Fane Valley, Northern Ireland’s biggest farming and food co-operative and a Food NI member, has joined forces with NFU Mutual and a farmers’ market in Armagh to back a new agricultural and land use GCSE and BTEC extended certificate course.
They are supporting the course being delivered at a local secondary-level school that will instruct pupils in key agri-food skills. The support enables Markethill High School in county Armagh to build and complete a state-of-the-art polytunnel grow-house.
Fane Valley has extensive farming and food interests as the parent company of Linden Foods in Dungannon, county Tyrone and White’s Oats, Tandragee, county Armagh. Markethill Livestock Sales is a leading market.
The companies believe the investment provides an academic focus that will further enhance the skills and education of the future local farmers and next generation agri-industry workforce. The on-site grow-house will help facilitate the examination of soils and crops composition, plant biology, crop production and biodiversity in a range of local habitats.
James Maxwell, Markethill High School principal says: “The high-quality learning activities and experiences, both in a curricular and extra-curricular capacity, are enriching the opportunities, which our pupils have to develop knowledge and skills in expanding industries such as the agri-food sector.”
Trevor Lockhart, Fane Valley chief executive, says: “Fane Valley is excited to partner with Markethill High School, one of Northern Ireland’s leading secondary schools, to support and promote the education of agriculture for local students. We believe the new polytunnel initiative will significantly benefit learning and encourage a new passion for farming and agri-food. As a local business Fane Valley has a responsibility to help lead and shape the next generation within our sector and what better way to assist than through this interactive partnership with a school, it’s staff and their pupils.”
Hampton Hewitt, Markethill Livestock Sales, continues; “We are delighted to support this innovative project. It is important that young people are given the opportunity to develop interests outside of the classroom which may assist them when deciding on a future career. Agriculture is Northern Ireland’s most important sector, and we hope that young people who formally would not have considered a career in agriculture or horticulture may now pursue it.”
Howard Pillow, NFU Mutual Armagh, added: “NFU Mutual and the local Armagh agency is delighted to be involved with this local agricultural initiative. It is extremely reassuring to see the passion and effort which has been directed towards this educational project from both the school staff and its pupils and of course the local businesses. We all share in the vision and wish the school and the agriculture department, headed up by Mrs. Greer all the best for their future growth.”