The farming future for Stephen Evans from Fintona is in the pigs industry.

Stephen, who is completing his studies at Harper Adams University, was named this year’s winner of the Victor Truesdale Prize at the Harper Ireland Club’s dinner recently. It rewards a student from Ireland who has made the greatest contribution to life at the University.

He had no agricultural background at home but as a pupil at Fivemiletown College, where he got advice from Careers Teacher, Mary Daly, he looked at options available and he enrolled on the BSc (Hons) Agriculture degree.

Since arriving, he found himself drawn to working in the pig industry after testing his skills on the Harper Adams farm and he is now set to take up a role as an animal feed specialist once he graduates. He has been offered a graduate job as a Young Animal Feeds Specialist in piglet feed with ForFarmers who gave him a Pig Industry Scholarship resulting in a one-year paid work placement. As a result of that, he was offered a graduate role.

Stephen, a son of Robert and Gwen Evans, recalled “As I don’t come from an agriculture background and wanted to keep my options open, I decided that doing straight ag was the best option - meaning that I got a general feel for the industry, allowing me to specialise as I progressed.

“Harper Adams is seen as a world-leading institute for agriculture and is highly respected in Ireland, with this in mind, and the fact that I wanted to experience agriculture outside of Northern Ireland, I knew Harper was the place for me.”

From his very first visit to the University as a prospective student on an Open Day, Stephen could see its potential to help develop his understanding of the world of agriculture.

He said: “I was really impressed to see the new and innovative technology that the farm had to offer. The key attraction I found from this day was the lecturing style - of one minute being in a lecture theatre and the next standing on the farm experience the theory in live form.

“Harper Adams is a great place to study. Having an onsite farm also gives us the ability to see and experience the material that the lectures provide us with in the flesh.

“Harper’s ability to have a mixed farm I found personally very useful, as it allowed me to get involved with all areas of agriculture and experience my strengths and weaknesses - one strength which was pigs, which I decided to pursue in my placement year.”

He added: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at ForFarmers as it gave me a strong insight into the animal feeds industry with special reference to the customer supply chain, key accounts, technical support and marketing.

“I travelled all round the mainland UK meeting with pig producers to provide technical assistance - I also got the chance to attend key events within the UK Farming Calendar such as The Pig Awards and Pig & Poultry Fair.

“The skills and knowledge that I obtained through my experience in industry have proved to be vital as I work towards re-entering the industry on graduation.”

ForFarmers UK is supporting Stephen with a further Pig Industry Scholarship in his final year, and once he completes his degree, he will take up a role with ForFarmers as UK Young Animal Feeds Specialist.

He added: “The job role allows me to travel all over the UK and provide technical sales support to customers and prospects. There is also the component of travelling abroad with my work - which will allow me to experience global agriculture.”

He added: “Receiving the (Victor Truesdale) Award was a great achievement as it has been known to be quite a competitive award in the past. It is an award that is well recognised at home due to the sponsors John Thompsons and Sons Ltd who the late Victor Truesdale worked for.

“The awards night has a great atmosphere!”