A Good Education

PUBLISHED: 22:44 20 June 2012 | UPDATED: 22:03 21 February 2013

A Good Education

A Good Education

Liz Shankland, a broadcaster who runs smallholding courses in Wales, has just written The Smallholders' Manual. Here's her advice on how to be fully trained for a career in the countryside.

Doing your homework and getting some experience under your belt is essential, so find some training courses to master any skills you might need.

Locate the nearest agricultural college and see what courses it offers. Many colleges will run tailor-made smallholder courses, which will give you an overview of everything from land management to livestock handling, while others may only run one or two day sessions on particular subjects, or more formal training courses, which will give you recognised qualifications.

Courses in traditional rural skills, such as hedge-laying and drystone walling, are extremely useful. If your local agricultural college does not cater for such things, try conservation organisations such as the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers or the Wildlife Trusts. They often offer training opportunities to volunteers and organise work parties so you can hone your skills under supervision before you have to go it alone.

It may also be worth getting in touch with Lantra, an independent skills agency for the land-based and environmental sector in the UK. The organisation works with colleges and other training providers to provide courses for farming families and employees, often at discounted prices. You will, however, have to satisfy a list of criteria, as the courses are aimed more at those employed full-time in a particular industry.

There is an increasing number of enterprising smallholders, running their own training courses. These can be great value, but they can also be incredibly expensive for what you actually get.

For a lot of people, price and travelling distance will be the two main deciding factors when choosing such a course but what about the quality of the training?

Ask yourself this




  • How qualified is the course tutor?How much relevant experience doeshe or she have? If the course is run bya relative beginner, how sound istheir knowledge?


  • What will you be taught on thecourse? Find out exactly what will becovered and see if it suits your needs.


  • How hands-on is the course? If,for instance, imagine that the courseinvolves animal husbandry. Will youhave the chance to get involved andto attempt various tasks such ashandling, tagging and injecting, orwill the tutor merely bedemonstrating?


  • How many people will be in yourgroup? Too many and you may nothave the chance to try out atechnique.


  • Will there be course materials totake away? There may be handoutssummarising the days activities orgiving more information.


Reproduced from the Smallholding Manual, byLiz Shankland, recently published by Haynes.To order a copy, visit www.haynes.co.uk

Liz keeps pigs, sheep, and poultry in Wales andruns smallholding courses at TV presenter KateHumbles farm in Monmouthshire.

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