Newton Rigg students studying their City and Guilds ‘Skills for Working Life – Entry Level 2’ Diploma paid a visit to the Lakes Free Range Egg Company (The Lakes), just down the road from the college. It gave the students a rare opportunity to compare and contrast the different way eggs are collected on a domestic and commercial basis.

Newton Rigg City and Guilds Course Manager Sue Robson said “One of the units on the course involves poultry. We have our own hens at the college, but it is very much on a domestic scale so we thought it would be very interesting and educational to see how different the processes are in a commercial environment.”

On the visit they met Helen Brass who described how she and husband David started out with only a few hens of their own. Their love of hens, and nurturing the environment, combined with a commercially viable way to keep farming, led to a growing number of flocks and a business that has become a nationally acclaimed sustainable free range, ethical egg producer and supplier. As the company expanded, it began working with local family farms to produce enough eggs for customers like McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s and Booths.

Looking at the operation Sue Robson commented “There is so much innovation for collecting and packing eggs. The building itself is remarkable, with all the latest sustainable technologies included. It’s a very different environment to collecting eggs at college. At Newton Rigg, students are used to wearing protective clothing to collect eggs, but at the factory it was a much more controlled environment and hair nets were essential!

“We were all amazed at how advanced the technology is for checking, testing and packing the eggs. The machinery handled the eggs very carefully and students were particularly impressed by the two robots that packed egg boxes into cartons.”

Commenting on their visit Helen Brass said “We’re always happy to show students around and explain what we do. It’s important for students at all levels to appreciate where food comes from, how it is produced and how it reaches our plate.  Agriculture has a lot to offer our younger generations and if we can inspire some students to look at farming as a career option, that can only be a good thing – we know ourselves that collaboration on training has positive results – we designed a bespoke, ‘free range’ training course specifically aimed at advancing Free Range production, because no such course existed.”

The Lakes Free Range Egg Company created their bespoke free range production course called ‘Advanced Training Scheme for Poultry Management’. It was designed by CEO David Brass and Head of Agriculture Roger Gill and delivered by St David’s Veterinary Practice. Support was received from Scottish Agriculture Colleges/SRUC through Leader Animal Welfare Delivery funding and the course was held at the factory and Newton Rigg Agricultural College.