the young people who come to us have no qualifications and have struggled to thrive in a classroom environment. We offer a chance for them to carry out a vocational course and gain practical hands on experience in running a farm.
‘Many of our apprentices have never left Bradford and wouldn’t have previously had the chance to get out in the countryside to visit a farm. What we have done is bring the countryside to the city by offering the volunteers a chance to experience a real working inner city farm environment.
‘This valuable work experience gives the volunteers an insight into the career opportunities that could be available to them in farming and agriculture – a key industry that is often overlooked by inner city students.’
Kirsten Hall has been unemployed for some time but through a voluntary work placement at Prism, she has been able to develop skills and confidence which improve her chances of getting work.
‘Volunteering at Prism has helped build my confidence, added more stability to my mental health and increased my physical health,’ she said. ‘Interacting with people again after a period of unemployment has been great for me, especially because it has been gradual.
‘The project has helped me to develop skills for encouraging interest in young people. It has also helped me develop trust with my colleagues, something I have struggled with before.
‘I have learned how to plan something on a larger scale than an allotment, experienced how hard it can be to get other people involved and how resistant people are to food growing that is to say if it does not come in a packet people do not recognise it as food. Even though this is on a larger scale than I am used to, it has been a great experience to make the best out of a small space. I have also started to make contacts in order to increase the number of recyclable materials we have donated to the site.
‘In the future, I would like to own and run a smallholding farming in a natural way, using permaculture and forest gardening. I would also love to combine this with helping people with mental health problems and hopefully through this to help break down the stigma attached to people with mental health issues.’
To find out more about the Prism Youth Project go to prismyouthproject.org or call 01274 487633
If you would like to donate to the Prince’s Countryside Fund please go to virginmoneygiving.com/team/archant