McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer: Lourenco Carvalho - 'I could not be happier with the decision I took of coming to the UK to study agriculture'

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 PYF’s to see what they are doing.

clock • 5 min read
McDonald's Progressive Young Farmer: Lourenco Carvalho - 'I could not be happier with the decision I took of coming to the UK to study agriculture'

My name is Lourenço Carvalho. I am 21 years old and originally from Lisbon, Portugal. I am studying BSc Agriculture with Farm Business Management at Newcastle University, and currently in my third year of the course, on a placement year on the McDonald's Root2Food Placement programme. I am working with Noble Foods, one of the UK's leading supplier of farm fresh eggs to major retailers.

I didn't grow up on a farm, but my passion for agriculture comes from my grandfather, who has a sheep farm in Portugal, where I spent most of my school breaks and holidays. Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian, to collaborate with farmers and work with livestock.

I always wanted to have an experience living and studying abroad, so I started to look for veterinary courses outside Portugal. This is how I found agricultural courses in the UK, which seemed to be the perfect fit for me. After two years in Newcastle studying Bsc (Hons) Farm Buisness Management and almost finishing my placement year, I could not be happier with the decision I took of coming to the UK to study agriculture.

Throughout my placement year, I have worked on the various stages of the egg supply chain, working on several farms (having different systems and dimensions), gaining an understanding of how an egg farm should work and the producer's perspective, position, and importance on a supply chain.

I then worked in an egg packing centre, where the eggs collected from the farms would be transported to be packed and sent to the retailers, such as McDonald's, understanding the challenges faced by the supplier, being the contact between producers and retailers and relying on several different departments working together for the packing centre to function and be as efficient as possible. Also, I have realised how important it is, as a supplier, to have a strong, well-organised logistical department, as food products, no matter what they are, need to be transported between the different stages of the supply chain to get to the retailers.

Finally, I worked in a McDonald's restaurant, where I did my restaurant training as part of my placement and spent a week in the McDonald's UK Head Offices, gaining a deeper understanding of the retailer's perspective of the supply chain, and how important it is for the supply chain to have a strong link from producer to retailer.

Moreover, I was able to work on different sites, such as milling or depletion sites, also crucial for the good functioning of the egg supply chain.

Even though my placement year is spent mostly working with an egg supplier, I have had incredible opportunities to learn more about other sectors of the agri-food industry. From insight days by McDonald's, where both Root2Food trainees and Progressive Young Farmers were visiting several McDonald's suppliers, understanding more about the issues other supply chains face, to conferences such as the Oxford Farming Conference 2023, or the City Food and Drinks Lecture, where I was able to connect and talk with several people who understand what is being done to move sustainability forwards in the British agri-food sector.

Throughout this year, I have heard various concerns regarding farmers' ages, and how it is crucial to have young people involved in the agricultural sector, which I agree with.

However, I believe that the future of British agriculture will be brighter if everyone is aware of the origin of the food they are buying and consuming, how it is grown and how it gets to supermarkets and restaurants.

The future of the sector will rely heavily on educating the next generation on food, how it is produced and how it gets to supermarkets, restaurants or any other place food is available to consumers. It is important to have young people joining agriculture to ensure the future of the sector, but it is as important, if not more, to have all the population involved with agriculture, to understand the basics of food and what they are buying when they are going to the supermarket.

Throughout this placement year, I was able to confirm that British agriculture has almost impeccable conduct, due to the passion for the sector that can be witnessed when speaking to any British farmer and all the high standards set for all food products. It is also incredibly positive to see the investment and effort producers, suppliers and retailers are doing to move towards more sustainable practices and, therefore a more sustainable Industry.

However, is this change being passed to the consumers? Are the people outside the industry aware of how good the quality of British food is?

Even though farming is at the base of every food supply chain, and despite what all the sector is doing to try to push the change towards more sustainable production, the power to deeply change the production of food is on all of us as consumers. A person does not need to be a farmer, or even be involved in the agricultural or food industries to have an impact and change the way food is produced in the UK.

Therefore, I believe, that to assure a change for more sustainable food production, it is necessary to educate the consumers, especially the younger generation on concepts like food miles, food standards (like the Red Tractor standard, Lion code standard and others), so that they can truly make an informed decision when purchasing food.

I believe that, if consumers do not understand or do not know what it is being done by the industry to have more sustainable food production, then all the investment and effort put into changing by everyone involved will not be enough to make a significant impact for the future. 

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