Whether you were born and raised on a farm, or are looking to learn about the industry for the first time, a degree that matters can help you to achieve all manner of careers. Annette Hunt discovered this, exploring lots of different roles before returning to the family farm to turn their business into a cider empire!
Studying BSc (Hons) Agri-Food Production with Marketing & Management from 2002 to 2006, Annette knew exactly what she wanted from her undergraduate degree. She said: “Coming from a farming background with a history of manufacturing cider, I always wanted to study food and farming combined. The agri-food course at Harper was the only course that would fit that bill for me.”
Annette has many fond memories of her Harper experience. She shared: “There are just too many to pick one! From the social life, the balls, Wednesday nights and the lifelong friends I've made, I couldn’t choose one.”
While enjoying her time as an undergrad, a defining experience was Annette’s placement year. She explained: “I worked for WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) which supports women led businesses. I was the Events and Membership Officer - I think, it was a long time ago now!
“There aren't many female directors of cider businesses, especially in Devon, so WiRE gave me confidence after seeing how rural women, a lot from farming backgrounds, have succeeded in their chosen industry.”
Taking this experience forward, Annette diversified her work experience within the chilled foods sector. She commented: “After graduating, I got a job and worked for Samworth Brothers, a major manufacturer of chilled convenience foods. I also spent a year on secondment at Tesco HQ working within chilled convenience. This gave me a wealth of knowledge about the retail industry, food manufacturing and marketing.”
But Annette always knew she would come home to the family business, Hunt’s Cider. She said: “My brother and I are 8th generation cider makers so it's in our blood!
“Our father was thinking of winding up the business in the 90's and concentrating on the farm but then cider was brought back to life by a major campaign - adding ice!”
This campaign boosted interest, so the brother and sister duo took on the business to give it the burst of life to propel them forward. Annette spoke about their work, saying: “I returned to the business with eight years of marketing and sales experience. Since then, we have gone from selling a few thousand litres out of our little shop to being available in many retailers, pubs and restaurants throughout Devon and beyond. We've built a new purpose built cider cellar and rebranded to really target our market.
“From 15 years ago when Hunt's Cider was producing 15,000 litres per annum, it’s now approaching 500,000 litres. It’s a great success to see.”
And while this is just a taste of Annette’s business venture, you can find out more about Hunt’s Cider on Countryfile this Sunday, October 4. There, Annette will speak more about the business and how the duo have come to achieve their success.
But for those wanting to follow in Annette’s footsteps and bring new life to a business, she advises to simply enjoy your time at university as you’ll be in industry soon enough!
To discover more about our undergraduate courses with an interest in food or business, you can see our prospectus here. You can also join us at our Virtual Open Day, October 10, to speak to staff, explore campus virtually and get a feel for Harper life. Registration is now open to secure your place.