It’s far too easy to be consumed by our own businesses, not finding the time, or having the opportunities to lift ourselves from the grindstone and see what the wider industry is doing – as farmers, there is always something that needs doing at home.
Since its inception in 2012, the NFU Poultry Industry Programme (PIP) has now taken over 50 graduates on a whistle-stop tour of the poultry industry, from visits to major retailers to meet their agricultural teams and explore the supply chain, to trips to Westminster to discuss political lobbying. Its remit has been varied, and the knowledge gained, shared, and contacts made, have been invaluable.
With 55 years now being the average age of a farmer and people seeking careers in agriculture seemingly in decline, the NFU – along with the PIP’s main sponsor, ABN – has found a superb way of encouraging and educating young people in the poultry industry.
NFU Chief Poultry Adviser Aimee Mahony said: “It is important to engage and encourage the next generation and the PIP aims to inspire those already working within the sector to become future leaders.”
A programme participant's experience
I am a tenant farmer from Devon. My husband and I set up our poultry business in 2012. I had been aware of the PIP for quite a while, having previously worked in the egg industry, but as a relatively small new start up, I wasn’t certain it was probably for me. However, I love finding out about different businesses, learning about supply chains – the whos, the whys, the hows and other details. Intrigue got the better of me – the application went in.
Our PIP journey started in November 2019, with our launch event at NFU HQ in Stoneleigh. We were thrown in at the deep end, with a session on media training, where essentially 11 young farmers learnt to be a bit less uncomfortable at talking in front of a camera or attempting a live radio interview – it was a great ice breaker, and a great new skill to learn.
The programme is a mix of ‘classroom’ sessions and visits. Leadership and negotiations training were two very well received days. Again, I think we overlook these skills, when buried deep in the day to day works of our farms, but just think about how many times you have to negotiate, and I certainly found dissecting the negotiation process invaluable.
The PIP visited several sites to learn about the food chain.
Visits included a tour of the very welcoming Bumblehole Foods in Bromsgrove, learning about liquid egg, a trip to London to tour the Houses of Parliament and hear about the incredible work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure politicians are kept up to speed with the concerns and discussions within the agricultural industry.
We saw a vertical farming system and took part in a ‘Speakers for Schools’ event. An illuminating day at Aldi’s head office in Warwickshire followed as well as a tour of PD Hook’s Cote hatchery. It was then NFU’s 2020 conference in Birmingham, which provided two great days of presentations, discussions, and debates.
The challenges Covid-19 threw up
Disappointingly, Covid-19 then took hold, which paused the programme’s planned physical events, but we continued to meet in the new virtual world we’ve all had to embrace over the past year or so.
However, as part of the PIP we had a group project to work on, with the brief of “organising an event that is targeted at the ‘next generation’ of the poultry industry”. A target audience of 16 to 18-year-old college students was agreed and we decided to produce a video, which we could present to colleges and sit upon social media platforms highlighting the fantastic range of careers on offer in the poultry industry. The video is now nearing completion and we are hopeful of being able to present it to colleges – even if it is presented via a video call, as we feel direct engagement with students would be beneficial."
Support for the programme
In a survey of the 2018 PIP participants, 100% of the participants said they would recommend the programme and found the content useful. I’m certain that this would be repeated for our cohort too. I would certainly recommend applying for the Poultry Industry Programme in the future. I have learnt new skills, made new industry contacts, and feel much more informed about the industry – and had a lot of fun along the way.