Case study

Agricultural consultant — Chloe Skillen

Chloe studied for a BSc in Countryside and Environmental Management at Harper Adams University. A placement and her love of the outdoors led her to a career as an agricultural consultant

Why did you choose your course?

I was unsure what to study at university but I was positive it had to be something related to agriculture, which involved being outdoors. I grew up on a small farm in Northern Ireland and have always had a passion for the outdoors. Studying straight agriculture didn't appeal to me, so I choose to study countryside and environmental management.

The course was a mix of agricultural practices and environmental polices giving me a broad understanding of many areas and a large scope for careers.

How did you get your job?

I first heard of agricultural consultancy in a lecture and after some research, I decided that was what I wanted to do. I had during my placement year I worked for ADAS and on completion of that year I was offered a permanent job when I graduated.

What is a typical day like?

I sometimes have full weeks in the office writing reports, filling in application forms for farmers and general admin work. Other weeks I will be out on various farms soil sampling, manure sampling, crop sampling, attending meetings with farmers and growers, assisting with nutrient management of farms or just general farm business management.

It's such a diverse job and you never know when a client might call. I spend a lot of time working alone and often have to drive long distances to carry out the required work. Although I am primarily based in the North West, I work as far north as the Scottish boarders and have spent a week on the Isle of Wight too.

What are the challenges?

The weather. It can be your worst enemy or your best friend. I have to arrange farm visits all the time for various contracts and at certain times of the year it is nearly impossible to get hold of anyone. The ability to compromise and be flexible is very important when dealing with farmers and growers and as an organised person, I do sometimes find it very challenging.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree was diverse and this means that I studied a number of modules, which related directly to agricultural practices. The modules relating to environmental policy and regulations were also valuable, as it is important to ensure that clients are abiding by laws and regulations.

Sometimes clients will want to know about other areas such as planning or ecology and because I studied modules like this I can have a more open conversation about various topics.

How has your role developed?

I have been working as a full time agricultural consultant for a year and I have learned so much in such a short space of time. I work with agronomists, environmentalists, business consultants, ecologists and nutrient specialists, meaning I learn something new every day.

I really enjoy nutrient management and hope to further my career by gaining my FACTS qualification. This will mean that I can advise on soil nutrition, fertilisers and crop nutrition. I am particularly keen on grassland and hope to become a grassland management specialist. I have also already gained an additional qualification since joining ADAS. Thanks to the continuous training I am able to improve my skills and knowledge all the time.

How do I get into this job?

If you want a career that is diverse and energetic agricultural consultancy is definitely something to consider.

A keen interest in agriculture is key. I'm proof that you don’t need a degree in agriculture to get a job as an agricultural consultant. You'll also need to enjoy working outside and be prepared to do the ground work. I have spent many days on hill sides in torrential rain taking soil samples and have absolutely loved it.

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