Kym Smith started to study BSc (Hons) Food Nutrition and Wellbeing at Harper Adams University as a mature student, after deciding she wanted a career change. However, it was while on her placement year that she realised where her true passion lies; in agronomy.
The 40 year-old final year student from Telford, Shropshire, has recently been awarded a Paul Singleton Scholarship to help fund her BASIS agronomy qualification to help her reach her goal of being a crop manager.
“Although I came to Harper Adams to study food and nutrition, my realisation of my passion for crops and agronomy happened purely by chance!
“I chose to come and study a degree because my life was at a turning point and I wanted to change my career.
“Food was incredibly interesting to me and I wanted to understand the truth behind all the mixed media messages that are continually confusing people about what they should eat and why.
“I could never have imagined that my degree would lead me to where I am today.
“I applied to do my placement at a farm local to myself; PDM Produce. My original intention was to work within the technical department, as they also pack baby leaf mixes, spinach and celery.
“My employers decided that to understand their business, my first role would be to work on an iceberg harvest rig. The hours were long, but the Eastern European crew that I worked with made the days fly by.
“At the end of the season, I went to work for the technical department, but straight away I was longing to go back outdoors.
“During the winter, I’d also been part of a project which was looking at plants being grown under LED top lights in the greenhouse. When spring came, it made sense to my boss that I continued this project and watched as these plants were planted and to see if the lights had improved their health.
“This led to me being asked to spend last summer in charge of all the trials of new varieties. I planted 66 trials during this time and assessed them with the various seed companies. I learnt a lot!
“Other parts of my role involved crop walking; checking to see when the crops were ready to harvest, checking on insect traps to decide if pesticides were needed and field risk assessments.
“This job showed me that it was exactly what I wanted to do for my career.
“My chosen path means that I’ll devote the rest of my career to growing and protecting crops and looking for better ways to improve the way we farm.
“I want to eventually become a crop manager. I know my degree would be better suited to a new product development or technical role, but I’d rather continue learning as I’ve found what I’m passionate about. Although I realise I still have a lot to learn, this is where my heart is, and I’m very excited about the future.
“After university, I want to take the BASIS agronomy qualification and to work in a trainee role to continue learning about agronomy and crops.
“Gaining the Paul Singleton Scholarship will now allow me to take this qualification, which will ensure that I’ve a good chance within the industry.
“I’d like to thank the scholarship panel for selecting me. Having my future career in crops being recognised means the world to me.”