THE BLOG

Why Young People Should Consider a Career in Farming

08/08/2013 14:28 BST | Updated 07/10/2013 10:12 BST

I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm, but I'm still interested in where my food comes from, and feel it's even more important for farmers themselves to understand the entire supply chain from countryside to counter.

More than ever, consumers are looking to buy high-quality and responsibly-sourced food. There has never been a better time to get into farming and it has lots to offer, but many young people don't see it as a rewarding career option.

As well as traditional animal husbandry skills, it's essential to have strong technical and IT skills, a thirst for knowledge and an interest in the latest innovations. Two days will never be the same - today's farmers have a very varied role that encompasses everything from buying and selling livestock, to meeting consultants and marketing their produce.

That's why I was so pleased to be selected for McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer Training Programme, designed to give young people the blend of practical and business skills needed to succeed in today's farming sector. I've spent the last year tracing McDonald's entire agricultural supply chain, from farm to restaurant front counter, and been mentored by some of the UK's most progressive farmers and food producers.

You might think that, like me, you have to come from a farming background to succeed in the industry, but that's not the case at all. Young people from all backgrounds can make a success of it, especially those that have an interest in science, business and technology.

Despite this, research commissioned by sector skills council Lantra shows that only 1 in 10 people working in the UK farming industry today are aged between 16 and 24 and more than 50,000 new farmers equipped with the right skills will be needed over the next decade to replace retiring workers. We need more young people to think farming.

Time to think farming

There are many advantages to a career in farming. Firstly, you can run your own business. Farmers are entrepreneurs and need to have a strong head for business to keep their farming enterprises running smoothly. Cost, profit, business planning, and contracts all have as much impact on the farm as the crops and livestock.

You can also divide your time between indoors and outdoors. Farmers are often out and about on the farm in all weathers, but they also need to spend time in the farm office on the business and admin side of things.

There are lots of opportunities to diversify. As well as going into different types of livestock and crops, there is also the chance to develop and market niche products, set up a farm shop or generate renewable energy.

I thought I knew farming inside out, but the experience I've had over the past 12 months has taught me there's much more to it than I think people realise. We need more farmers than ever, and I would really encourage any young people out there with an interest in business to consider whether a career in the industry could be right for them.