Study aims to discover what draws people to farming sector

It aims to discover what draws people from non-agri backgrounds to the sector – and how they can be retained
It aims to discover what draws people from non-agri backgrounds to the sector – and how they can be retained

Research aiming to find out what attracts and retains people from non-agricultural backgrounds to education and employment in the sector has been launched.

The project aims to see which approaches most effectively support people to work in, or study towards, agriculture when they are not from a farming background.

Claire Toogood, the project's leader and a lecturer at Harper Adams University, is the recipient of a Farmers’ Club Charitable Trust award for the research.

She has prepared an online survey which aims to discover what has drawn these people to their careers or studies.

For those who already have at least three months of work experience in the sector, the survey will also capture their experiences of workplace management and development.

“As we all know, farming and food are crying out for hardworking enthusiastic staff from all backgrounds, and retaining these people will be crucial for the industry’s future success," Ms Toogood said.

“There are challenges across the industry – this research will start to draw out the best ways that people who find themselves drawn to agriculture from outside the sector can get the support and guidance they need to succeed."

Th survey wants to ask those people about their experiences, what worked and what didn’t – and is open to anyone who is 18 or over and from a non-agricultural background.

The project also wants to hear from those who have worked, or planned to work, in agriculture or agri-food, but then left the sector.

"You don’t need to be a recent graduate, or have a certain type of qualifications, experience or role, as I am aiming to capture as wide a range of experiences as possible," Ms Toogood said.

Alongside this survey, the lecturer has also been working with companies and training providers to find out the kinds of work they are doing to help those from outside the sector develop their skills.

She added: “I am also reviewing the promotion of agricultural and agri-food careers, courses and training, and any additional support or guidance that might be offered to applicants from a non-agricultural background.

“As the project progresses, I will develop a report on my findings and a range of case study resources to share with other universities, colleges, and training providers.

“Identifying the best ways to draw in, nurture and develop people from outside the industry will be hugely valuable, for both recruitment and retention, across the varied range of agriculture careers."

Any organisation which is running relevant schemes can contact Claire Toogood on with a brief overview of their activities.