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Student aims to provide marketing service for rural food start-ups

Posted 14 July

"I saw every aspect of the business from husbandry and butchery, to going to food festivals and marketing the business. This experience stoked my interest in agriculture as a possible career path"

L-R Harriet Livesey, Laurence Fox, trustee Charles Clarke, Kate Hepplewhite, Harriet Martin and Nicholas Wright.

L-R Harriet Livesey, Laurence Fox, trustee Charles Clarke, Kate Hepplewhite, Harriet Martin and Nicholas Wright.

Final year BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Marketing student Kate Hepplewhite hopes to provide a marketing service to help farmers who have diversified into selling produce directly to the public.

To help her on her way, she has recently received a John Longwill scholarship, which she plans to use to fund a web developing course.

The 23 year-old, originally from near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire but now living in Melbourne, Derbyshire, said: “Although not from a farming family, I enjoyed growing up in the rural Leicestershire countryside.

“During my gap year, I worked briefly for a small farm business who raised their own rare breed animals and sold them directly to the public. I saw every aspect of the business from husbandry and butchery, to going to food festivals and marketing the business. This experience stoked my interest in agriculture as a possible career path.

“I milked on a dairy farm for a month and spent a month lambing to gain more understanding of the farming life before I started my degree. While I learnt a lot from the experience, I realised that hands-on farming was not for me. Instead, what I’d enjoyed in my first job was the promotion and sales side.

“Studying agriculture and marketing at Harper Adams has already given me a good base knowledge of primary production in the UK as well as an introduction to marketing theory.

“The placement year allowed me to put what I'd learnt into practice at a free range egg farm with a farm shop, bakery and butchery. I worked as an events co-ordinator which saw me organise and promoted events, such as the Tractor Ted day and Open Farm Sunday. I also had marketing responsibilities for the farm shop and learnt how to use print and social media as well as websites to increase the reach of the farm shop's marketing message.

“Although there are agricultural marketing consultancies who deal with larger clients, there are very few who will work with start-ups or very small farm based diversifications which would be my chosen field. I aim to provide an affordable, all-round service to help get the farmers ideas off the ground and into consumers hands.

“Between placement ending and the start of my year at Harper, I worked for an organic farm pig and beef farm. I did basic farm work, advising them on marketing strategy and helped with the rebuilding their website. This gave me a fantastic insight into the lives and mindset of struggling farmers and made me even more determined to help farmers add value to their produce.

“The John Longwill scholarship which I’ve received, will allow me to focus more on my studies for my final year at university by providing financial support.

“I’ll be using the majority of the scholarship to go on a web developing diploma course after graduation in order to becoming more skilled at building and maintaining effective, informative, intuitive websites.

“Although a time-consuming and complicated skill, being able to create websites for my future clients would not only help to boost their visibility but it would also cut down on the costs as I could charge less than a professional web developer.

“My main career aim is to help farmers who have diversified into food production increase their business by effective marketing. Although farmers are traditionally price takers and not price makers, the recent uncertain economic climate, made worse since Brexit, has made farmers more likely to diversify to add value to their produce and make more profit from their crop.”

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