Hartpury’s top rural land management student has had her hard work recognised after being named the National Farming Union’s (NFU) #studentfarmer magazine Student of the Year.
Alexandra Growden, a Hartpury University Centre second year Foundation Agriculture student, picked up the prestigious title as part of the NFU’s Student Farmer Magazine Student Farmer Awards 2017.
The recognition comes after 24-year-old Alexandra helped to change the lives of people on the ground in Uganda during a two-month placement in 2016. She spent two months of her summer as an agriculture intern with the Baptist missionary society, World Mission, in Paicho, northern Uganda, not far from the Sudanese border.
Alexandra used the two months to provide training and guidance to hundreds of households on growing cash crops such as chilli and ginger. She also shared information on soil preparation and cultivation, planting techniques – including those that encourage the sprouting of ginger – and disease prevention. In addition to crop growth, she trained farmers on control, harvesting and marketing.
Alexandra said, “It was fantastic to be able to use the theory I learned in lectures and the practical skills I gained on Hartpury’s farm to be a part of making a real difference to farmers in Uganda.
“I was surprised by how transferable the skills and techniques I had already learned were in a completely different environment on the other side of the world with a different soil and climate.”
Although the majority of Alexandra’s internship focussed on growing cash crops, she was able to visit a local dairy farm where she was able to discuss livestock welfare, management and production systems and to see maize silage clamps. She also worked on a proposal for a future project – trialling an oxen rental scheme that has the aim of increasing agricultural productivity through animal traction.
Alexandra added, “After completing my foundation degree, I want to complete a ‘top up’ year to achieve a BSc (Hons) in Agriculture to further my knowledge.
“Undertaking this placement closed the gap between studying and the work I want to do. I love experiencing new and different cultures and seeing how other people live and survive. It’s made me even more determined to carry out this kind of educational work with farmers in Africa and other developing countries when I graduate as it showed me that it is possible to follow my dream.”
Alexandra was also a prize winner at Hartpury University Centre’s graduation ceremony in October 2016 where she picked up the Tom Pugh Cup and Prize for the top current Rural Land Management student.
Hartpury University Centre Agriculture lecturer, Philip Watson, added: “‘Alexandra came to Hartpury from a non-farming background and has worked extremely hard to develop her knowledge and practical skills during her time with us.
“She is passionate and focused about her future career ambition to help and support farmers in underdeveloped areas of the world and she has used this as a driver to succeed.”