NSA South East Region Next Generation event

Date: 2nd June 2018

Time: 9.00

Location: Hole Farm, Hadlow Down, East Sussex, TN22 4HB

On a glorious sunny day, in the wonderful Wealden countryside at Hadlow Down in East Sussex, the NSA (National Sheep Association) South East Region held its Next Generation Event. There are two parts to this event, one to run the Young Shepherds Competitions and secondly some Seminars and a Workshop session.

The competitions have both an Open section for 18 -26 year olds, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers and a Student section with a lower starting age that is sponsored by Volac. The winner and runner up of the Open go forward to the Final at the NSA National Event to be held at Malvern on 18th July. The elements of the competition are ATV Handling, Electric Fencing, Shearing, Lamb selection and Sheep Health and handling. The students are allowed to drop one element, often Shearing as they need a British Wool Blue Seal to compete. The prize fund totals £1500 with £350 to the Open winner and £200 to the Student winner

The Winner of the Open was Sam Hewett from Edenbridge, Kent and the Runner Up was Emily Killick from Telscombe, East Sussex. In the Student section the Winner was Angus Morgan from Hailsham and the Runner Up was Joseph Wood from Wimborne, Dorset. The Organiser of the competitions, Louise Silk, a Vet from Hampshire who is on the regional committee said, ‘’the standard of these young people was very high and it was a very close fought competition between them.’’

So as to add to this standalone event, in order to establish the regional representatives for the Final, with the move of the regional event, South Sheep to the 8th September, some Seminars and a Workshop session were also organised.

The first of the seminars was a panel of four younger people who explained their journey into farming and working with sheep. First up was Paul Crawley who has now achieved his goal of securing a tenancy, with the National Trust in West Sussex, via a route of Farm Management and Share Farming.

 Next up was Alex Johnston who has built up a contract wintering business in Gloucestershire with Tack/Agistered sheep on short term renting of ground and using electric fencing. He also provides a service of carrying out husbandry tasks for sheep owners.

 Lauren Bird, the present regional Young Ambassador, from Kent and like Alex, not from a farming background, started working on local farms before going to Hadlow College and then to travel to Australia to gain experience, even establishing the second Charollais Flock there. After seven years she decided to return and is enjoying working freelance.

 Finally Stuart Fletcher explained his fascinating journey from being a commuter into London daily as a Naval Architect and looking out of the train window at fields of sheep, to starting with 4 as a hobby to grow his own meat, to realising that you start from where the product ends up, on a plate in a Restaurant and then produce what is required, to now having 400 recorded LLeyns and a happier life.

The second session, Chaired by the host farmer James Hamilton, also a former Young Ambassador, and who had greatly assisted Marie Prebble, (aka Kent Shepherdess, who had also been  a Young Ambassador in the first year of the project in 2014), in the planning of the whole event. This second session was on using sheep in an Arable rotation and for improving soil health, particularly for Arable Farmers.

Richard Harding an Agronomist from ProCam based in Lewes, gave a very in depth presentation on the growing of cover crops and really getting the root structure to improve the soil. Chris Davies from Agrifactors a local Grass Seed Merchant and Contractor who also has a Polled Dorset flock, went through the NIAB list of approved Grasses and Clovers describing the benefits of each variety.

 Finishing with Rob Hodgkins, who with his wife Jo, established Kaiapoi Farms in Hertfordshire in 2014 with 200 cull NZ Romney ewes and is now up to nearly 1500 having taken on worked out arable ground, on low rents, and is putting heart back into the ground. He explained that to have a case to borrow the capital from a Bank, they could not have done it without having a Tesco Contract, therefore knowing what they were going to be paid in advance, gave some security to their business plan. 

During the Lunch Break, Anthony Hyde, an Independent Agricultural Consultant who had chaired the first Seminar, gave a presentation on the work of Farming Community Network (FCN) and how important it was for anyone who had problems to share them and not try to deal with them on their own and if needed there was always someone at FCN who would listen and provide help and ‘walk with them’ through the problem, be it financial, relationship, or health.

Marie Prebble had arranged to have a long distance interview with Matt Smith, a New Zealand Shearer (Current World 9 hour Record holder) who now having married Pippa, a Cornish Farmer’s daughter, is farming Sheep and Deer in Cornwall. Marie asked him about his shearing career and what differences he found to farming in the UK compared with NZ. Also any advice he could give to youngsters wanting to get into both Shearing and Farming.

The afternoon was given over to Workshops run by Susie Emmett from Green Shoots Productions who enlightened all present on acquiring the skills needed in modern life to deal with promoting your business by careful use of Social Media, making Presentations with props rather than PowerPoint, taking useful Photos, and how to give a Radio/TV interview.

The NSA South East Region are very grateful for the support given to this event from Tesco, Barkers Animal Health, Hobbs Parker Auctioneers, Mole Valley Farmers, Rappa and Volac. And also to all those that helped with adjudicating the Young Shepherds Competitions, Claire Thorpe from Cliffe Vets, Charles from AHDB Beef & Lamb, Phil Hart from Plumpton College, James Ridley from Rappa and EASI for Quad Handling.

Thanks also to all those who came to make it all worthwhile, now let those that did not come know that they missed a brilliant day and to make certain they do not miss the next NEXT GENERATION EVENT in 2019. Our future looks bright!