Apprenticeships can be invaluable to young farmers, and provide essential help around the farm for owners.

Sam Ridley has been working as an apprentice on a 190-acre tenant farm at Margaret Marsh, ran by dairy farmer Stuart Angell for the past 14 years.

Together they look after 320 dairy cows across rented land around Shaftesbury and Child Okeford.

Sam's jobs on the farm including milking, scraping out the cubicles, feeding the calves and general maintenance on the farm.

Stuart said: "We employed Sam on a full-time basis and he went to Kingston Maurward College one day a week throughout his time here and his work on farm was regularly assessed.

"It was great to see Sam grow into the role day by day under my supervision.

"It worked very well for both of us. Sam has just left to go on to a dairy farm near Wareham where he has more responsibility - it's the next step up on the farming ladder."

Sam said: "When I was on the farm it didn't feel as if I was a student. I learnt so much about the health and welfare of the cows, which helped me get this new job. It was very satisfying completing jobs, such as putting in some cow cubicles on the farm.

"It was also good to go into college and find out what others are doing and getting tips from everybody else."

Ruth Dunford, Kingston Maurward College work based learning coordinator and assessor, said: "Many apprentices want to work outside and earn money but also a day in the classroom every week provides them with a firm foundation, and it's good for them socially to be able to mix with others of their own age.

"Assessors go out on farm to see employers on a regular basis, every eight to ten weeks, to make sure everything is going to plan."

Councillor Hilary Cox, chair of the County Farms Liaison Panel, said: "Over the years, we have had a number of tenants who have taken on apprentices thanks to our close links with Kingston Maurward.

"The whole ethos of the County Farm Estate is to encourage people into farming and apprenticeships do just that. It also shows the importance and value of our smaller family farms."