Farmers Weekly Awards 2023: Ag Student of the Year

Harry Davies of Hopes Ash Farm, Herefordshire, is Farmers Weekly’s 2023 Ag Student of the Year.

You can tell within a short time of speaking to Harry that he will be a leader in our industry. He has a brilliant mix of skill, knowledge, charisma and real humility.

Not only is he hugely committed to his own family farm’s future, but he is also passionate about progress in the agricultural sector.

He has a sound understanding of the industry, reflected in good grades and outstanding references from lecturers and employers.

See also: The 2023 Farmers Weekly Awards shortlist

Harry has demonstrated huge adaptability throughout his university years.

Just as readily as he gets stuck in at the home farm in Herefordshire – which has 100ha of arable alongside dairy, beef, sheep, fruit and poultry enterprises – he turned his hand to working on an 11,300ha arable unit in Western Australia during his placement.

Instead of focusing that year on the livestock sectors he knows best, he identified that arable was where he had less experience, so applied for specific placements to “fill that knowledge gap.”

Striking a balance

The successful juggling of his studies and high levels of responsibility at his home farm is evidence of Harry’s work ethic.

He has been the key decision-maker for the 150-head dairy herd throughout his university years and managed the installation of a slurry-only anaerobic digestion plant this year.

Along with a solar array, it will make the farm 95-100% self-sufficient in renewable electricity.

Harry says that without the skills learned at Harper Adams, such as building design, partial budgeting, project organisation and people management, the project would have been significantly more challenging.

As well as the academic learnings at university, he says exposure to different people and systems has also broadened his awareness and led him to re-evaluate everything on the home farm.

Progressive thinking

Harry is willing to tackle thorny issues, especially when considering the environmental impact of increasing food production. One example local to home is the elevated phosphate levels in the River Wye.

“The fact is that agriculture makes a significant contribution to phosphate pollution within the catchment.

“We, as farmers, must not bury our heads in the sand, and must face this problem as a united community on our own terms.

“Otherwise change will be forced by legislators, which may be to the detriment of the ag industry and community within the catchment,” Harry says, demonstrating his proactive attitude to finding sustainable solutions.

He focused his Honours research project on the stripping of phosphate from animal manures, a technology he believes will play a huge part in solving the problem.

Consumer engagement

One of Harry’s university lecturers told the FW judges: “Harry possesses a wide working knowledge of both UK and global farming issues but is not at all arrogant or condescending when talking to someone less informed or others outside the industry.”

This approachability and ability to engage with all points of view undoubtedly helps Harry lead the bimonthly “walk and talk” sessions that he has introduced at the home farm.

Welcoming people from the nearby town, he aims to give them an insight into farming and dispel any misconceptions they may have. Harry hopes to expand his consumer engagement efforts when full-time on the farm.

Winning ways

  • Clear vision for personal development, with Facts and Basis qualifications aspired to in the short term and a Nuffield scholarship in the longer term
  • Stepping out of his comfort zone to seize opportunities and broaden experience
  • Passion for agriculture and knowledge across the sectors
  • Enthusiasm for consumer engagement and educating young people

Student notes

  • Studying at Harper Adams University
  • Course BSc Agriculture
  • Study year Fourth
  • Fun fact Harry can juggle while riding a unicycle – a skill that he honed for a young farmers competition using a corridor of upturned bales for balance

A word from our independent judge 

“Harry is passionate and driven with a strong knowledge of local and global agricultural issues. He has stepped out of his comfort zone to broaden his skill set throughout university years and, as an engaging communicator, he is a fantastic role model for other ag students.”

Ally Hunter-Blair, Herefordshire farmer

The Farmers Weekly 2023 Ag Student of the Year Award is sponsored by Lightsource bp

The Farmers Weekly Awards celebrate the very best of British agriculture by recognising hard-working and innovative farmers across the UK.

Find out more about the Awards, the categories and sponsorship opportunities on our Awards website.