The Great Farm Challenge 2017, North West final

Agricultural students from three colleges across the North West have showcased what changes they would make to a working farm with the aim of helping to improve water quality.

The Great Farm Challenge North West 2017 final at the National Farmers Union regional office in Skelmersdale, was a chance for the next generation of farmers to present their plans for managing a successful farm while protecting local water quality.

Students from three of the region’s top agricultural colleges, Reaseheath, Mysercough and Newton Rigg, battled it out to impress the judges from the Environment Agency, Natural England and United Utilities.

Each team visited a working farm and presented their recommendations back to the judging panel on how they would minimise run off from pesticides, nutrients and suspended solids, whilst also looking at ways of using water wisely on the farm.

The winners were a team from Reaseheath College, who impressed the judges with their excellent report and presentation, which not only identified issues they also put in place solutions.

Lee Meakin, from the Environment Agency’s Cheshire Land and Water team, said: “I think the Great Farm Challenge is a really important initiative. It’s been a brilliant and rewarding experience and it was great to speak to the future generation of farmers. At the interactive learning session we got them thinking about a range of environmental challenges such as slurry storage and nutrient management.”

“A huge congratulations to the winners and everyone who took part – as judges we were really pleased with the level of enthusiasm and commitment of the students who put a lot of effort into their farm improvement proposals.”

Bob Middleton, Catchment Sensitive Farming Project Manager with Natural England, said “I am delighted that once again CSF is working alongside Water Companies and the colleges to provide a great opportunity for young farmers.  The Great Farm Challenge not only educates future farmers about DWPA and the benefits of protecting the environment, but it’s a great example of partnership working and a chance to work with like-minded people from other organisations also working on catchment management.” 

“Over the sixth year the project has been running, we’ve educated just over 800  young farmers and land managers about the impact of agriculture on water sources.”

Strategy Development Manager at water company United Utilities Clare Bullen said: “By creating the awareness of good water quality practices we will hopefully avoid problems in the future which could impact the environment, the farm business and the cost of water treatment which can then impact the bill paying customer.”