The NFU's 2017 graduate trainees reflect on their first year...
I started in policy services sitting with the economics team. I worked on various areas in this placement from HS2 member case studies to issues surrounding the lack of seasonal labour. I helped to organise the inaugural NFU Business Symposium which brought together more than 80 industry-wide advisers, from bankers to land agents, to explore the risks and opportunities that lie ahead for the sector.
I attended the annual NFU conference, which is an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It was truly amazing and brings to light the importance and strength of the organisation for its members.
In March I moved to food and farming and worked across various commodities, experiencing sector boards and the cascading structure of ideas that come from grassroots members. Two projects stand out to me from my second placement. The first was organising the successful IPM Summit that united combinable crops professionals, academics and farmers to showcase and champion the importance of using all the tools in the toolbox. The second project saw me spend 12 hours from 4am in a milk tanker collecting milk from Wales with a lovely tanker driver named Gordon! I followed the milk sample supply chain from start (milking) to finish (overnight shift in a laboratory) to aid the delivery of a briefing document and valuable infographic for dairy members. It was an incredible experience that I don’t think I’ll ever have the opportunity to do again.
All of these experiences helped give me grounding and preparation for joining the East Midlands office, which is where I am now working until March 2019. It’s amazing to get out to the region and see the importance of the wealth of knowledge and hard work at HQ being transferred and delivered at grassroots. Here I’m working on the delivery of the NFU East Midlands Brexit conference, which hopes to attract an audience of 300. I’m also working on a rural crime resource training guide for the police, and the revision of the Why Farming Matters in the Fens document, which I’m heavily involved in and have written a chapter about the future and the next generation.
The work really is varied, no matter which placement you are in. Both the support and freedom you get as a graduate is unprecedented. You are able and expected to get out and attend conferences, set up farm visits to increase your understanding, and network both internally and externally. The NFU really is a great place to work!
My first year at the NFU has absolutely flown by and has seen me get involved in so many different things. I began the year working in the membership team, designing graphic panels for shows and helping to deliver events such as the NFU Conference and National Achievement Awards. For me, I had no previous experience in graphic design, so it has been a valuable skill to learn.
I then spent six months working within the communications team writing articles across print and online. This gave me the opportunity to develop my writing skills as each magazine has a different audience and therefore needs to be written in a different style. I have really enjoyed being able to increase my agricultural knowledge, as I have been able to cover various issues facing different sectors. Learning about the latest technology in the industry has also been really interesting, as these insights can be highly beneficial for our members.
This September I began my placement in the West Midlands regional office. During my time here I will be working on a project to promote the contribution the West Midlands counties make to UK agriculture. Being in the regional team will also allow me to work closely with members and on issues that directly affect them.
Looking back over my first year with the NFU it is amazing to think about everything I have done.
I started in the food and farming department, working across the farming sectors. Two highlights which stand out for me include leading the research into in vitro meat for the livestock team, and then presenting my research to the livestock board. I also organised a Beer and Cheese tasting event for MPs, a great opportunity to engage with policy makers about the importance of British agriculture (and to try lots of tasty produce).
I then moved to the policy services department, where I organised the inaugural Farm Nature Discovery event on NFU President Minette Batters’ farm. This involved hosting biodiversity experts as we surveyed the huge range of species that can be found on a working farm, and then writing the guidance for future events.
I am now based in the Brussels office, at the heart of the NFU’s European lobbying work. I am leading on my own policy areas, engaging with stakeholders, policy makers, other European farming unions and our experts from all four UK farming unions.
Although the projects and teams have changed, working for the NFU is always exciting, rewarding and interesting. It is also a very friendly environment - everyone is there to help and support you, while also letting you take ownership over your work.
As an NFU grad I have had opportunities and gained experience that I don’t think I would get anywhere else, and I would highly recommend the scheme.
The time has flown by! It only feels like yesterday that it was day one and we had two weeks of induction ahead of us. The induction fortnight was invaluable; we met people from all of the departments across HQ, people from regional offices and even went out onto members' farms on a ‘muddy boots’ visit.
My first placement was in the publishing department. The editorial world was completely new to me, I had zero experience in journalism and had never been asked to write other than for coursework and the dreaded dissertation.
The fact that I went into that particular placement as a blank piece of paper made me even more excited as I knew I had a lot to learn. I have written for several of the NFU’s magazines including #StudentFarmer, Countryside and British Farmer & Grower.
Writing for the magazines isn’t just sitting in front of the computer and typing away. It consists of phoning members, visiting farms and talking to colleagues from other departments and NFU offices.
Every day is different; I am busy but feel supported by not only my line manager but everyone around me, particularly previous graduates who now have full-time roles who were once in my shoes.