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    Non-farm background? No problem. You don’t have to come from a farm to study Agriculture

    18 April 2024

    An Access to Agriculture programme at Harper Adams has helped prove invaluable to students who may need to gain hands-on experience.

    In this guest blog, third year BSc (Hons) Agriculture student Michael Lewis explains how its focus on practical skills helped him gain the experience he needed.

    The programme has proved so successful that  from this September, it will be incorporated into the new Skills for Agriculture module, meaning that certificated practical skills training will be open to all students, including those from a farm background.


    Having not come from an agricultural background I struggled to get my ‘foot in the door’ so to speak; lacking practical experience, I found employers reluctant to give me work, paid or unpaid.

    However, the Access to Agriculture course soon changed that, providing me with the opportunity to gain practical experience through the Land-based Skills Programme in the form of various certificated practical courses, such as the telehandler course.

    On top of the skills program there is also the opportunity to learn and gain experience on the University Farm, situated on campus - it really couldn’t get any easier to get stuck in and get experience!

    Whilst many of you probably perceive coming from a non-farming background as a disadvantage, as I have found, it is often a benefit. Having no preconceived ideas of how day to day farming activities are carried out means you can look at things from a fresh perspective, just because your father or grandfather did it that way doesn’t mean you have to, sometimes change is for the better!

    The practical aspect of placement year that Harper provides was a standout feature for myself and was a key factor in my decision to study here at Harper.  But it’s not just me - many leading individuals in the sector have also told me that in their experience the year in industry gives Harper students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and understanding in field that gives them the edge over students from other universities.

    With the newfound confidence that the Access to Agriculture course and harvest jobs had given me I went out and sourced my own placement with Sentry Farming Ltd, an employee-owned contract farming and rural advisory business with more than 50 years of experience covering 15 different counties.

    Having completed my first harvest with Sentry, it’s safe to say I’m loving every minute of it and if you work hard the opportunities really are endless.

    As well as the academic aspect of studying at Harper it opens up a whole new array of opportunities in the form of scholarships and bursaries to aid you through your studies and out into the world of work.

    I was lucky enough to attend the Oxford Farming Conference (2023) thanks to a scholarship from the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) and a further scholarship from the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) to further my academic studies in the rural sector.

    Studying on the straight BSc Agriculture route, I feel, has equipped me with a broader understanding and knowledge of the sector as a whole, rather than honing in on a specific area. This has not only prepared me for placement on an arable farm with Sentry but will also help me in achieving my aspirations of becoming a farm manager following graduation.

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