With the planet’s resources now under extreme pressure and the prospect of feeding nearly 10 billion people by 2050*; sustainability and its positive global impact should be at the forefront of all we do.
Here at Harper, we strive in our work, courses and projects to embody the UN’s 17 Sustainability & Development Goals; looking at ending hunger (Goal 2), providing quality education (Goal 4) and protecting and restoring life on land (Goal 15) – to name but a few!
BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Crop Management graduate, Sam Allison believes the farming industry simply can’t survive unsustainably and must look to environmentally-minded solutions – and the UN goals – to stay ahead.
*United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2022
Having worked at global food and farming business, Barfoots, since 2015, Sam attributes his sustainable and regenerative outlook to his seven years with the company.
“We are a relatively young team at Barfoots, which personally I think is great because you need fresh thinking in this industry. Something we have all realised is farmers need to move away from the ‘old boy’ stereotype of just ploughing and power harrowing – it’s just not valid anymore. The industry is so much more than that.
“That’s another reason I enjoy working at Barfoots, because of their proactive and forward thinking approach. We’re always thinking ‘sustainable’. And that’s what I’ve always been about. It is not possible to farm unsustainably on such a scale – with the added pressures from supermarkets who are demanding this change. They show great interest in how the produce they sell is grown and being able to tell a story to their customers.”
Applying to Harper after a colleague suggested Sam explore his drive for change, the ‘Pick Your Own’ business owner went on to secure two prestigious award nominations – Farmers Weekly Agricultural Student of the Year Award and the British Farming Award’s Agricultural Student of the Year.
“I applied to join the course four weeks before the term started - I had absolutely no idea what university life would be like. But I’ve never looked back and think it was the best decision I could have made!”
Despite Sam’s obvious enthusiasm for the sector, according to the National Farmer’s Union as much as £60m worth of UK crops were left to rot this year due to a lack of workers – exacerbating the growing need for sustainable food production and reduction in food waste. Sam, however, is not disheartened.
“I think it's very easy to look at this whole industry and think ‘why would I want to go into farming?’. But I think the future is exciting.”
“Looking at our final year modules for instance, they are geared toward the use of sustainable practices in a multitude of ways — particularly modules like advanced agronomy. We’re not just opening a book and looking at a list of chemicals as a solution to our problem.”
“Harper Adams University is hoping to send graduates into the industry ready to bring change, with innovative ideas whilst still being practical and agriculturally minded.”
Sam hopes, with his degree in Agriculture and Crop Management firmly in place, he can continue to make a positive impact on the industry.
“I don’t want to sit back complacent and not do anything, which is why I’m exploring the possibility of a column in a farming magazine, doing interviews and participating in talks – it’s important you keep being part of the conversation” he says.
“My aspirations post Harper are to continue with the sustainability drive, to continue working at Barfoots, and bring change to the industry – innovate!
“I want to be looking at things we can progress, with ways to bring improvement to soil health and utilise crop nutrition, produce sustainable electricity and perhaps even how to manage water use. Currently we are looking at strip tillage as a method of cultivation which sequences carbon, improves soil-life and helps us become a step closer to carbon neutral.”
Since finishing his degree, Sam has continued his work with Barfoots and has progressed to become one of their assistant crop managers; supervising the use of its main site and produce fridges.
Reflecting on his time at Harper, he said: “Harper has allowed me to meet people from different farming backgrounds, who all bring a great deal of knowledge which can be shared - but you've got four years to access it and you need to make the most of those four years. You're not just paying for what is being taught in the 50 minutes of a lecture.”
“You must talk to the lecturers because they aren't just academics. They're not just people with textbooks, they're people like Simon Allen - who bring years of experience from working in the industry prior to teaching at the university.”
“I would absolutely recommend Harper to anyone – especially if sustainability was at the heart of what they wanted to do”.
If you want to learn more about our commitment to sustainability, than read more here.