13 March 2020
Agriculture shapes so many of the process between field and fork. Whether that be the crops farmers grow; the animals scientists help rear; or the technology engineers design, each role sustains the food chain. For National Agriculture Day, we spoke to alumni Ollie French and Hannah Catling about how they are using their agriculture degree knowledge in their day to day working life.
Both Hannah and Ollie studied BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Crop Management and immensely enjoyed their studies. Ollie commented: "Choosing to study agriculture at Harper was the best decision I ever made; it was an easy choice as I could see the course would give me the right tools and understanding to go out into industry and fulfil my potential."
Likewise, Hannah said: "I had the best four years at Harper Adams which were even more valuable than I could have ever imagined for knowledge of the industry and work experience."
Although both chose to study the same degree, the pair came from different backgrounds in farming.
Hannah came from a mixed family farm where, she explained: "I had always been encourage to go into the agricultural industry.
As much as I loved the practical side of the home farm, with two older brothers, I knew I had to branch out in order to make my own career path."
Ollie's experience was quite different. He said: "I always knew farming would be for me but not coming from a non-farming background made that vision a challenge. Working on local dairy and sheep farms through my teen years was great experience but made me realise that my dream job would be to become a farm manager - and for that I would need more experience in arable crops."
Through their degree training, both acquired a skill set that would go on to shape their career paths. Through their studies, both undertook a placement year with Hannah working with the trials team at Agrovista and Ollie heading to JSR farms in East Yorkshire. Both commented that the working experience made all the difference; Hannah was offered a graduate role as a trainee agronomist and has become BASIS qualified, while Ollie used his experience of large, commerical farms to gain his current role of Assistant Farm Manager on a large organic estate in West Norfolk.
Ollie spoke about his new role as Assistant Farm Manager, saying: "My current job involves the man management of a team of over ten people working in agronomy, grain marketing, countryside stewardship, machinery logistics and more.
"The role is fast paced, complex and challenging but completely rewarding and exciting. I feel that the possibilities are endless within this industry and on the back of my time at Harper Adams, utilising the knowledge I developed there, I can go on to ultimately achieve my ambitions."
Hannah similarly has seen challenges but is growing from strength to strength in her role. She said: "I am largely based in north Norfolk, shadowing colleagues while also helping to walk fields and write recommendations. The greatest challenge was learning new areas of agriculture, particularly involving the seed and soil health sector.
"With the future of farming most probably being more focused on soil health and countryside management in order to receive a subsidy-like payment, particular modules that we studied at Harper Adams has already enabled me to bring a level of background knowledge which I can now use to build on.
"Along with this, getting my name out there in the area has been a challenge that I have risen to.
"I do hope to grow my own business and become an established agronomist in the area."
Of the Harper experience, Hannah commented: "Harper students certainly study relevant modules that allow us as graduates to go into the outside world with a level-headed approach to our work. I believe this, with the combination of our placement year, gives us a competitive advantage over the other fellow institutions within the agricultural industry."
To find out more about the agriculture courses on offer at Harper Adams, please click here. You can also meet our agricultural studies staff at our open day, March 21, and ask any questions you may have while seeing what our excellent campus has to offer. Register below.