Posted 1 October 2004More than 500 students have graduated from Harper Adams University College in a ceremony staged at the Shropshire campus. A total of 520 students, including a bumper crop of ten postgraduates, qualified this year. A further 44 individual prizes were also awarded at the ceremony on September 17.
Guest of Honour, Neil Cameron, chairman of the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs and a former Harper student himself, told graduates they had a bright future ahead of them and the power to make a difference to the rural economy and the world at large.
“Congratulations to all of you – what you have achieved over the last few years is fantastic. I want to talk about how you, as a group of young people, are going to change the world you live in. That sounds like a big task, but you have got the skills to do it. You have made your first breakthrough already – you chose to come to Harper Adams. It is a fantastic place; it offers you huge academic opportunities and practical experience as you go through your degrees and placement year in industry.
“But where do you go from here? I’d like to dwell a little on the future of agriculture. When I talk about agriculture it incorporates all the different subjects you have studied here, whether that is land management, tourism, environmental management, marketing or languages. All of those subjects are now parts of the agricultural industry. Farming isn’t just about what actually happen at the farm level now; it is a huge industry that goes far beyond that. Whereas fifty years ago the majority of people in the industry would have been employed on a farm, now there are huge opportunities, both at farm level and beyond.”
Mr Cameron added: “The reforms we are seeing in agricultural policy at the moment, I believe will give your generation a fantastic opportunity. The move from a variety of subsidies to the single farm payment opens up new possibilities for you. What it does, to my mind, is to give opportunities to those students who have the business skills, the acumen and are willing to work hard and make a difference. Because from now on, you are going to have to prove yourselves in the businesses that you choose. But the rewards will be there for the businesses that excel beyond all others.”
The NFYFC Chairman also called for experienced farmers and agriculturalists to support those fresh to the industry. “It is worrying that 52 per cent of people involved in the industry now are over 55 years of age. Twenty-three percent of the major decision makers are over 65. Only five per cent of decision makers are under 35. That is much lower than the European average. If we don’t do something about this, in a number of years the industry is going to be very short of people indeed.