Harper Adams alumnus Dan Hawes found his Harper Adams studies took him into a career he'd never expected - but one he's already making his mark in.
Dan's featured in this week’s Farmers Guardian Insight feature – which you can read here. He talks about his route into farming, his work as an NFU Young Farmer Ambassador, and more.
Earlier this year, Dan also shared some exclusive insights with our current applicants in this specially-written newsletter piece, which examines how he felt when picking a University, what it was like studying at Harper Adams – and what happened after he graduated!
The agricultural world is changing, but it’s an exciting time to get involved in an ever-evolving industry.
Like many of you reading this, I viewed a few Universities, but settled on Harper Adams due to the friendly and helpful nature, and it felt like a place you could call home, and it didn’t disappoint!
As the saying goes ‘you create your own luck’, and you’ll certainly be doing this at Harper by taking the opportunities offered to prepare for the future, right from placement years to career fairs, and not forgetting the people you meet along the way.
If you don’t know exactly what you want to do – don’t worry! Coming from East Anglia I always planned to go down the arable route, but the arable dream was quickly disrupted in my first year, where after a selection of lectures, the variety of future careers and industries became apparent, and my interest moved to more of fresh produce or agronomy.
Combining the two has led me to where I am now – the fruit industry. There’s a lot of opportunity out there for those that aren’t from a home farm, rest assured there’ll be something that gains your interest, maybe something that wasn’t even on your radar previously!
A lot has happened since leaving Harper almost three years ago.
After graduating back in 2019 with BSc Hons Agriculture with Crop Management (international), I moved into a graduate role at Hugh Lowe Farms where I had previously completed the first part of my placement year as part of my course.
The graduate role was a two-year position with the opportunity to move around all areas of the business based on a two-month rotation, covering all the areas such as glasshouse, crop protection, irrigation, harvest and team supervision, non-harvest and tunnels, plus and some time on the arable.
Alongside working within teams, as part of this I was leading a team of 25 locals during the ‘pick for Britain’ drive in the summer of 2020, which was followed by overseeing a field construction project, building a 5ha field of tunnels ready for strawberry production the following year .
Once the two years was up, I was fortunate enough to be offered a farm management role at an external farm the company had just take on – looking after 14 hectares of tunnel soft fruit production, the teams of people and accommodation, in conjunction with the main farm. A huge step up but one I’m looking forward to. I’ve only just begun so ask me in six months and I’ll let you know how it goes!
It’s not all been easy, you’ve got to put the work in as required, but I feel very privileged to be in the position I’m in now. Along the way I’ve faced the challenges of language barriers, with a multi-national, multi-lingual work force from predominantly across Europe, many of whom don’t speak any English. It’s not easy but you’ve got to think on your feet to maintain communication – thank goodness for phone translators when it gets difficult!
Similarly working with a large group of people, it’s impossible to please everyone, but as the person between the team and management, you’ve got to be fair and maintain standards.
Looking after a team was always the one thing I never looked forward to, I was never a confident public speaker, nor do I like confrontation, but sometimes you’ve got to go outside of your comfort zone to progress to where you want to be. After a while it becomes much more natural and you’ll be glad you’ve done it!
There’s no question – I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t have gone to Harper. Fresh produce was never on the radar six years ago, and nor was moving away from home down to Kent.
It opened up my perception of other industries that I had never really been involved with, and it certainly opened numerous doors for the future. All the way from people you meet from speakers or careers events, though to the number of placement year opportunities.
If anyone out there is doubting the value of a placement year and the additional year of Uni, it is well worth it, for the experience gained and career opportunities at the end, with many offering full time jobs on the back of it.
Who knows, maybe you could end up in the fruit industry too?