I have fond memories of growing up on the farm south of York; experiences that guided me in developing a passion for agriculture that’s allowed me to progress through the industry.
Over the last six years, since graduating from Harper Adams University, I’ve had several roles across three companies, mainly in the potato sector.
I started as a crop production manager and nine months later was approached for an Account Manager role with a large potato business responsible for the development of their processing account. In time, I became Head of Farming, responsible for 1,600 acres of potato crop production where I passed my BASIS crop protection qualification.
I’ve recently become a director at the company, Ibbotsons Produce Limited, with responsibility for its agricultural aspects. The business is growing rapidly, supplying produce to multiple outlets including the exciting new Deliciouslyorkshire produce range, as well as developing strong and established parts of the business such as the McCain producer group, the Colton Group.
Reading this it may seem that the path to my current position was paved from a young age, however after a meeting with the school careers advisor who told me there was no future in agriculture, it’s fair to say I did falter for a time (applying to study Sports Science at Newcastle) before finally making it to Harper Adams to study Agriculture, Land and Farm Management. The simple fact is that the advice given was based on no solid evidence whatsoever, merely on the perception that all the industry has to offer is work of low skill and low pay.
One of the primary issues facing agriculture and the associated industries is the lack of new blood coming into all areas of the food supply chain. Thus to all careers advisors and those who have an influence on bright and talented young people from all backgrounds, this is my message: In a world with a rapidly increasing population, Britain must grasp the opportunity to be at the forefront of agricultural technology, productivity and sustainability.
There are opportunities for youngsters to develop and embrace new technology and ideas within agriculture and the food chain at all levels, whether it be in the field, in a production facility or in a laboratory. All of these opportunities are potentially vast, rewarding and well paid.
The key ingredient to being successful is a strong will to work hard and determination to progress; nothing is handed on a plate but anything and everything is possible within the agricultural industry, given an open mind. Farming doesn’t have to be in the blood; agriculture and the food industry is an open book of possibility for driven and enthusiastic young people.
As a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire management team, I feel it’s important to encourage young people forging careers in agriculture that strong networks are formed. Ours is a rapidly growing group that has just over 450 members and is supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. Meetings and visits are promoted on the Future Farmers Facebook page and via Twitter, and there’s an opportunity to learn more about us at Countryside Live on Saturday, October 18.
James Hopwood is a director at Ibbotsons Produce Limited.