Adults in the Ballymena area of Co. Antrim have a new opportunity to study agriculture-related courses at the College of Agriculture and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) for free.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has partnered with the Gallaher Trust, a job development charity, to launch a scholarship programme for young adults in the area wishing to study at CAFRE.

The £65,000 in funding aims to support Ballymena’s rural community and highlight the role of the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland’s economy.

The scholarship will enable two students to access a two-year agriculture-related course through CAFRE to a foundation degree level beginning in September 2023.

The students will have their course fees covered and will receive a technology bundle worth £1,500 to help them with their studies.

Individuals wishing to apply must be over 18-years-old, from the Ballymena area and wishing to further their farming skills and qualifications but who may not be able to pursue their studies for financial reasons.

The scholarship will continue for a further two years after the initial intake, benefiting a total number of six students.

Chair of the Gallaher Trust, Ian Paisley, said the scholarship fund would really benefit young people hoping to study agriculture and also the wider Ballymena area.

“Farming in the Ballymena area plays a vital role in the local economy and with the agriculture industry facing many challenges, it’s important that we equip young farmers with the resilience and skills that will support them in managing a sustainable farm business,” he said.

“As a result, we are supporting this scholarship programme in partnership with the Ulster Farmers’ Union to the value of £65,000 for young people who are keen to develop their farming knowledge by studying at CAFRE.”

Membership director of the UFU, Derek Lough, said the union was looking forward to working with the Gallaher Trust.

“The Gallaher Trust’s Scholarship is a great initiative. It will encourage young people, local to the Ballymena area, who might otherwise have been put off by the costs, to continue their training at CAFRE,” he said.

“Young farmers are the future of the agriculture industry and this scholarship helps us to support them as we work together to find solutions to the various challenges facing the sector.”