In a new series for Farmers Guardian, the 11 new recruits on the McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer (PYF) programme. Each month we follow one of the PYFs to see what they are doing.
Currently on placement with UK based food company Moy Park, 20-year-old Christopher Hinch, hailing from a free-range egg farm in Rutland, is a third-year student at Harper Adams University taking part in the McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer programme (PYF).
British agriculture is often forgotten in our bustling modern-day lives, relegated to the unsavory image of long, unsociable hours. Pursuing a job in this industry, perhaps unsurprisingly, does not seem to be popular with young people. Picture a farmer in your head: what did you imagine? Conceivably someone chewing on a straw or maybe even a tractor, holding up traffic on that Monday morning you forgot to set your alarm. These are often outdated stereotypes compared to the modern-day farmer (except perhaps holding up traffic, but I assure you we are going as fast as we can.) This is what compelled me, a farmers son from the quaint county of Rutland, to explore further up the agricultural production chain on the McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer placement, or as we are otherwise known the PYFs.
Growing up on a free-range egg farm I have viewed our industry from the inside out and we can often be guilty of not having set hours work, it is not always possible. Because of that, agriculture can often get a bad rap for not offering a great work-life balance; however, some careers in the industry can offer responsibility, room for promotion and the set hours, that most young people seek today. The stigma around our industry has lingered too long and must be broken, then maybe, just maybe, more of an interest will be sparked, alleviating the huge staff shortages our sector encounters.
So far on my PYF journey I have explored an array of farms and have seen exciting technological and sustainable improvements that interest me as a young person getting into the industry. The vast majority of farms I have seen are fitted with biomass boilers and solar panels, this reduces the dependency on fossil fuels proving key in the current climate to maintain profitability, and reduce the already limited carbon footprint of our industry.
But there are still some challenges, key components in poultry feed have recently seen a marked increase in price, with only a limited supply of RTRS soya on the market other options may have to be developed to prevent straining budgets as the advance towards net zero intensifies.
UK agriculture has some of the best farming conduct globally, between producers high standards and audit schemes such as Red Tractor, farmers are constantly kept on their toes. The attention applied on farm is shown in the calibre of our produce and how hard we work to help assure consumers of this quality, proven by the UK being one of the first to implement farm to fork traceability.
The average age of a UK farmer has increased to almost 60. Young blood must be encouraged into the agriculture sector. Budding voices need to be herd although the older traditional views must not be disregarded - they did create the world we currently live in after all. This makes programmes like McDonald's PYF all the more important as it is a fantastic foot in the door, opening up endless opportunities within the industry. The old young farmers club slogan of you dont have to be a farmer to be a young farmer really does apply to the agricultural sector as a whole, and I would encourage anyone from any background to explore what our industry has to offer.