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Harper Forum report - Alison Rickett of Fresh Start

Posted 2 December 2010

Alison Rickett of Fresh Start prepares her presentation for the Harper Forum.

By Harper Forum Reporter, Charlotte Harley

Farm diversification and agricultural businesses are a growing part of the rural sector. The Harper Forum was pleased to welcome Alison Rickett of Fresh Start – an industry led initiative to encourage new entrants into farming.

Ms Rickett, National Project Manager, opened the Forum with an introduction to Fresh Start. Their aim is to support the development of businesses and entrepreneurial skills and Ms Rickett believes that this is key to finding the next generation for the sector.

To achieve this, Fresh Start arranges academies across the country, offering monthly meetings and mentoring opportunities. These attract people within a 30 mile radius and have a natural life span, closing or moving to another area to attract new applicants.

Ms Rickett said that she feels the benefits of these academies include skills development, networking and confidence building.

Applicants range from 22-45 years old and are split 60/40 between those with agricultural backgrounds and those without.

The future of Fresh Start itself is questionable as DEFRA funding finishes in March, but, all academies will continue as they are self-dependant. Current developments into succession and specialist academies, e.g. the Pig Academy, will remain.

In summary, Ms Rickett suggested these key pointers for setting up your own business:
• Plan ahead
• Talk to the people in the industry
• Do your research – in the sector and around
• Use a mentor
• Have a sound Business Plan
• Good Communication within the team
• And most importantly do not give up. It may take several attempts but anything is possible. Nothing is set in stone and even the strongest of plan i.e. taking over the family farm, can change rapidly and it is important to be able to adjust.

The nearest academy to Harper Adams in Shropshire, is at Walford’s College of Agriculture.

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