YOUNG farmers from all corners of Cumbria put the pedal down in a bid to add their voice to the campaign to save a closure-threatened agricultural college.

Around 80 tractors took part in the Cumbria Young Farmers event with lead machines hauling a a trailer carrying the banner ‘Protect our Farming Future, Save Newton Rigg College’.

The Penrith-based college is earmarked for closure next year.

The county’s young farmers set off on Sunday from Broughton in the south, Drigg in the west and Longtown in the north of the county.

Many thousands of young farmers have passed through the college’s doors since Newton Rigg opened and Cumbria YFC county office has been situated at the college for over 80 years.

The idea for a tractor relay in support of Newton Rigg College came from Sedbergh young farmer Ruby Allan, 17, and her mum, Linda.

Linda said: “As our eldest daughter is in the middle of her Level 2 agriculture course at Newton Rigg, the proposed forthcoming 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 means to support the college.”

The relay tractor run had been postponed last month due to part of the event taking place in a potential Covid-19 hotspot, the Eden Valley. But with strict Covid-19 protocols in place and chief stewards on hand to direct the proceedings, the young farmers were finally able to show their support for the college.

Cumbria YFC county president Mrs Judith Emmott said Newton Rigg was more than an agricultural college. “It is where lifelong friendships are formed and it gives them the grounding and support that will set them up for life.

"The Tractor Run is the Young Farmers' way of showing everybody how much the college is valued.”

Neil Curr, the county chair of Cumbria YFC, confirmed: “We currently have more than 1,500 members, many of whom attend or were planning on attending the college, making use of not only the farming and agricultural courses, but also forestry, agricultural engineering, animal care, public services, horticulture, game keeping, beauty and child care.

"The loss of the college would have a great impact on the future of many young people.

“The busy nature of farming means that, for many, travelling outside of the county for education and training may not be an option meaning that learning and keeping up with new ideas may suffer. At a time when food standards, responsible farming and good-quality home-grown food is becoming more and more important, it is essential that Cumbria future-proofs its farming and agriculture ensuring it is fit for purpose. To do this we need to make sure that the farmers of the future have the best education and training possible.

“Cumbria is the second-largest producer of milk and red meat in the country and it is really important that young people who work in or are wanting to work in agriculture and farming get the opportunity to access the most up to date technologies and developments to keep us at the top of the game. Without Newton Rigg College, the future and quality of farming within the county is at great risk”.

John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, said: “Newton Rigg College is an extremely important further education and training provider for the local area. I hope Cumbria YFC had a successful tractor run in support of the college. A different challenge, which I hope they enjoyed.”

The MP for Penrith and the Border, Dr Neil Hudson said: “It was humbling and heartening to join with Cumbria Young Farmers’ Tractor Run in support of Newton Rigg. They have shown loudly and clearly what this vital Cumbrian college means both to them and our UK farming future. We will keep working hard to try to save Newton Rigg.”