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Agri-food passion leads to a Master’s

MY name is Lynsay Hawkes, and I am currently a part-time student on the Master’s in Business for Agri-Food and Rural Enterprise programme at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Loughry campus.

I grew up on a dairy farm outside Omagh, County Tyrone, and have a passion for the agriculture industry, sport and agricultural shows (showing livestock). I have been a member of Seskinore Young Farmers’ Club for over 14 years.

With a keen interest in sport, food provenance and teaching, after completing my A-levels at Omagh High School I decided to undertake a BSc Honour’s degree in Sport Theory and Practice at Ulster University, Jordanstown. Throughout my studies I was a volunteer with the award-winning Sport Outreach body working on the Sport for LIFE and Sport Legacy+ programmes aimed at Key Stage 2 and 3 children. I was then selected as a Sport for LIFE tutor, delivering programmes to primary schools across Northern Ireland.

Following my undergraduate degree,

my interest in the agri-food industry came to the fore, and I gained employment with the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU). I have been working in the UFU communication team for three years and I thoroughly enjoy the many opportunities and challenges the role presents. Every day is different! I might be involved in designing social media campaigns, organising the annual schools’ competition and advertisements, writing Press articles, networking with journalists or liaising with both members and stakeholders.

I am currently the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend (BOIOFW) School’s coordinator, and I thoroughly enjoy this role which showcases our agricultural industry and enhances the knowledge of school pupils on our diverse industry. I network with over 1,000 playgroups, nursery, primary and special schools across NI and utilise the UFU and Agri-Aware’s educational ‘Dig In’ resource, which shares the ‘farm to fork’ story and the importance of supporting local produce to pupils across the Province.

I decided that I would like to gain a formal qualification which involved developing my management and communication skills. I enrolled in the MSc Business for Agri-food & Rural Enterprise course, having heard about the programme through a fellow colleague. After looking into the course online and attending the open evening at Loughry campus, I knew this was an MSc that I would thoroughly enjoy and it would also enhance my knowledge on the agriculture industry.

I am completing the programme on a part-time basis as this works well with my work-life balance. I have already completed the six taught modules, which were delivered at Loughry campus on Thursday evenings. The assessments were completed as coursework and were linked to the agri-food and rural sectors, which meant I was able to make the most of my experiences within the industry. During class there are endless opportunities to network with fellow peers and share practical working examples.

I have already found the qualification useful as I have been involved in delivering presentations to secondary schools in relation to professional working responsibilities. I have also used the communication and change management skills I have developed in managing the design and procurement of the UFU School’s Competition and liaising with sponsors and stakeholders for hybrid events such as Bank of Ireland Virtual Farm Weekend.

I am currently completing the research project element of the MSc programme. I am investigating “What colour of cow does the blue top milk come from?”, exploring teachers’ interpretations on children’s knowledge on food, farming and the environment.

“With a passion for education and farming, I want to investigate the influences on children’s knowledge and understanding of the food supply chain and establish if there is an opportunity for agriculture to be better implemented into primary school education and who is best placed in NI to lead such programmes.

I am delighted with my decision to complete the MSc, and I recommend it to anyone who would like to gain a management or leadership role within the agri-food and rural sector.

For more information on the MSc in Business for Agri-food & Rural Enterprise programme visit www.cafre.ac.uk (Postgraduate courses tab). You can also follow CAFRE on Facebook and Instagram at ‘Discover CAFRE or access the QUB website www.qub.ac.uk

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