With alumni that go on to have exciting and varied careers, we are always keen to hear where their career path has taken them. Ruth Farrell, who studied BSc (Hons) Rural Enterprise and Land Management (REALM) from 2002 to 2006, was recently elected to the RICS President’s Panel of Arbitrators as a result of her work in the sector. She shared with us her journey from a love of agriculture to her latest role in the industry.
“I have always wanted to be a farmer and to make my living from the agricultural industry,” Ruth began. “I decided before I did my GCSE’s that I wanted to go to Harper Adams; the rural focus of the university as well as its relatively small size really appealed to me.
“I come from a family that had a small holding with six sheep but did not earn a living from farming.
“I attended the Harper Adams open day when I was 16 and chose the REALM course because it gave me a wide range of career options and a good grounding, given my background. I had not considered a career in land management until then.
“REALM is important because of the good grounding it offers for all parts of professional life and the scope that it offers for specialisation at any point in your career, in multiple directions. It is great for making industry contacts too.”
In summary of her course, Ruth said: “Really Educational and Lots of Merriment - see what I did there?!”
Another feature of appeal to Ruth was the placement year. She said: “When I started, Harper was the only agricultural university college that did this during your degree course. I found my REALM background was a real asset when looking for work; this is in part because the REALM course was so varied, providing me with knowledge that could be applied to a range of roles in the rural sector.”
When asked about the best moments from her time at Harper Adams, Ruth commented: “Looking back, the whole thing was a highlight! The Harper bar and balls were legendary!
“The opportunity as part of the REALM course to go on placement was a particular highlight. Being able to apply what I had learnt during the course so far really helped. It also made me more employable, because I had twelve months experience by the time I graduated.”
Now in the working world herself, Ruth has had many more experiences beyond those in her placement year. She explained: “Upon graduation, I got a job in Somerset as a general practice land agent.
“I then gained a role as an Assistant Land Agent to two Senior Partners at Balfours in Shrewsbury, where I worked for four years, mainly focussed on estate management. I got my MRICS and FAAV qualifications there.
“Then I joined DJM Consulting, where I have now been for over a decade, and hold the position of Senior Rural Business Consultant and now, Arbitrator. My work is very varied, focussing particularly on land and asset enhancement (landlord and tenant matters; valuation, taxation and compensation; planning; land opportunities) and conflict, avoidance and advice (how to avoid conflict; arbitration; probate).
“Somewhat ironically, the driver for my becoming an Arbitrator was to help people to avoid arbitration! I want to help people to avoid disputes before they escalate, using a variety of alternative dispute resolution methods, such as early intervention, planning and mediation.
“During this time I have also set up my own farming business, with a lambing flock.”
Ruth’s favourite thing about her role is helping people, and then seeing the difference that her help makes to different businesses and, in some cases, the personal lives of those she works with.
Despite loving what she does, Ruth continues to look to the future. She said: “I want to keep helping people and making a difference and to be involved in turning the challenges raised by the new UK agricultural policy into opportunities.”
For others interested in a similar career, Ruth offered her advice: “Be curious, ask questions and do not be afraid to approach people.
“Find the bit of the job that you like the best and push that forward. Use your roles to explore different options and opportunities for your benefit and the benefit of your business. Work for a firm that will support and encourage you.
“I never intended when I graduated to become an Arbitrator, let alone be the third woman in England and Wales to be elected to the RICS President’s Panel of Arbitrators! Simply, enjoy it.”