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“The job offers so much variety and no day is the same”

Mark Birchill
Mark Birchill

Name: Mark Birchall

Age: 30

Job title: Senior Agricultural Development Manager

Location: Manchester

 

How did you get into agriculture?

I don’t come from a farming and agricultural background and I moved from a commercial buying role.

 

My buying experience to date is largely within fresh meat and seafood, so in order to progress my career and knowledge a move into agriculture provided a great step for myself and the Co-op.

 

There are so many cross overs and collaboration between our agricultural work and the commercial team, moving into agricultural has been hugely enjoyable and beneficial and one that offers so many opportunities.

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in agriculture?

Simply the opportunity to help shape how we feed the world’s population, both sustainably and economically.

 

Agriculture touches each part of our business, including policy, commercial, technical and new product development. The broad spectrum offers a new challenge daily and requires working with a variety of teams and people, this one of the most enjoyable part of the role.

 

What is your current role and what does that involve?

I look after fresh pork and continental meats as part of my core role, ensuring we have a safe, transparent and sustainable supply chain.

 

We only source British pork so we work very closely with our pork producer groups and supplier partners.

 

The role is one that requires strategic thinking for the supply chain mapping out opportunities and risks we see approaching, short and long term.

 

As part of my role I also work with our Head of Agricultural, Caroline Mason, working on strategic projects and helping to develop new partnerships in order to improve our supply chains.

 

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love working in food retail and being part to the Co-op movement, as a business I believe we are working to make a difference to the communities we serve.

 

Agriculture and the farming community is no small part of that and I am proud to be involved in that work, especially considering our commitment to British product.

 

The job offers so much variety and no day is the same, it allows me to be strategic and involved in the future of British protein but also great day to day work, such as being out on farm with our producers.

 

What can the industry do to attract new entrants?

I think the industry needs to be more positive and highlight those positives. Their certainly our challenges facing the industry in the coming years but there are so many positives that need to be the key and core focus.

 

New entrants will want to come into an industry that is confident and celebrates successes and is on the front foot, driving its own agenda.

 

I would also say highlight the amount of roles that exist within the industry, there are so many options to explore within agriculture.

 

What is your next career step?

My immediate plan is to drive the British agricultural industry for the Co-op and our producers, looking to ensure all parts of the supply chain thrive.

 

Looking forward to the future I hope to be able to progress into new areas of the retail industry, taking learnings from Agriculture whilst ensuring it continues to be championed and voice heard and shared in a positive light.

 

I think agriculture has the opportunity to teach many different skills and can open doors both within retail, suppliers and wider ag industry.

 

What has surprised you about you the agricultural industry?

I don’t come from a farming background a lot of things have been a learning experience for me.

 

Passion and enthusiasm that individuals have for this industry stand out.

 

It’s simply not just a job and in the majority of cases it is life, It is challenging but inspirational and gives real perspective and credibility to the work we do.

 

The work we do as a retailer has an impact not just on work, but individual’s life and family history.


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