Case study

Agronomist/agricultural consultant — Elizabeth Ecclestone

Working as both an agronomist and agricultural consultant, Elizabeth's job is an interesting mix of indoor and outdoor work. Find out more about the different aspects of her role

How did you get your job?

I graduated with a degree in Agriculture Business Management with Crop Production from Writtle University College. After graduating, I worked for ADAS for a year and a half but I wasn't enjoying it. My lecturer from university informed me that Bruce Hill Agricultural Consultants had a job going so I applied and got the job.

What's a typical working day like?

There are two sides to my job - the agronomy and the consultancy. On the agronomy side, I take many thousand steps a day walking crops, working as a sort of crop doctor to understand what the crop is doing and why, and then working out how to improve it.

Weed ID, chemical recommendations and disease/pest ID are key. I assess around two to three farms a day in the season and meet or call farmers to discuss everything that's been found. Planning for the future and learning how to improve the following year is always on my mind.

On the consultancy side, I help with Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications (payments that provide help to the farming industry) and the paperwork and forms involved. I also do a lot of work creating and maintaining Countryside Stewardship applications and looking into the latest grant work.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love the variety. I'm never bored thanks to the fact we do more than just agronomy and we have some wonderful clients.

I prefer the paperwork side of the Countryside Stewardship and grant schemes, but I think this is because I've really been able to get stuck in and fully understand the workings of it.

I also love the constant challenge of the agronomy. No crop is ever the same and no year is ever the same. The constant loss of chemistry really gets you to look and think about everything else that you have at your disposal to improve your crops - the challenge never ends.

What are the challenges?

The lack of public support and understanding sometimes means that new schemes coming through are not practical to farmers, so it brings a good challenge to help them fit with each farm. It can also be quite challenging trying to get information on time when filling out paper work.

Personally I don't mind too much, but lots of people say to me 'how do you do it?' -walking in incredibly heavy clay soils on freezing cold, wet and windy days for weeks at a time. There is also a lot of lone working.

How relevant is your degree?

Very. My degree gave me the 'paper' version of the fundamentals I should know and got me ready to learn the 'practical' version.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I'm not entirely sure where I hope to be in five years' time. I’m keen to progress, but I love my job currently. Perhaps I may look to focus a little more on the schemes and grants, which are coming through. I love working with the clients and the challenge that comes with getting each scheme to fit with each individual farm.

What advice can you give to others?

  • An agricultural degree really does help. Everyone always talks about how important experience is, but employers always ask if I have a degree and how well I did.
  • If you don't like the job you end up in, no experience is bad experience and I've managed to bring so much into this job, which I love.
  • Don't think you won't use certain information on your course - you probably will.

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