Young farmers from across Cumbria are organising a tractor run in support of the continuation of agricultural and rural education provision at Newton Rigg, Penrith, which is under threat of closure.
Askham Bryan College, York, has run Newton Rigg since 2011, but has said it will no longer provide education at the campus from next July — much to the dismay of the Cumbrian farming community, who greatly value the land-based courses offered there.
On a brighter note, much work is being done to find another body to run Newton Rigg, and it is thought that several bids to do so are being prepared.
These will be considered by a team from the Further Education Commissioner, which is carrying out a strategic review of the campus.
The county’s young farmers are keen to show the FEC team the depth of support for Newton Rigg, hence their decision to hold the tractor run on Sunday, 16th August.
Neil Curr, Cumbria YFC county chairman, said: “Newton Rigg is an outstanding asset for Cumbria, and to lose it would be devastating for the county and its young people.
“Cumbria YFC has around 1,500 members, many of whom either studied at Newton Rigg or will go on to study there. The college has also been home to the Cumbria YFC county office for over 80 years.
“The loss of Newton Rigg would mean the young people of the county having to travel further afield to study, taking them away from their farms and families.
“Those with busy lives working in agriculture and its associated industries will struggle to progress with their studies, leading to a potential loss of skills within the county. We need to do everything in our power to avoid the loss of Newton Rigg College.”
The tractor run was initially the idea of Linda Allan, mother of Sedbergh YFC member Ruby Allan. Linda said: “As our eldest daughter is in the middle of her level two agriculture course at Newton Rigg, the proposed closure of the facility was very much felt in our household.
“I felt it was important to think of something that our family could do as a means to support the college.
“Sixty years ago my father-in-law attended the college and now it’s our daughter’s turn. I felt it was important for the teenagers and YFC members to get involved to play a part in trying to save Newton Rigg.
“A tractor run was an event which would not only tick all the social distancing rules but bring the individual clubs together under a common cause and where they are used to competing against one another — it is very fitting that together they show they are stronger and can hopefully make a difference to support agricultural education in Cumbria.”
She added: “We just want the college to stay open for our other children and for generations to come. To have Cumbria without an agricultural college would be like having Manchester or Liverpool without their football teams.”
Robbie Tuer, Cumbria YFC northern district chairman, added: “Newton Rigg plays a pivotal part in the Cumbrian community, with a huge amount of people being educated there for a wide variety of career pathways.
“The agricultural and rural community have been educated at Newton Rigg for many decades and this instrumental source of further education should continue for decades to come.
“We as a county owe so much to Newton Rigg, and what better way to show our support as young farmers than doing a tractor run round all the clubs in the county.
“This will raise awareness and show that the Cumbria YFC members, advisory, parents and affiliates are 100 per cent behind Newton Rigg staying open.”
News of the tractor run was welcomed by Penrith and the Border MP Dr Neil Hudson, who is one of those seeking to find some way of keeping the college in operation.
Dr Hudson said: “These farmers are the future of farming in Cumbria and their strong support for Newton Rigg, which kick-started many of their careers, shows just how important the survival of the college is to the next generation of farming.”