Milly Fyfe: recruitment and retention – How can we improve?

Milly Fyfe: recruitment and retention – How can we improve?

Are we our own worst enemies when it comes to recruitment in the farming industry? Farming Entrepreneur Milly Fyfe tells us how she forged her career in the sector and what we can learn from this.
Milly Fyfe.
Farming entrepreneur and podcaster Milly Fyfe.
Milly Fyfe.
Farming entrepreneur and podcaster Milly Fyfe.

Milly Fyfe is a farmer, food producer, and digital marketing expert. She recently registered a community interest company to connect consumers with food grown in the UK and how to prepare tasty meals from scratch. Find out more about Milly and her work.

There’s no hiding behind the fact that labour is a huge concern for many food and farming businesses. Speak to any business owner about what they have the most difficulty with or spend more time than they’d like on, and they’d probably say ‘recruitment and retention.’  

Attracting skilled people from a diverse range of backgrounds can be a challenge when the perception is that you’d be working long hours, taking part in back-breaking work for a low wage and limited time off.  

Looking from the outside in, I can see those challenges head on. I’m not originally from a farming background, but I grew up in a rural area. Despite many barriers, I've (with determination) carved out my own career in the industry and wanted to share some insight.  

It’s not been an easy journey for me, partly because I’ve not had the capital behind me and I wasn’t born into agriculture, but also because I am a young woman. But as I’ve alluded to, I'm motivated, not afraid of a challenge, and my life motto (or internal drumbeat) always speaks to me saying, ‘Dare to be different.’ 

Young Farmers

At secondary school, I was the only student to choose Agriculture (with Business and Management) as the direction of choice after A levels. That route wasn’t chosen because I had career advice or because my parents or wider family farmed; it was because, at the age of 14, I joined my local Young Farmers’ Club.  

Forming friendships with other young people who lived and worked on local farms gave me an insight into how passionate and caring those people were for the environment and the community around them. I’d take part in public speaking, stock judging, and cooking competitions and organise social events to raise money for charities and good causes. I was inspired.  

I also gained many life skills you wouldn’t learn through the education system. How to budget for an event, chair a meeting, work as part of a team and speak in front of a crowd. It gave me confidence, a network of people who now hold some of the top jobs in our sector, and greater employment opportunities as I had such a varied CV.  

After university, I stood on my own feet and quickly learned to budget for the rent, bills, and food before spending any surplus on socialising. But working mainly for the not-for-profit sector and membership organisations, the salaries and development opportunities were limited. 

Sponsorship and professional development

So, along the way, I’d see opportunities to apply for grant funding and sponsorship to help with my personal and professional development to attend conferences, events, leadership courses, and join networks. These included the Challenge of Rural Leadership course from the Worshipful Company of Farmers, the Windsor Leadership programme, the Oxford Farming Conference, Women in Food and Farming, and the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists.

On top of all this, I became the youngest woman not from a farming background to receive an associateship from the Royal Agricultural Societies. I’ve used the learning from these experiences to establish my own business in the farming industry, giving me a chance to give back and make a difference. That's what's most important to me.

We're here to help you develop your skills

Our online service is designed to help farmers and growers identify and tackle the gaps in their knowledge and skills.

Milly says: "TIAH's online services will be a valuable resource for anyone wanting to gain knowledge or enhance their CPD within the farming sector.

"It's important as an industry that we signpost people to access the information available."

Sign up to find out how we can help with your training needs.

So here are a few top tips on how I feel we should convey agriculture to the wider world to fulfil labour shortages and promote it as an attractive career prospect. 

Cut back on the jargon 

We often talk in acronyms and need more detail on certain terminology. Keep information simple and offer learning opportunities for new recruits to learn more about the sector.  

Provide CPD opportunities 

Give staff the opportunity to develop their role, travel, and learn from other businesses. Doing the same job day in day out becomes a drag, and motivation levels will wane. TIAH is making great headway with an online CPD portal where individuals can access various information and training.  

Advertise job opportunities away from the usual sources 

If you only advertise in farming publications, you’ll only ever reach the people who read those publications. Think about your target demographic. Where do they go, what do they read, what do they search for on social media? Targeted advertising in different industries or mainstream universities could also be an option.  

Offer a job share package or flexible working 

Those with young children or different circumstances at home can be put off from applying for opportunities. This may be because, while they are highly skilled and want to apply their knowledge, they cannot commit to a full-time job or work away from home frequently.  

The best person for the job 

Do not discriminate or place an unconscious bias on an individual. People are getting better at calling this out, and I’m fed up with hearing and seeing this. We should be a welcoming, attractive industry to want to work in. 

Provide support 

Having a mentor or role model has often helped keep me in check and ensure I work to my best abilities. That person can be a huge support in providing support, guidance, a listening ear, or helping to strive for a good work/life balance, for example. 

It’s also worth checking out schemes like The Henry Plumb Foundation, which offers mentoring and grant support, or the Women in Food and Agriculture network.

You can follow Milly Fyfe on Twitter and Instagram or visit her business websites, or

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