Hartpury students and staff discuss future of farming
By Sarah Wood
Students and staff from Hartpury University and Hartpury College had their say on a wide variety of industry topics during a recent focus group.
The event was part of Farmers Guardian's #ThisIsAgriculture campaign, which aims to give a 360-degree take on the world of farming and to attract more people to consider a career in agriculture.
A team of editors from the industry publication led a range of talking points, resulting in lively debate about the way forward on several issues facing the industry.
One area where students and staff were in agreement was the importance of attracting and keeping women in the industry.
In the UK, the number of women engaging in agricultural jobs has been steadily increasing over the past few decades - currently a third of the 542,000 people working in around 170,000 agricultural businesses. In line with this, enrolments at Hartpury College among students studying agriculture have increased by 17% for the current academic year.
Millie Saunders, a BTEC Level 3 land-based engineering student, said: "Women can do so much good in farming, and I've found the agricultural community to be extremely welcoming.
"Whether for physical roles on a farm or a more academic role in research, there are so many possibilities for women wanting to work in the industry."
One of the significant challenges facing agriculture is climate change. Students and staff were aligned in a firm belief that this is one of the most pressing issues right now, and the industry must work to produce practical solutions to safeguard the future.
Students highlighted warming temperatures, droughts and extreme weather conditions affecting farming productivity, making it challenging to grow crops and raise livestock.
Climate change is having a critical impact on the quality and quantity of water resources available to farmers, which can hinder the cultivation of crops and the growth of pastures.
The industry is facing labour shortages, so needs to continue to attract people with a range of skills across technology, science and engineering, as well as others with practical, hands-on skills.
One of the biggest misconceptions facing the industry is that you must come from a farming family or live in the countryside to have a career in agriculture.
In fact, there are thousands of farmers and growers across the world from non-farming backgrounds and this continues to increase, as pioneering technologies are developed to meet the challenges of a growing global population.
Tomos (Jac) Parry, who is studying for a BSc (Hons) agriculture degree, said: "People from a non-farming background give a new perspective on the industry and where it needs to go.
"The industry is so rewarding, no matter which part of it you choose to work in. For me, I love working with livestock and cattle. Knowing that your hard work has made the herd grow and stay healthy, as well as ultimately feeding people, is so rewarding."
Finley Wooton, a BTEC land-based engineering student, is one example of someone who comes from a non-farming background, but loves the industry.
He said: "Anything and everything you do on a farm can have a positive impact, including producing food for people. As soon as I was introduced to farming, I loved it."
Johnson Stewart, a BSc (Hons) agriculture (livestock production) student, was keen to raise the importance of self-motivation and hard work, no matter which career pathway you choose.
He said: "If you want to advance your career in agriculture, you can go anywhere. You need to push yourself though and push your boundaries. You need to be in the right job and keep upskilling to command a good salary and maintain good job satisfaction."
The event also discussed the role of the media and technology in agriculture, as well as the issue of food waste and the future of farming.
Phil Watson, associate head of agriculture at Hartpury University, said: "We need to think about agriculture as much more than just farming. It's an exciting time to join the industry and make a real difference.
"You can influence policy, legislation and even health care. You can address issues such as climate change, farming in a post-Brexit world or take advantage of the huge advances in technology we're seeing.
"We have a diverse range of students who bring in new ideas that can only benefit the industry in future."
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