2020 winners follow-up: Megan Edwards, Agricultural Student of the Year

Excellent academic achievement and extensive extra-curricular activity paved the way for Megan Edwards to be named Agricultural Student of the Year in 2020.

For Megan Edwards, the recognition of her hard work gained by winning the Agricultural Student of the Year Award at last year’s British Farming Awards was a humbling experience.

She says: “I felt so overwhelmed as it is such a big achievement. I have worked in various sectors and I have taken every opportunity which has presented itself to me, so it is amazing to get recognition for what I have achieved.”

Having grown up in the countryside on a smallholding near Newport, Shropshire, with just enough room to rear an occasional lamb, pig or cow for the freezer, Megan knew from a young age she wanted to be involved in agriculture.

She says: “I learned a lot from my dad while working with him during my holidays as a child. He is from a farming family and runs a fencing contracting business. Both my sisters went to Harper Adams and it seemed fitting I followed their path.”

Megan started her time at Harper Adams at the age of 17 by undertaking an extended foundation degree in place of A-levels.

She says: “I was tired of studying subjects which did not excite me and I knew agriculture was the industry I saw my future in, so I thought it was better to get my foot in the door sooner rather than later.”

Megan had already clocked up much more than the required 10 weeks of work experience, having worked on a dairy farm rearing calves, milking and carrying out general farm work since she was 15 years old. She was readily accepted on to the course, which she passed with a distinction.

Work experience

Following on from her year-long foundation degree course, Megan remained at Harper Adams and began her studies for a bachelor’s degree in agriculture with animal science in 2016.

Megan fully immersed herself in university life and, in the first year of her degree course, she took on the role of agriculture course representative, taking the views and concerns of her classmates forward to senior figureheads.

Outside of academia, she was heavily involved in Harper’s shooting club and field sports society and took on the role of vice-chair for the latter.

Field sports have played a very special role in Megan’s life for many years, a hobby she shares with her sisters, and she spends much of her free time beating.

She also shoots when she can and holds a shotgun certificate, as well as a Lantra technical award for loading. Megan is currently training her one-year-old Labrador, Tsavo, to retrieve birds and hopes to join the picking-up teams soon.

Realising the importance of work experience, Megan spent every holiday throughout her time at university working. As well as lambing at Easter and working on a dairy farm over the Christmas holidays, she spent a summer at Shropshire Petals.

The Newport-based business is a flower farm which makes luxury confetti for weddings from dried flower petals. Initially Megan started in an administration capacity, answering the telephone and fulfilling orders, but after two years she moved into a supervisory role.

She says: “My job was to oversee depetalling and flower-picking and I was solely responsible for up to 45 Romanian and Bulgarian workers, which required
excellent time and people management.”

Megan was involved in streamlining aspects of the production process to increase output efficiency and she also took the opportunity to attend wedding shows and promote the product to prospective customers.


Throughout her five years at Harper Adams, Megan took advantage of the extensive scholarship programme on offer and was successful in securing several within the poultry industry.

After receiving a scholarship from the British Poultry Council, Megan spent her placement year at Avara Foods.

She says: “Avara Foods is a fully integrated company which produces broiler chickens. The company has its own hatcheries, farms, feed mills and factories, and my placement year allowed me the opportunity to work my way through the whole supply chain.”

Megan had the opportunity to work on company trials and spent time designing and carrying them out before analysing and presenting the results. She was also involved in creating Avara’s avian influenza outbreak plan.

The placement year also gave Megan the opportunity to start a new hobby and she took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, training up to eight times a week and competing in
competitions both locally and nationally.

On returning to Harper for her final year Megan took on the role of warden for one of the university’s halls of residence. As part of the position as a warden, she was required to live on campus and aid first-year students with any problems they may have. Extensive training was given, which included suicide prevention,
first aid, drugs awareness, mental health training and radicalisation awareness.

However, just six months after returning, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, which meant lectures were taken online and exams became assignments.

She says: “One of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic was completing my dissertation from home, which looked at the effect of three key welfare indicators on biological factory condemnations in commercial broiler chickens.”

Following her graduation in summer 2020, albeit slightly different from the usual grand occasion, Megan returned to Avara Foods, where she joined its graduate programme until March 2021.

She says: “My experience at Harper has developed my skills, built my confidence and it given me a lot of knowledge I plan to build upon.”


Another scholarship Megan secured was the Mercer competitive farming scholarship, which was awarded by her now employer, pig and poultry producer Packington Free Range, which is owned and run by the Mercer family and based near Wolverhampton.

Just a few weeks in to her position as estate livestock manager on the Patshull Estate, Megan has made the transition over to the pig side of the monogastric sector and is overseeing the development of a new pig finishing unit.

Once fully functioning, the unit will finish 280 pigs per week on a high-welfare, outdoor system.

She says: “The family is focused on high health and welfare and is looking to improve sustainability and environmental aspects of the farm.

“All the pig muck will go back into the ground and we are planting a lot of woodland. We are also looking at introducing education days for school visits when we are fully up-and-running.”

The outdoor finishing system uses tents to house the growing pigs and it is Megan’s responsibility to ensure the day-to-day running of the farm is carried out to the highest standards of health and welfare.

She currently manages one member of staff, but this will rise to four once the farm is at full capacity.

Megan says: “I would like to grow and develop alongside the farm, getting it to where we would like it to be and work up to farm manager level.

“Being in the agriculture sector provides job security. There will always be jobs in agriculture and it is also a fascinating industry to be in.

“Each sector has its own challenges, but there are ample opportunities for young people who want to get into the industry. You just have to be willing to work hard and learn from your mistakes.”

A word from the sponsor

Market-leading manufacturer of engines, agricultural tractors and implements, Kubota is proud to sponsor the British Farming Awards Agricultural Student of the Year 2021.

Kubota has done so for the past seven years and clearly recognises the key role the next generation of farming professionals play in sustaining and building a healthy and prosperous UK agricultural industry. Kubota is proud to celebrate the achievements of these young rising stars in the industry.