Young farmer Alexandra Dunn heads to New Zealand on a life-changing scholarship

21 Aug 2018

I couldn’t believe it when I was selected for this life-changing opportunity by the charity which exists to further the knowledge and farming experience of UK agriculture students.

Where will you be this time next year? How about farming in New Zealand? By the time you read this, I’ll have started a full year of work on a New Zealand dairy farm thanks to winning the Richard Wigram NZ Farming Scholarship.

This summer, I graduated from the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, where I had some fantastic lecturers and made great friends, and now I can't wait to find out what the Southern Hemisphere has in store for me!  It could happen to you, too.  For the next 12 months I’ll be working for the Darby family, who run a dairy farm near Huntly in the North Island. The Darby’s have taken UK students through the scheme before, so I’m sure they’ll make me feel really welcome.

I am not from a farming background so I have made it my mission to gain as much quality work experience as possible, which has given me the practical skills I will need. At university I have learnt what is needed to run a successful and sustainable business and I am hoping that this year I can put the two together. My long term goal is to become a farm manager or launch my own business.  I know there’s so much to learn and lots of hard work ahead, but I’m looking forward to being part of a team where I can get a real insight into how things are done in New Zealand. The scholarship has already provided me with so many useful contacts and now it's all down to me to make the most of it.

For my final year dissertation, I focused on how greater cooperation in UK agriculture could lead to increased productivity and resilience post Brexit.  I specifically looked at what the UK can learn from the huge amount of cooperation seen in New Zealand. After interviewing lots of industry leaders, both in the UK and NZ, I found that UK agriculture would benefit from greater cooperation if the culture allowed for it. As an industry we need to work together with a lot more joined up thinking to succeed post Brexit.

My passion is improving efficiency within everyday aspects of the farming business - New Zealand farmers are some of the most progressive in the world and I can’t wait to bring what I learn back to the UK.

It’s a busy time for me as I’m also developing a business idea through the RAU's Enterprise Society. The idea will help improve health and safety and productivity on farms. I feel the business is on the right track as Levi Roots of Reggae Reggae Sauce and Julian Dunkerton from Superdry, along with other distinguished judges, chose my idea as the winner of this year’s RAU Grand Idea Competition.

The Royal Agricultural University offers so many opportunities to develop a business and has a wide range of courses available, not just in agriculture.

If you’re interested in seeing what I get up to during my year in New Zealand, you can follow the Rich Wigram New Zealand Farming Scholarship Facebook and Twitter pages or follow me @dunn97_alex on Twitter.