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Mark Ballard

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I love the practical side, the things I could never do at the city farms in London – such as the tractor driving and the sheep work on a large-scale. I went from being responsible for 15 sheep to looking after 2,000!

Mark Ballard
BSc (Hons) International Agriculture

What prompted you to come and study at Hadlow College?

After my GCSEs, I did a year’s apprenticeship at Mudchute Farm in London, through Badgehurst Training. I then started a 2-year Diploma in Animal Management at Hadlow’s Mottingham campus. I’m a Londoner, so it was local to me. I swiftly realised I wanted to get into farming; I’d had a real passion for it since I was young and, from the age of 15, had worked at various other London city farms, including Newham, Spitalfields, Vauxhall and Brooks.

Hadlow College offered me the opportunity to study agriculture in a location not too far from home and family, so it was an obvious choice for me.

What has been your favourite aspect of your course so far?

I love the practical side, the things I could never do at the city farms in London – such as the tractor driving and the sheep work on a large-scale. I went from being responsible for 15 sheep to looking after 2,000!

A highlight of the course was last year’s week-long study tour around the vineyards of Reims, in the champagne region of France - and we’re going to Ireland this summer, which I’m really looking forward to.

I feel very lucky to have learnt from the wide-ranging experience of my lecturers: Phil Martin, Alan West and Howard Lee. I know when I leave Hadlow that I can still stay in contact with them for advice and career guidance. They genuinely care about your career.

What do you hope to do next?

I’m going to work on a commercial farm, somewhere local in the medium term - but maybe one day move up North, where land is cheaper, and run my own farm.

How do you think your qualification/course will help you in the future?

The course opens your eyes to the different methods they use for arable and livestock farming in the diverse climates of Africa, Western Asia and Australasia. There are some innovative techniques used that can often be applied to British farming.

There’s no history of farming in my family - they work in the painting & decorating trade, but are very supportive of what I’m doing – even if they don’t understand what I’m talking about half the time! I think that with a non-farming background and a London accent, you’re not always taken as a serious contender at some of the livestock shows. Everyone at those shows knows Hadlow and it gives you a level of recognition and confidence. I currently have six pedigree sheep which I show – I keep them on a friend’s land and am planning to rapidly grow the flock.

I think that coming from outside the farming community can make you more open to new ideas and perhaps more likely to question established ones.