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From Afghanistan to Ayr

Chapelton student swaps army for agriculture

After growing up on a beef and sheep farm in South Lanarkshire, James Orr initially decided against a career in agriculture and joined the army instead.

However, after fulfilling his boyhood dream and completing tours in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, the 26-year-old from Chapelton applied to study agriculture at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in Edinburgh.

“Being Scottish and wanting to stay closer to home, SRUC was the natural choice,” he said. “I also felt the course gave the best coverage of topics relevant to a career in agriculture.”

While at SRUC, he took advantage of the opportunity to complete skills training, including a ‘using pesticides safely’ course.

Apart from his studies, he got involved in the Edinburgh Agrics rugby team as well as the Edinburgh Farm Management Society – becoming vice chair and then chairman of the student group which focuses on entrepreneurship and rural careers.

“Reflecting on my time at SRUC, I’m certainly glad I did it, as it’s opened a lot of doors,” he said. “Going to Edinburgh also means you can enjoy a good student lifestyle, with good night life.”

Four years on, James has gained a BSc Honours degree and a job as a trainee consultant with SAC Consulting – part of SRUC – in Ayr.

The job offer follows on from a 10-week placement he did with the agricultural consultants in his third year.

“I was nervous that after only three years my knowledge of agriculture wouldn’t be up to scratch and I wouldn’t be able to contribute effectively to a team of experienced agricultural consultants,” said James. “However I soon realised that even at degree level, SRUC had already taught me enough to allow me to help them out, complete my own work with little assistance and argue with them at tea time over various agricultural subjects.

“I’m looking forward to starting the new job as it will enable me to keep learning and furthering my knowledge of agriculture. Being a 9-to-5 job, Monday to Friday, it will allow me to stay involved in the family business, helping my dad out and hopefully enable us to build a business that is sustainable both environmentally and economically.

“Having the off-farm income will also allow me to support myself and use the skills and knowledge I have learned at SRUC, and will learn at SAC, to improve the farm at home. I think an off-farm income is key to smaller farms surviving at a time where farm budgets are so tight.”

James orr

James Orr graduates from SRUC

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