Shepherdess heading high

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A BORDERS shepherdess is a finalist in a national competition to find the country’s best farmers’ apprentice.

Annabelle Story, who works at Dolphinston Farm, near Jedburgh, is one of 10 in the final line-up for the industry magazine Farmers’ Weekly Farmer Apprentice 2012.

The graduate of Harper Adams University College near Newport in Wales admitted she nearly didn’t enter: “I thought I’ll never get in! I don’t really know enough considering I have just been on the farm since July, but my boss told me to do it and it went from there.”

She works for Peter Scott looking after 1,600 Lleyns and says farming is something that’s in your blood.

She said: “It’s born in you. I didn’t grow up on a farm and I missed it, so that tells you something. Every day is different, it’s really good fun, you’re outside – and there’s something about sheep, I don’t know what it is. You do have your ups and downs, but I miss them when I’m not there.”

Annabelle, 21. credits her grandfather, Harland Story, with sparking her interest in farming: “Every weekend we used to go to his house and he taught me how to look stock, how to tell when one was ill. We used to go moling [catching moles] a lot and build stone walls.”

Originally from Allendale in Northumberland, Annabelle helped out at sheep farms whenever she could and is grateful to Haydon Bridge sheep farmer Annabelle Bates where she learned more about her trade.

Farmers’ Weekly and McDonald’s launched the competition with a £10,000 prize in June amid statistics saying the industry needs to attract 60,000 new entrants during the next 10 years to sustain the sector.

The magazine told its online audience: “We hope to show what a thriving, entrepreneurial and innovative industry farming is and light a fire within talented, but increasingly office-bound youngsters by showcasing the opportunities that lie in wait in the British countryside.”

The competition is open to people aged 18 to 25 and contestants had to submit a one-minute video demonstrating their passion for farming, creativity, business acumen, communication skills and ambition.

The finalists attended a five-day bootcamp at Reaseheath College in Cheshire last month and the first of a six-part web-TV series showing them tackling the practical, business and communication challenges there goes online on Tuesday (November 13).

The competition judges are Co-operative Farms’ former managing director Christine Tacon CBE, a governor of Harper Adams, Glenapp Estate farm manager Charlie Russell, a director of Scottish Beef Cattle Association and last year’s Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year and Reaseheath College’s agriculture programme leader, Matthew Bagley, National Sheep Association central region representative and the winner of best sheep flock in Cheshire for the past two years.

Annabelle said: “Bootcamp was really good. I learned a lot, everyone helped each other, it wasn’t really a competitive atmosphere and we all really had a good time.

“To hear that you are good from people who know boosts your confidence and gives you a bit more ambition and drive to do something about it.

“I don’t know what the judges were looking for. They said at the beginning it’s all about how much people improve and how much they take out of the challenges. I think I did well but I’m quite shy.”

The winner will be announced on December 5.