Harper Adams University: Diversity insights from agriculture and food chain organisations sought for student research

Diversity across agriculture and the food chain is being examined by a student researcher from Harper Adams – who is asking farmers, processors, retailers and restaurants about their experiences.

Liz Tree, from Croydon in South London, is asking agriculture and food chain organisations large and small to fill in a short questionnaire, which can be found here.

She will then use the data she gathers as part of her final year Honours Research Project, which seeks to discover whether the benefits of having a diverse workforce are understood and utilised by companies across the food supply chain.

BSc (Hons) Agriculture student Liz said: “Given my South London background I feel passionately about diversity and especially the ethnic diversity in which I grew up.

“As I work with more and more organisations and people within agriculture, I feel there is a fantastic opportunity to build the future of farming upon a strongly diverse workforce that also reflects its customers.

“I am interested not only in how minority group members can be encouraged to consider agriculture and then enter it, but also how they can be supported to rise to the top of their organisations and how much success organisations are having with their diversity and inclusivity initiatives. I want to help members of the food supply chain understand the benefits of having a diverse workforce, which reflects that of the general population.”

Nigel Hill, Associate Head of the Food, Land and Agri-Business Department at Harper Adams, added: “When Liz approached me to ask if this was something she could explore, I had no hesitation in supporting her to ask questions about a subject which may be regarded as a sensitive area.

“As a tutor I see part of my role is to encourage students to explore and in doing so, challenge things which are taken for granted, if only to raise awareness of an issue.”

Liz’s work has already drawn the attention of the Prince’s Countryside Fund, who have invited her to speak at the Groundswell Regenerative Agriculture Show and Conference later this month in Hertfordshire.

She said: “I was part of a roundtable discussion with the Prince’s Countryside Fund around getting new entrants and young people into agriculture. My invite to the conference came from that – I am absolutely thrilled to be speaking, and looking forward to spending a few days surrounded by likeminded people!”

Liz was originally attracted to her studies at Harper because of the placement year which is built into undergraduate degrees at the University – and which she completed at Avara Foods, enabling her to see the entire integrated business from start to finish, blending both farm and office roles.

She added: “The placement year was a big draw for me – getting experience in industry has been so important to me, especially considering my non-farming background.

“The wide range of topics covered on the course, from more practical modules like livestock production, to skills such as people management, has helped too – and socially, being a part of the Harper music society has played a big part in my time at university.

“I have really enjoyed my time and feel I have made some connections – hopefully for life!”