Successful young handler builds career in agriculture

Finding success as a young handler with her pedigree pigs inspired Cornish teenager Merryn Philp to pursue a career in agriculture.

Growing up on a smallholding near Launceston meant Merryn always felt a connection to agriculture.

“My dad is an agricultural engineer, and I grew up hearing my grandparents’ tales about their livestock, so farming is in my blood. But ever since having my own pigs when I was five years old, I’ve known I want to work with animals,” she says.

Merryn started showing her pigs in classes for young handlers after a visit to the Okehampton Show. “I gain so much satisfaction from the whole showing process, from picking a promising gilt out of the litter through to seeing your hard work and practice pay off with success at a show.

“As a young handler, I spent lots of time watching and learning from more experienced handlers. The showing community are very supportive to those starting out, offering encouragement to the younger generation as they become involved in the industry. I encourage anyone who is keen to keep practising – it is vital to know your animal, have confidence in the ring and present yourself in the best way you can.”

Hard work and persistence pays off

With her appetite whetted but not sure quite which route to take into farming, Merryn began researching possible career paths and settled on a degree in Agriculture with Animal Science at Harper Adams University. 

Now in her second year, she is loving it. I love how rewarding it can be. Even after something goes wrong, your hard work always pays off; there is no better feeling. It must be one of the most difficult but rewarding jobs.”

Coming into the industry as a female, however, has not been without its challenges for Merryn. “It is still a male-dominated industry and stereotypes do remain. While I have been very encouraged by those I’ve worked for, I have experienced barriers. But there are also many inspiring women in the industry who demonstrate the value of hard work and persistence.”

Merryn believes connecting with other women could encourage others to consider farming as a career. “Building a community within the industry to support each other is important. Learning from the experiences of others can be motivating for your own journey.”

“Build your knowledge and take every opportunity”

She is passionate about encouraging more young women to consider a career in agriculture, and to take every opportunity that’s offered. “Do it and don't look back even when it's hard. Get to know people, listen to them and learn from their knowledge whenever you can. Keep working hard and stay motivated, and opportunities will arise. This time last year I didn't think I would've done what I have, but by saying yes, reaching out, making contacts and speaking to lots of people, you can make huge progress.”

Merryn is now looking ahead to an industrial placement year in either genetics or nutrition and continuing to widen her experience both here and abroad. “I’m heading to Canada soon to learn about their beef industry and would like to see farming systems in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand after university. My dream is to one day have more stock of my own.”

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