Young farmers who benefitted from a business support programme have met with MP Rory Stewart.

Mr Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border, said he was impressed with farmers Georgia Smith, Lorna Craig and Mark Curr at the latter’s family farm at Newbiggin-on-Lune.

They had taken part in The Farmer Network’s Business Support Programme, set up to help young people get a start in a farming-related business.

Eligible young people are offered support involving a three-day basic business course, one-to-one business advice, access to grants of up to £4,000 and loans of up to £25,000.

Mark was given a loan to buy ewes and an electronic identification scanner, to allow him to generate extra income by scanning sheep for other farmers.

Georgia, of Ravenstonedale, received a grant to test the market and a loan to set up a goat-meat producing and retailing business and Lorna Craig, of Brough, has had advice on a calf and stirk rearing enterprise.

Since it started in 2012, 103 young people have completed the programme’s business course; 101 have been given business advice and 35 have received loans, ranging from £4,000 to £25,000. Grants of over £80,000 have also been given for training, market investigation or legal advice.

The programme is funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and the Prince’s Trust, but that is due to end this year. The network is looking for new sponsors and funding partners.

After the meeting, Mr Stewart said: “I was delighted to meet Mark, Georgia and Lorna and was impressed to see how they had really taken advantage of the Business Support Programme.

“It can be very difficult for young people to get a start in this industry but it is vital to agriculture’s future that they do.

“It’s brilliant to see how The Farmer Network, Prince’s Trust and The Prince’s Countryside Trust have been able to support these young people, giving them access to salient advice and funding that can make all the difference to their lives.”