BSc Rural Enterprise and Land Management student James Barnett had a rather different placement year experience than most.
Travelling up to the Isle of Bute, Scotland, James worked as a resident agent at Mount Stuart, the island's Victorian neo-Gothic mansion and surrounding land. With the island totalling 35,000 acres, the estate own over 30,000 of them, meaning James had plenty to keep him busy over the course of a year.
"I was on the island for 16 months," James explained, "meaning I had plenty of time to establish working relationships with most, if not all, of the tenants on the island. As a training surveyor, my role encompassed building relations between the estate and their key stakeholders while helping them out with repair jobs.
"However, as time went on, I was given more and more responsibilities. From landlord registration, mapping to accomodate law changes, handling sporting events and more, I was given plenty of opportunities should I ask for them. I have a big interest in field sports and agriculture so, in having this experience, I'm even more sure that this is the career and lifestyle I want to pursue.
"The relevance of everything we study comes to fruition on placement; coming back to campus you have more of an appreciation for your studies. I've found placement really gets people enthused by what they do having had a year of opportunity to try things firsthand. It truly solidifies why you need to commit to studying in your final year to make the career you want a reality."
Following from his placement, James spoke about future career prospects: "In regards to future plans, I'm very keen to go back to Scotland and work as a surveyor. Although I want to try some other roles and vary up my experience, I did enjoy my time on Bute and would love to go back after becoming Chartered."
Having always wanted to work in land agency from childhood, James was certain Harper Adams was the place for him. He explained: "Having looked at all the available options, Harper was the right instititution to study at. Being campus based meant everyone became very close quite quickly and we have a wealth of knowledgable lecturers on our doorstep. The overall lifestyle of Harper also meant I adjusted quickly to university life so I could begin to work on the real reason I was here - to achieve my goals in land agency."
Although James has very clear drive and passion, he is still aware of the impact of the agricultural field around him. In light of the new Agricultural Bill, he commented: "I'm pleased about this change in policy. I believe public perception has become very binary where individuals are directly opposed to one another, rather than seeing that there is a lot of gray areas. Agriculture needs to become more transparent and open so that we can showcase what we do and highlight the changes we are trying to make while maintaining all the positive things we also do.
"From a point of view in land agency, it's great that there are stewardships that will help us show the best of what we do and that we are striving for more positive changes.
"The changes from the bill mean we have to commit to actioning them but this can only be a good thing. There will undoubtably be a few bumps in the road but it is a necessary step forward for the environment we use and in which we work.
"There is a need for visibility, ownership and accountability - everyone needs to be on board for the future of farming and the environment."