The Guild was represented at a London reception for The Prince’s Countryside Fund held to coincide with National Countryside Week in July and highlight the Fund’s work.
“A key message of the event was how important it is for the Fund to spread its word, increase its activity and secure a sustainable future for British agriculture and the rural economy,” says former Guild chairman Adrian Bell. “Many of those I spoke to weren’t aware of the Guild but were delighted to discover that such an organisation exists. Although there is no dedicated PR or communications function within the Fund, they are keen to hear from, and provide information to, any of our Guild members who want to find out more about the Fund’s work, or to follow up on individual stories or topic areas.”
The event was attended by Lord Curry of Kirkhale, a Trustee of the Fund and also Chairman of Waitrose’s Leckford Estate, which is hosting a visit by delegates to IFAJ Congress 2014 in September. He told guests that since its inception in 2010, the Prince’s Countryside Fund has made grants totalling £3.87 million, helping more than 64,000 people in the countryside.
“Projects have included rural transport, village shops, village pubs and local business units,” he pointed out. “Nearly 2500 farm businesses have received help, improving efficiency and providing opportunities to diversify through new income streams.
“Nearly 500 rural enterprises have benefited from the Fund, and over 2000 young people have been helped into work or careers through training schemes and apprenticeships,” added Lord Curry. “And 9000 children have been given access to farms, or have had farming matters introduced to their school learning programmes.”
The Fund has been particularly visible for its emergency funding, he pointed out, giving money to rural crisis charities during the poor weather in 2012/13 and the Somerset flooding during 2013 and early 2014.
Despite the unbridled success of the Fund in achieving its objectives of funding ‘the people who support the countryside’, they are not resting on their laurels, notes Adrian.
“While the purpose of the reception was to thank those who have supported the Fund, and made it the success it is, they’re very much aware that there’s plenty more they can do, and plenty more projects that can be supported,” he says. “Over 23 companies support the Fund through licensing agreements, including some of our own familiar Guild sponsors such as Lloyds Bank and Waitrose, alongside other recognised industry names including Asda, Land Rover and Dairy Crest.
“It’s very clear they’re looking to spread the word about the Fund’s successes, to encourage more applications for funding, and more involvement from potential sponsors,” he adds.
Aberdeen-based Guild chairman Jane Craigie says it was important for the Guild to accept its invitation to be represented at the reception.
“It’s revealed a number of different angles and opportunities that we mustn’t let wither, and which I hope our members can support,” she says. “There are so many reasons to engage more with organisations like the Fund that do such great work in our countryside.”