NFU graduate trainee Phoebe Russell provides an insight into the first few weeks of her role.
I can hardly believe it was only a month ago that I began the Agricultural Policy graduate scheme. Based within the Food and Farming department for six months, I have been tasked with a number of initial projects across the various commodities, which so far have seen me out of the office and attending various discussions and workshops, as well as experiencing sector boards - meeting members and other industry professionals and academics alike.
While on our induction we were fortunate to visit a dairy as well as an uplands sheep and beef enterprise in the north east, which gave me a valuable insight into the different challenges facing farmers in these regions, compared to my native Norfolk! I also have a number of diary dates scheduled to visit growers from the NFU’s Horticulture and Potatoes Board to find out more about their businesses.
I’ve really enjoyed learning more about areas of agriculture which I have had little first-hand experience in, such as the ornamentals sector, and it’s been a privilege to speak with members and gain a greater understanding of their needs, in context of the wider industry.
This has brought to life the projects I am working on, knowing how meaningful the work of the NFU is for the livelihoods of our members, as well as more widely in terms of the whole country – bringing home the Back British Farming message.
A particular highlight so far has been an animal welfare discussion in our Westminster office, which was positive and thought-provoking, bringing together ideas of not considering any single sector or issue in isolation and the importance of collaboration in creating ambitious and sustainable policy for the future.
The proximity of Parliament to the NFU’s London office at such an interesting time in politics also provided an interesting backdrop when considering the effects of uncertainty and decisions of policymakers on agriculture.
I am excited to work through my projects, some of which will enable me to experience the development of policy from its initial research stages, engaging with members at grassroots level, through to creating reports and presenting back to sector boards with key policy asks for lobbying for our members. I think this will be a hugely helpful learning experience in developing my skills and understanding, to ultimately improve my ability to represent member’s needs.
It’s been incredibly motivating that from the offset, I have been entrusted with the responsibility to manage my time and my projects, while being wholly supported by everyone I’ve met at the NFU.
I feel fortunate to have had countless experiences and opportunities so far to fully absorb myself in our industry and broaden my knowledge. Over the coming weeks and months in the Food and Farming department, I am looking forward to visiting a number of fresh produce and ornamentals growers, attending a plastic waste strategy conference as well as an agri-food supply chain workshop, before moving to Policy Services in March 2020 to work on cross-sector projects.