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How The Prince's Countryside Fund is working on rural projects in Sussex

PUBLISHED: 14:39 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:50 14 January 2014

Archant

The Prince's Countryside Fund is working with projectscross Sussex. Here, we take a look at a few of them...

To donate to The Prince’s Countryside Fund, please go to www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/archant

The Prince’s Countryside Fund, which strives to secure a sustainable future for British farming and the wider rural economy, has donated £3.3m in just three years to over 75 projects across the UK, helping 52,000 people.

The grants have helped to improve service provision in rural areas, improve job prospects for unemployed rural young people, encourage economically efficient farm practices, support rural enterprise, improve low farming incomes, and halt the decline of rural communities. The number of people farming in Britain has declined by 26 per cent over the past 20 years, and 10 per cent of those remaining farming households are returning a negative income.

It is estimated that 60,000 new entrants are needed in the farming industry in the next decade to ensure its future sustainability. Rural communities are facing serious isolation problems as pubs, post offices and village shops are closing down and services such as local transport provision are being cut. Victoria Harris, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said; “2012 was a devastating year for the farming industry with the catastrophic weather leaving many families with crop shortages and little feed for livestock.

“Many of the projects we’re also funding are to address low farming incomes and give farmers a better footing so they can avoid financial hardship in future.”

Sussex-based organisations that will benefit from £30,000 from the Fund include the Sussex Wildlife Trust, which aims to conserve the Sussex landscape, wildlife and its habitats and to use its knowledge and expertise to help the people of Sussex to enjoy, understand and take action to protect it.

The Trust, with the help of the Prince’s Countryside Fund, will provide a volunteer training placement to a young person with the Reserves Team each year for three years. The person in question will receive on the job training, learn conservation skills, including:

1 Coppicing

2 Scrub cutting

3 Stump treating

4 Animal husbandry

5 Livestock handling

6 Stock checking

7 Off-road driving

8 Trailer towing

9 Basic vehicle maintenance

10 Fencing and gate maintenance

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The Trust intends to provide skills up to a professional standard, with national certification where appropriate.

Lindfield’s Oathall Community College Farm has opened an independently financed farm shop, thanks to funding from the Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Already a nationally recognised school farm in West Sussex, this scheme will provide valuable work experience for local young people, provide a retail outlet for produce grown and reared by nine local producers, and offer at least 500 local people the opportunity to buy affordable local food.

Oathall Farm is a nationally recognised school farm – a centre for excellence for Oathall Community College and other schools locally and nationally, Oathall Farm provides outdoor land based education programmes for young people.

The farm was set up during the Second World War in order to grow fruit and vegetables and rear livestock to help the war effort. It survived the threat of closure 10 years ago, a bid that was thwarted with the help of HRH The Prince of Wales.

Pupils at Oathall who have an interest in farm work opt for either an NVQ Level One in Land-Based Operations (horticulture and farm machinery) or a Level Two Diploma in Environmental and Land-Based Studies taken over a period of two years.

Thanks to the Prince’s Countryside Fund, Oathall Farm has extended the range of experience it offers students by opening a community shop as part of the college. By employing a Farm Operations Co-ordinator, 20 volunteers are working on the project and now have the opportunity to gain training and certification in basic food hygiene/handling and butchery.

The students have the opportunity to work in the shop alongside members of the local community, learning about retailing local produce and routes to market. Students work with all livestock, including feeding, watering, preparing them for shows, transporting them, lambing and farrowing. Experience is gained in tractor driving and handling and maintaining heavy duty machinery. Students also grow fresh produce and complete a course in first aid.

This experience helps to develop confidence and practical skills in the workplace, equipping young local people with the experience needed to succeed in the farming industry.

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