Anna graduated with a BSc (Hons) Agriculture from Harper Adams University College in 2008 after a four year sandwich degree including a year's paid work placement.
I found out about agronomy from friends on my degree course and first met the head of HR at the company I now work for at the 2005 annual Cereals show. I met the company again when they attended the annual careers fair at Harper Adams and in my final year I sent off my CV. I was invited for an interview and selection centre and was offered a position. Finding out about the company and the job early on helped to increase my confidence and enthusiasm to get that job.
It's a good idea to approach companies who offer graduate trainee positions and ask their advice on what you can do to improve your chance of being offered a job. They'll appreciate your interest and the fact that you're taking your career decisions seriously. If you love being outdoors, are proactive and outgoing and like to meet people and continually improve your knowledge, you'll be very suited to this kind of work.
During my degree course I gained a good general knowledge of agriculture and, more specifically, crop production, and this was invaluable as a precursor to the BASIS (Registration) Limited course, which I began as soon as I started my job. My placement year also gave me valuable experience and a very useful reference and helped me decide what I wanted to do. Being aware of what goes on on a farm and what to expect when dealing with farmers made it easier to settle into the job role.
I achieved my BASIS registration in July 2009, which means now I can continue working with other agronomists, improving knowledge and gaining more experience, and also looking for business of my own and developing an important role within my team.
I found initially that I needed to get fully involved in agriculture and I was helped by being able to work alongside an established agronomist to gain experience. At first, most of my work related to my training: I looked at fields for other agronomists and then discussed what I'd seen and suggested how I'd deal with it. Then I got involved in putting together management plans for farmers, taking soil samples and presenting the NROSO (National Register of Stray Operators) course to farmers. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet farmers and make myself known in the area and gain essential skills, which will be useful throughout my career.
The main things I like about my job are working outdoors and being able to take my dog to work with me. I enjoy meeting a wide variety of people from farm owners, farm managers and sprayer operators to manufacturers' technical advisers, and discussing issues with farmers, who take a real interest in what I have to say and often base important farm decisions on my advice. I feel respected and valued not only by my colleagues, but also by the farmers I work with every day. Although you're part of a team, you're your own boss and responsible for what you do.
The job is constantly challenging as the industry is always changing and I have to maintain a good level of knowledge and adapt to changing situations and conditions to get the best possible results. Even though it's not my farm, I have a personal interest in what happens as I'm with the farmer the whole season. Usually, once you're established on a farm, you'll work there for many years, establishing lifetime friendships.
Over the next few years I'd like to work towards my diploma in agronomy, which requires improving my knowledge and technical skills in several different areas, and get involved in training new agronomists.
The more I become involved in this job, the more I get out of it. For me, it's a lifestyle, not just a job.
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