Ella Crawford, 23, is a commercial technical adviser for Bayer covering Suffolk. In her role, she provides technical information and advice to agronomists and farmers about how to use plant protection products safely and effectively, as well as how to grow Bayer oilseed rape varieties to reach their potential.
Industry: When I first started working as a commercial technical adviser for Bayer last September, several people asked me ‘how could I do my job’?
After all, I have no farming background and I had only been in the industry for just over a year.
I suppose it was a fair enough question, but actually I think the industry needs more people from a non-farming background, whether that is to be a farmer or to work in the ancillary industries.
There is so much to be excited about within agriculture and so many opportunities, even if the current situation with Brexit makes life a bit uncertain.
Food: My interest in agriculture started more with food.
My dad was a keen cook and he helped me appreciate food and where it came from growing up in Suffolk.
But despite expressing an interest in farming at school, I was never encouraged to go to an agricultural college; instead I went to the University of Lincoln and studied business management and economics.
I knew, however, that I would like to work in agriculture and applied for the commercial trainee scheme at Bayer, which was both commercial and practical at the same time.
Business: At the assessment centre during the interview process I wondered if Bayer had made a mistake in selecting me: everyone else seemed to have agricultural degrees or a farming background.
But my business degree gave me some advantages and actually, they were looking for a people person; and I have always enjoyed presenting.
It is something that was key when I joined – I was told I needed to get two to three days a week field walking experience to build my agronomic knowledge and be able to pass BASIS, so I can give advice legally, within a year.
I had to find agronomists to help by picking up the phone – and without those conversational skills I might have failed.
But that’s me – I am keen to get stuck in.
I passed in June 2016 – no mean feat I am told – and was given Suffolk to cover beginning September last year.
Career: My main focus at this time of year is to brief our main customer groups – agronomists and farmers on our product offers and I really enjoy it.
Later in the year, I will spend time with farmers and agronomists looking at trials and discussing how things have worked.
I just wish more young people were encouraged to think of farming as a career at school, and fewer barriers were put up to those that express an interest – new technology is changing this industry quickly and we will need people who can make the most of that technology to farm ever more efficiently.