Having been involved in the practical side of dairy farming from a young age, BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Farm Business Management student, Becca Smith, had experience of milking, grassland management and calf rearing at home.
However, she decided she wanted to expand her knowledge about the business elements of farming to better her understanding for future endeavours.
“The practical side of farming I can learn a lot from home and other farms — farms are a lot better at showing you the practical side than their financial side – and that’s where the opportunities offered by Harper Adams came in.
“Obviously, Harper is known really well within agriculture as being one of the top universities; which is a good thing to consider,” Becca said.
She added that: “There are also like-minded people here, who are passionate about the same thing and who have similar interests.”
Having grown up in Cumbria, Becca felt she was never one for the city, so the rural location of the Harper Adams campus helped seal the deal for her after she visited for an Open Day.
As part of their course at Harper Adams, undergraduates such as Becca complete a one-year industry placement to gain a deeper understanding of their subject and get some real-life experience under their belt.
Becca worked at Wilson Wraight, an agricultural management consultancy company based in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
“I went around farms doing appraisals of accounts, management reports, budgets, environmental schemes and basic payment applications,” she said.
Becca was also involved in various spring webinars and researched carbon credits and biodiversity net gain.
“The placement was very business-orientated so it was really interesting to see a different side to agriculture – Wilson Wraight are a lot more arable-based, which is completely different to home - but there were still a lot of transferable skills I could use in the future.”
Becca highly valued her placement year, saying that the company was “incredibly supportive” and helped her learn along the way, rather than throwing her in at the deep end.
“Having said that, you did have quite a bit of responsibility thrown at you so you got an accurate feel for what it would be like in industry - without it being overwhelming,” she added.
Becca has now returned to Harper for her final year and is working to complete her studies next summer.
She credits her course with equipping her with the skills she needs to take her farming career forwards and adds: “I would encourage anyone particularly interested in the business side of agriculture to consider doing it.”
“You don’t need to be particularly good at maths – I know I’m not – you just need to understand the financial implications of your choices and be good at making tough decisions. If you’re business-minded, nothing should hold you back from looking into this course.
“Anyone coming to Harper I would say, just throw yourself into every opportunity – especially in first year. As long as you have balance and know what you can cope with, just say yes to as many experiences as you can.”
“Harper is great for networking and just getting your profile out there. Everyone’s willing to help and there’s a great social life to be had too, if that’s your thing.”
Once she completes her studies, Becca hopes to work in New Zealand to learn more about their dairy system, before returning home to put her knowledge into practice.
“The system at home is a grass-based spring block calving system which is adopted from the New Zealand style. Going out there would mean understanding it in greater depth and seeing what we can do better here in the UK,” Becca said.
“I think it’s important to see how different people do thing, so you’re a bit more open minded and ready for change.”