Malan Hughes credits Farming Connect’s Agri Academy with helping her plan her future and achieve her potential through professional development. The application window for the Agri Academy 2020 is open now, and she wants you to apply too!
Malan (27) lives at home on her family’s 500 acre dairy farm near Pwllheli, and when she’s not busy working as a rural vet, she’s involved in all aspects of dairy farming. Her background gave her a love of animals and the countryside from a very early age and she had her sights set on becoming a vet even before she left primary school.
In 2016, that long-held dream came true and this graduate of Liverpool University returned home to the family farm and to her first full time job with local mixed veterinary practice, Milfeddygon Deufor, where she works with both farm animals and companion pets.
“I was fortunate to have work experience with this practice as a student and I knew that if I ever had the chance to return home where I could help develop the dairy herd while also working as a vet, that really would be the best of both worlds and a dream come true!”
A keen walker, keep fit addict and road runner – she regularly takes part in half marathons - very soon after settling into her new job, Malan applied for the Farming Connect Agri Academy Business & Innovation programme.
“I believe one should never stop learning and was keen to broaden my horizons, to meet new networks of people and be inspired by other successful farmers and business people to help me plan for the future both as a vet and a farmer.”
Malan is now one of the personal development programme’s most eloquent and persuasive ambassadors, freely admitting that the experience gave her new skills, more confidence and the determination to get involved in as many community initiatives as she could fit into her busy work and lifestyle balance!
By today, she’s in demand as a speaker to local schoolchildren, elderly people’s clubs, women’s groups and more – all wanting her views on where ‘good farm produce’ comes from, the importance of high animal health and welfare standards and why farmers should adapt to meet the needs of the market.
“My Agri Academy experience was brilliant in every way, introducing me to new ways of working, and giving me time to consider my plans for the future."
“My study visit to Iceland was very educational and opened my eyes to how different nations are tackling similar issues faced by Welsh farmers."
“The whole group came away with new skills and perhaps most importantly, a new sense of self-belief that we should all aim high and carry on developing as business-people.”
Later that year, Malan was invited to become a member of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s select team of veterinary surgeons. This prestigious and honorary position means that she and her colleagues can be on call up to 24 hours a day in the lead-up and during key society events such as the Royal Welsh Show and Winter Fair. Malan believes that her Agri Academy experience, and possibly her fitness levels as a runner, are why she had the confidence to grab the opportunity.
“It’s always hectic and we all walk miles every day, but it’s also rewarding to know that as a team we not only have expertise to make sure that all stock are well cared for, but if things do go wrong, we’ve got diagnostic and first aid equipment, horse ambulances, handling systems, ‘walkie talkie’ devices – in fact all the kit it takes to respond within minutes to whatever situation arises.”
So what next for this busy young lady who is determined to combine her veterinary career with being a hands-on farmer, continue her links with the community, run marathons and also find time to relax with friends and family?
Not surprisingly, Malan is already planning yet another new venture, rearing a small speciality flock of Shropshire sheep, which she believes will do particularly well when grazing in the farm’s orchards!
“Being part of the Agri Academy made me challenge myself and encouraged me to be innovative, so the Shropshire flock are just the first step!"
“I was so inspired by the people I met and there are elements of what I learned being put into practice virtually every day both in work and on the farm."
“I would urge anyone hesitating to just get your application in as soon as you can – the Agri Academy will be one of the most rewarding and influential experiences of your life – go for it!”
The application window for Agri Academy 2020 is open now until 11:59pm on Tuesday, 31 March. This year, the Academy offers two programmes, namely the Business & Innovation programme designed to inspire entrepreneurs and innovators, and the Junior programme, a joint collaboration with Wales YFC, for those aged between 16 and 19 who hope to follow a career in the food, farming or forestry industries.
For further information, eligibility criteria and to download application forms, visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect
This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.