The Herald: Pictured: The King is greeted by Jacqueline Farrell, education director for the Prince's FoundationPictured: The King is greeted by Jacqueline Farrell, education director for the Prince’s Foundation (Image: Newsquest)

Charles arrived at the site shortly after 10.30am, where he was introduced to Chirs Hockey, CEO of the MacRoberts Trust, a grant-making charity based in Aberdeenshire which has funded the centre.

Mr Hockey said: “The MacRobert Trust is delighted to have been able to work with The Prince’s Foundation on this project.

“We hope that the new centre will inspire and enable people to learn and then use the skills that the sector truly needs.”

The Herald: Pictured: A root and soil analysis workshopPictured: A root and soil analysis workshop (Image: newsquest)

The King was next shown to one of the centre’s two indoor teaching spaces where he met with pupils who were taking part in a workshop on the importance of good soil health.

While passing by students, who sat in pairs dissecting chunks of soil with tweezers, he quizzed them on their experience levels and asked whether they were considering a full-time career in agriculture.

Widely reported to have a keen interest in organic farming, Charles later listened intently as the youths explained the importance of understanding the chemical structure, physical structure and nutrients present in farming land.

Jo Dempster, STEM curriculum manager at the centre, spoke of how running these workshops alongside practical, outdoor lessons allows students to explore all aspects of agricultural work.

She said: “There’s a bit of a misconception that all STEM research is classroom or lab-based.

“We have fantastic facilities here, but a lot of our time is spent out in the fields.

“Some pupils thrive on the hands-on lessons with animals while others really enjoy the technology side.

“What we’re trying to emphasise here is that there are rural skills jobs available for anyone, regardless of your background or where your interests lie.”

The Herald: Pictured: The King tours the educational barnPictured: The King tours the educational barn (Image: newsquest)

A stark contrast to the indoor classroom environment, The King then toured an educational barn facility which was filled with both cattle and Texo-Cross Mule sheep.

Amongst the farmers, staff and pupils present was 15-year-old Matthew Wilson from Auldgirth who had spoken with the monarch inside.

The Herald: Pictured: Matthew Wilson (left) spoke with The KingPictured: Matthew Wilson (left) spoke with The King (Image: newsquest)

He said: “I was a wee bit nervous knowing that The King was coming today because it’s my first time here.

“I knew we’d all have to behave a bit.

“He asked a lot of questions about what we were learning and what work we would like to get into.

“There’s not many folks our age who want to get into farming so I think he was quite happy to hear our answers.

“I’m currently at a dairy farm close to where I live which is hard work, but somebody has to do it.

“They might take me on full-time when I’m older, but I’m also thinking about going to college.

“The classes here have shown me more of what I could expect to be learning there.”

As the Saturday morning drizzle began to clear, The King was lastly invited to unveil a wooden plaque to mark the opening of the centre as students in near pristine navy boiler suits and wellies and trustees gathered to watch.

The Herald: Pictured: A wooden plaque is unveiledPictured: A wooden plaque is unveiled (Image: newsquest)

From the gates of the facility, a small group of dog walkers clad in waterproofs had also stopped in their tracks to catch a glimpse of the historic moment.

The MacRobert Farming and Rural Skills Centre will now allow The Prince’s Foundation to host events and hands-on workshops for more than 1800 participants a year.

This will include school leavers, secondary school pupils and adults who are in search of a new career path.

The courses will be complemented by an online offering to ensure a diverse range of participants from all over the UK are inspired to consider rural careers and are provided with pathways to higher-level qualifications and specialisms.

The Herald:

Iona Murray, farming and rural skills manager for The Prince’s Foundation said: “If you don’t come from an agricultural background, it can be incredibly difficult to break into the industry.

“We want to make sure that opportunities are there for anyone who aspires to pursue a land-based career, regardless of their background, and The MacRobert Farming Rural Skills Centre will enable us to do just that while also helping to fill a skills gap.

“The Prince’s Foundation has, for many years, offered a comprehensive range of food, farming and horticulture education programmes here at Dumfries House.

“Now, students could in essence start on one of our introductory courses at the age of four and continue training with us right through to adulthood.”

The Herald:

Asked how it felt to have welcomed The King to officially open the centre, Ms Murray continued: “It’s been in planning since 2019 and The King has been updated on the progress

“We’ve really enjoyed seeing the vision come to life.

“He’s been such a great advocate for the farming industry over the years and for the students to be able to see the passion that he has today is brilliant.

“It’s an extra element of inspiration that will hopefully help them to realise just how many amazing opportunities this work can bring.”

Last night, The King attended an event to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Dumfries House being opened to the public and transformed into a hub for training, education and employment.

More than 150 guests from the local Ayrshire community were invited by The Prince’s Foundation to attend the event, which aimed to recognise the impact that the opening of the house and 2000-acre estate has had on the local community.

The King, then the Prince of Wales, led a consortium which paid £45 million for the dilapidated estate in 2007 in a bid to save it from ruin and help regenerate the deprived local community.

Prior to this the house and estate had been a private home which was closed off to the public for more than 200 years.

Speaking at the event, His Majesty said: “Thank you for all your help over all these years.

“We couldn’t have done it without all of you and so we owe you all an enormous debt of gratitude for keeping it all going.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *