Posted 6 February 2017
It has given me such a confidence boost and drive to do the best I can to grasp opportunities rather than seeing them as threats."
Harper Adams University student Becky Erskine works as a student ambassador, which sees her give tours of the university campus and help with the smooth running of educational events. She now hopes to use these skills to diversify her family farm by running tours, and ultimately open an education centre, to teach children where their food comes from.
The 26 year old from Nantwich, Cheshire, said: “I chose and started my BSc (Hons) Agri-business course knowing that I wanted to be a part of the dairy sector, run my own business and make a difference within the community, I just didn't know how I was going to tie these all together.
“Whilst being a student ambassador for the university, I taught a group of teenagers where food comes from. The group were unable to grasp the concept of how milk is produced which made me realise that not everyone is aware of the supply chain that farmers are always aware of."
“I then started doing tours for a variety of groups on the family dairy farm with the Farm to Fork scheme which was introduced by Tesco. This motivated me to go to the local primary school and spend a day teaching about food and dairy farming.
“Hosting a few tours on the farm has inspired me to diversify to share the knowledge and experience that I have within the local community.
“The family dairy farm has 300 Holstein Friesian cows and has changed vastly in the previous four years with installation of milking robots. I’ve taken over the young stock. I started from scratch with the calves, re learning everything from feed plans to husbandry. This sparked my enthusiasm for calve rearing and passing on information which I’ve learnt. I still work with them each day in the mornings and evenings before and after university.”
A new housing development is planned to be built near to the farm and Becky sees this as a great opportunity to provide participants for her tours and educational experiences. She added: “Our village has recently had permission to build a large number of houses down the road from our dairy farm.
“I believe that the farm should make the most of this huge opportunity which has been given to us with a variety of new people coming to live a stone’s throw away from the farm.
“By using my customer skills and passion to teach people where their milk and food comes from, I’m also planning to do tours to the public where they can come with me to see calves, the robots and the technology which dairy farming has advanced to.
“I feel that by teaching groups in a small, practical environment and by touching, seeing and doing will help them to digest and retain information whilst feeling comfortable with the people around them.
“Going forward, I wish to open a larger education centre for children to learn where food comes from, amongst other diversification ideas to try. To achieve this I wish to start a weekend business where people can come for the 'dairy experience' feeding calves, seeing the milk being produced and really get a feel for what goes into a farm to get the milk for their cereal.”
To help start her dream, Becky has received a Clyde Higgs Undergraduate Scholarship. On this, she said: “This scholarship will enable me to start my own business when I leave Harper and diversify my mother's dairy farm.
“Apart from the financial aid, it has given me the confidence to go ahead with my ideas additionally to my course which has provided me with knowledge to go forward.
“I cannot thank the panel enough for their encouragement towards my ideas. I’m very humbled that they liked my ideas enough to invest in me and my aspirations. It has given me such a confidence boost and drive to do the best I can to grasp opportunities rather than seeing them as threats.
“I feel this is a highly innovative and creative idea for the farm which is similar to Mr Clyde Higgs and Elizabeth Creak characteristics. We will challenge the trend and encourage the public to see what we do and ask why we do it rather than shutting the gate for them to guess.”