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Student marks the start of new college farm

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 09, 2013

Vice chairman of the Students' Union, Lacey Bellows, takes control of the digger to mark the start of work on Duchy College's new farm PICTIRE: Simon Burt

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She might be only 18, but student Lacey Bellows took the controls of the giant digger to perform a very special ceremony, marking the start of a £10 million investment at Duchy College, Stoke Climsland.

The building work, which began this week, will create Future Farm, a cutting-edge scheme to bring state-of-the-art agriculture to the Westcountry.

"It was a great honour to be involved," said Lacey, from Pensilva, who is vice chairman of the Students' Union at Duchy College. She hopes to gain qualifications to teach children about farming and the countryside.

She was joined at West Coombeshead, the college home farm, by senior staff and builders and engineers from the contractors Midas.

Future Farm is being built in three phases a mile away from the original campus site. When completed, it will transform Duchy College into the most advanced agricultural college in the country, with partnership arrangements with overseas machinery manufacturers and farming enterprises in Eastern Europe.

The first two phases are a £2.1 million agriculture and land-based skills and technology centre, and a highly advanced £3.2 million dairy unit, providing research and teaching and incorporating new technology from around the world. The third phase will be a new university hub, housing students, staff, visitors and academics from around the world.

Dr Phil Le Grice, college assistant principal, said the development was a mark of success, as the facilities needed to be expanded and improved.

To illustrate his point he explained: "Imagine the size of the average tractor when the college was founded 25 years ago, and the size now. It's like that right the way through. We just don't have the facilities as they stand for the sort of expansion and progress we want to make."

The scheme is being funded by Duchy College itself and the Skills Funding Agency, which works in partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The design incorporates an ancient listed building originally built as a potato store.

"This development really reflects where the college has arrived, promoting dynamic farming skills from around the world," added Dr Le Grice, who said the first phase should be open next year. "This will mean much better facilities for the community to access, playing a role that puts the South West right at the heart of food and farming production – and not on the periphery."

Already staff and students have had training in Germany with two tractor manufacturers and there are arrangements being made with major farming companies in Eastern Europe to provide practical placements for students.

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