The John Innes Foundation/Velcourt Farming Bursary
About the scholarship:
The scholarship provides a bursary to one undergraduate per year who wants to pursue a career in primary crop production in the UK, as opposed to an academic, research or overseas career.
About the bursary:
- Course fees will be covered and paid each term to the successful student
- Applicable to students taking on a three-year degree course only
- As well as course fee reimbursement, the chosen student will have the opportunity to work closely with Velcourt, the UK’s largest farm management company
Why did you choose a career in agriculture?
My father and grandfather were chartered surveyors, and my mother a bookkeeper for various contracting and equine operations, so I have always had an interest in agriculture.
It started when I was nine, riding my bike to and from school passing the local dairy farm, and now I am studying applied farm management at the Royal Agricultural University, specialising in crop production.
Why did you apply for the scholarship?
The scholarship was brought to my attention in one of my lectures during my first year, and the criteria for the bursary seemed to fit very well.
I had already set Velcourt out as being a company I wanted to get involved with too.
What did it ask for in terms of skills? What was the application process?
The application process consisted of an extended piece of writing detailing anything from my motivation for applying, to my vision for future crop production in the UK.
Following this, there was a formal interview with representatives from both the John Innes Foundation and Velcourt.
Also, one of the main criteria for applicants is they must not have come from a farming background; my interpretation of this is that the applicant must not have a family farm to qualify. It encourages people from non-farming backgrounds into the industry.
When did you secure the scholarship and what does it entail?
I officially gained the scholarship in March 2018. One of the main reasons I was attracted to the scholarship was the close association with Velcourt.
One of the stipulations of the bursary was to work for Velcourt over a harvest season, then continue onto its management training scheme.
Over my 20-week placement, I will be working for Velcourt on one of its large farming businesses in the Cotswolds in April, which I am thoroughly looking forward to.
What have you learned so far?
The formalities associated with the bursary have brought a huge amount of experience in writing letters, articles, effective applications and overall professionalism, which are experiences often only obtained through necessity.
Has it provided you with any further opportunities?
It was, and continues to be, a very beneficial experience. It has brought many unforeseen opportunities, including writing articles for agricultural publications and participating in work surrounding Brexit, including TV interviews and reports.
Are there as many opportunities in the industry for those from non-farming backgrounds?
The hard part for people from a non-farming background is getting the foot in the door. But once you are in the industry, I feel there is a certain amount of respect from people who do come from a farming background.
I believe there are as many opportunities for those not coming from a farming background, and there needs to be to draw new entrants and fresh minds.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying for a scholarship?
Go for it. You have nothing to lose. Take time to write the best application you can, as first impressions count and that is the first opportunity there is to impress.
Keep up with agricultural affairs too, as having current knowledge is vital.