Agronomy offers great career opportunities

Don’t overlook crop management when considering your job path.

Top of the list of favoured careers for those at agricultural college who do not have a farm to go back to are farm management, agri-food marketing and land agency.

But having set off firmly down the farm management path armed with my Harper Adams HND, I’ve since discovered what is one of the best kept secrets in agricultural careers – agronomy.

Crop management was something we learnt a lot about at college but it was never really on the radar as a career. At least it wasn’t on mine until, studying for my BASIS qualification in 2008, I secured the necessary field experience with a Midlands-based company agronomist. He opened my eyes to the responsibility, excitement and flexibility of a profession I hadn’t ever considered, as well as the door to a traineeship with his company.

Three years on, countless training courses and hours of structured experience in just about every area of on-farm and behind-the-scenes crop production support and advice behind me, and I can’t think of any career I’d recommend more strongly to young people emerging from college. Not least because, like farming itself, the profession offers excellent opportunities for new talent to fill the boots of many experienced individuals due to retire in the coming decade.

At 30, I’m responsible for more than 6,000 acres of cropping. I’m involved in just about every aspect of more than a dozen customers’ businesses – from crop walking to budgeting, crop planning to marketing and machinery choice to cross-compliance. They trust me to take decisions that make all the difference to their livelihoods.

Backed by a strong R&D base, I’m at the sharp end of the latest crop production technologies and management advice at a time when both food security and green energy are key national priorities. In fact, in managing the Sutton Bonington SMART Farm, I’m actually involved in running trials, evaluations and demonstrations that put the most exciting new crop genetics, agrochemicals and production techniques to the harshest of commercial tests.

Essentially, I’m my own boss. I work largely from home for customers who really value the support and rely on the advice I give them. Yet, I’m not all on my own. I can call upon consultancy colleagues with a range of specialist farm energy, crop marketing, environmental stewardship and business development skills. Plus I have the technical support behind me, together with the employment security and career prospects of a leading European business.

A company agronomist’s life certainly isn’t for everyone. But for young people with a love of farming who like to get their boots dirty, work with a high degree of independence and relish a fresh challenge every day, I can’t think of a better future to explore.

* Harry Abell is an agronomist with Masstock SMART Farming, part of European agri-services leader, Origin Enterprises.