Education 15 Jul 2014

Reaseheath College

Travel beckons for ambitious young farmers

Two ambitious young farming entrepreneurs are looking forward to global travel thanks to a scholarship run by Reaseheath College and the Cheshire Agricultural Society.

Rachel Billington and Simon Bonner were presented with £2,000 John Platt Travel Scholarships during the Presidents Lunch at the Cheshire Show on Tuesday. Rachel will use her scholarship to help her gain a professional qualification from Leith’s School of Food and Wine, London, and has a long term plan to  eventually  run a cookery school which will promote British agriculture and the food chain, from field to fork. She will also use her award to travel to other farm diversification schemes.

The 25 year-old is a product development technologist with Goodlife Foods, Warrington, a food manufacturer for major retailers. She previously studied at Harper Adams University for a BSc (Hons) Degree in Agri-food, Marketing and Business Studies and is current lady chairman of Congleton Young Farmers Club. Her family have a dairy farm in Siddington near Macclesfield.

Rachel said: “I am delighted to receive the scholarship. It will give me a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and to meet others who are successfully running on- farm diversification businesses.”

Simon, 26, is assistant herdsman at Bankhead Farm, Broxton, a 240 cow, autumn calving, pasture-based dairy farm on the Bolesworth Estate. He will use his scholarship to visit New Zealand and Ireland to compare pasture-based dairy systems with those in the UK, in particular examining the opportunities and constraints for wealth creation and profit from grass.

Simon has a BSc (Hons) Degree in Agriculture with Countryside Management and worked on dairy farms in New Zealand after graduating. He also spent a year with Rhys Williams, one of the UK’s leading exponents of milk production from grazed grass, who farms near Aberdaron in north west Wales.

Simon comes from Hale Barns, Altrincham, and has always wanted to farm although he does not have an agricultural background. He said: “It’s an honour to be awarded this scholarship. I plan to use the opportunity to enhance my knowledge of the pasture-based dairy industry and learn how to get the best from grass.”

The John Platt scholarship is in memory of John Platt, a former Chair of Reaseheath Governors and former Chairman, President and Honorary Life Warden of the Cheshire Agricultural Society.

Presenting the awards, Cheshire Show Director Keith Thomas said that both Rachel and Simon had been outstanding candidates and had shown the drive, ambition and desire to seek out new information and technology which would benefit the Cheshire farming community.

The John Platt Travel Scholarship is awarded annually and is open to young people from a rural background who live or work in Cheshire. Applications are being taken for next year.