As part of his tour of Bedfordshire the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was at Shuttleworth College last Friday to listen to talks on rural life and agriculture.
The Archbishop met the college director, staff, rural clergy, NFU representatives, farmers, and students at the event which focused on issues facing rural communities.
The event started with some short presentations before the Archbishop toured the grounds of Shuttleworth College and met some students from Africa.
He also visited St Mary’s Church in Luton and Bedford prison as well as Bunyan Meeting Church in Bedford as part of a wider tour across the Diocese of St Albans.
The Archbishop said: “I am hugely grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Shuttleworth College and to meet its extraordinary staff and students, including those visiting from countries in Africa.
“It was also extremely useful to have the chance to hear from those in the farming community about the challenges they face, and to learn more about the vital church ministry taking place in rural parts of the Diocese of St Albans.”
A speaker from the National Farmers Union explained the current hardship which farmers face.
She said: “There are big problems with low commodity prices at the moment. To put this into context if you go into a supermarket you will probably find it is cheaper to buy a bottle of milk than it is to buy a bottle of water. The prices are really bad for farmers.
“Beef and sheep farmers are also finding prices to be very low because retailers are importing a lot of cheap products from abroad.
“Many farming businesses are facing closure because of the pricing issues and being forced to run at a loss.”
On the visit the Archbishop listened to some students give a presentation on why farming is important to them and why they had chosen agriculture as a potential career.
One student, Nancy, said: “I’ve always been an outside person, I have known from a young age I wouldn’t be able to sit in an office all day.
“I would like to manage a large commerical farm of my own in the future.”
Rural Issues Officer, Revd Coralie McCluskey, who organised the event, said: “It really was lovely to welcome the Archbishop and a lot of people involved in agriculture and rural life.
The aim of the visit was to give encouragement and support to a broad range of activities in the parishes, schools and chaplaincies of the diocese, drawing attention to the church’s activity in the community.