As part of our #ThisIsAgriculture campaign, we talk to two young professionals whose different backgrounds and ambitions have helped secure successful careers in British agriculture.
It was while she was deciding on her A-level choices, aged 16, Lauren Dean considered becoming a broadcast journalist.
She says: “Primarily I had the dream one day I would be sat on the This Morning sofa next to Philip Schofield.”
Fast forward almost eight years and Lauren now works in magazine journalism as an award-winning journalist at Farmers Guardian, writing about topics she never even knew were even ‘a thing’.
Although not from a farming family, she always had an appreciation of the countryside while growing up, so when a reporter role was advertised on the national publication, she applied.
“Two-and-a-half years later and it has opened my eyes to an industry I hope will actually always have a place somewhere in my life.
“I think having come into the industry with a bit of a blank canvas, I have been able to experience the breadth and depth of what agriculture has to offer, aside from the stereotypical tractors and wellies which people seem so cut on instilling is the only side to farming there is.”
I think a lot of people take for granted the farming behind the food, but there is so much
more to your supermarket shop
Such has been its influence, Lauren, now 23, has now persuaded her boyfriend Ben to buy a garden big enough for a smallholding when they are older to secure food provenance and contribute to the industry in a different way.
“Speaking with experience, I think a lot of people take for granted the farming behind the food, but there is so much more to your supermarket shop and people need to be told – starting young – of the story behind it.”
Although working in an industry with no prior knowledge was initially challenging, Lauren learned on the job and soon realised the opportunities and impact agriculture has, not just nationally, but across the whole world.
From sitting with a 92-year-old farming stalwart who champions the role of family farms, to going out for the day on patrol with the Cambridgeshire Rural Crime Action Team, or producing hard-hitting stories which lead the news agenda, Lauren believes agriculture is the untold career in schools.
“Agriculture is so often disregarded in schools, as people believe it is something you are either born into or it will not be a highly skilled or well-paid job, but kids should be taught they could go on to be engineers, soil scientists or the person at the end of the phone offering support to farmers in need.
“Little did I think I would ever be working as an agricultural journalist, but the possibilities really are endless.”
Aand Venables turned his back on a career as a city worker excelling in digital marketing in favour of starting a new life in agriculture.
He says: “Sitting in traffic for up to three hours a day commuting into Manchester gives you plenty of thinking time.
“It was one particularly lovely sunny spring morning when I was sat bumper to bumper on the M60 that I asked myself, ‘what am I doing this for?’”
Having grown up on his family’s dairy farm, Andy, 31, decided to pursue a career in London; Melbourne, Australia; and then Manchester across 10 years before his head started to turn at what opportunities agriculture could offer.
“I was particularly excited by the level of technology emerging from the sector.
“To non-farmers, I feel farming is perceived as behind the times when actually there is more technology embraced in farming than most would imagine. For example, GPS was in tractors way before most cars.
“Farmers have to look at efficiencies to ensure their business remains profitable, so if there is technology which will help them become more efficient, they will invest. In dairy, heat monitoring systems are now widely used.
“I felt there was a massive opportunity for our farm business to use technology more to improve efficiencies on-farm.”
Andy’s farm now works with Map Of Agriculture as a UK demonstration farm to help them develop new products to support farmers.
“I came back to the farm almost two years ago and, since then, we have grown the dairy business and started a new diversification business, Hillsgreen, an independent consultancy which specialises in helping to grow businesses in the rural sector.”
Developing skills to help him stand out from the crowd has been an area Andy has enjoyed exploring.
“Working as part of the Co-op Pioneers scheme has been hugely beneficial and brought together like-minded young professionals to provide business training which has a focus on agriculture business.”
For Andy, one of the key benefits in working in agriculture is variety.
He says: “Working in agriculture is never dull. There is always plenty to do and no two days are ever the same. I have no regrets.”
As part of National Careers Week, held in March, a video was launched showcasing agriculture at the cutting edge of modern technology and at the forefront of innovations in key areas, such as IT, forensics, engineering, automation and design.
Farmers Guardian has joined forces with 21 key industry stakeholders from across the farming sector to launch a new campaign, #ThisIsAgriculture, to promote careers in agriculture.
The challenge of recruiting is not a new one. Attracting new blood into the industry has always been an issue, with agriculture rarely sold as an exciting option into schools.
However, with the pace of technological change rapidly widening the skills gap and Brexit looming, the need to drive change within the industry has intensified greatly over recent years.
Building on the learning from the #ThisIsAgriculture survey, this initiative will work to educate the wider world about the wealth of opportunities available within the sector, as well as dispelling common myths about careers in agriculture.
We will also be collaborating with industry bodies and our industry partners to see where we can work together to shape the political agenda, drive educational reform and provide learning resources.
The campaign will also be sharing information with readers about how to attract – and retain – the right staff for farming businesses across the UK.
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