My journey so far with the Tesco Future Farmers Foundation

At the end of 2019 I was lucky enough to be awarded one of 50 places on the fifth intake of the Tesco Future Foundation Programme. With over 500 applicants, I was absolutely delighted to secure one of the sought-after slots.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the programme, each year Tesco selects ambitious young farmers across the UK and Ireland who are keen to develop their career in the farming and aquaculture industry. As the UK’s largest multiple retailer, Tesco, has an extremely comprehensive stakeholder network, so the programme is packed with workshops and talks from industry professionals covering all aspects of the supply chain. There are four elements to the programme:

  1. Workshops to facilitate advancing skills and leadership development:

The programme comprises of five two-day workshops. These are led by experts covering a broad range of topics, including leadership development, marketing, finance, communications skills and business planning.

Kick-stating the year-long programme in January 2020, we had a great first workshop. This looked at personal achievements and reaching goals, and how to develop leadership skills – particularly if you’re dealing with tricky characters! Tesco is keen to develop future leaders in the sector, so it’s key to grasp how you can reach your full potential. Once you understand this, you’re in a much better position to help your team.

Tesco has brilliant connections with Defra which they share with those on the programme. More recently, seven of us had a session with MP Victoria Prentis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food. We were given a chance to ask questions and voice concerns. Having this opportunity, and also learning how to approach senior MPs in a persuasive yet diplomatic way, is something which I have no doubt will significantly help my career going forwards.

2. Supply chain trips:

Throughout the year, Tesco run trips to meet business leaders from across their supply chain, including Muller, ABP, Avara and Kepak.

The supply chain trips are one of the highlights of the programme because you get a behind-the-scenes insight. I’ve visited Muller so far, where we had presentations from their senior leadership team. We covered everything from how to market products, to their next strategic business decisions. Not to mention the factory tour and supply of yoghurt to head home with.

Working in the agri-PR sector, it’s fantastic to hear from these leading businesses and how they work with the rest of their supply chain. There is a huge desire to ensure that going forwards communication spans right from farm to fork, so getting to meet people across every aspect of this has greatly supported my ability to connect the dots.

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Career advice

Each applicant on the programme is assigned a senior, experienced individual from the world of food and farming to help you develop personally in a confidential environment.

I have a real personal interest in aquaculture so the mentor I’ve been paired with is the Aquaculture Manager at Tesco. Our off-the-record, monthly catchups are really a chance for me to ask any questions and gain knowledge in this area, and I have to say, it’s been immensely fascinating so far!

4. Training in all aspects of agriculture:

The foundation also provides access to an additional training fund of £10,000 for further study to help develop farming careers.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has made getting together pretty impossible. For a programme which is all about networking and building relationships, this really put a spanner in the works! Tesco has been fantastic adapting to these circumstances by providing as many online webinars as possible, from organisations such as AHDB to Alltech.

Although we’ve hit the pause button on the programme until restrictions are relaxed, I have no doubt the skills I’ve learnt so far have helped both my knowledge of the sector and ability to lead teams and drive campaigns.

I’ve recently been promoted to account manager at Pinstone, and insights from the programme and the cohort of young farmers on the initiative is a great way to constantly be thinking of fresh ideas!

Hopefully by autumn we will be completing our remaining workshops and attending our supply chain trips. I look forward to updating you all once the programme’s finished!

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