Q & A with Agricultural Trainee Tom Rhodes

17th August 2017

Agricultural trainee Tom Rhodes is working alongside our Head of Agriculture Richard Pearson offering producer support. We caught up with him over a cuppa to find out about his training so far and what’s still to come.

How would you sum up your first few months at Chippindale Foods?

Busy and extremely varied. I’ve had a real overview of the whole business since I joined, from working in the packing centre to going out with the drivers to collect eggs from farms and deliver them to distribution centres after packing. One of the most interesting things I’ve done so far is attending a meeting about Avian Influenza at NFU headquarters. It was fascinating to hear from the government’s chief vet and those working in the poultry industry.

Did you have any experience of farming before joining Chippindale?

I grew up on the family farm and still live on the land that’s farmed by my grandparents and aunt. Their main focus is pig farming and I’ve been used to helping out at weekends and during the holidays. Having that farming background has been a huge help when I’ve been visiting producers and helping out on poultry farms as part of my training.

What has impressed you most?

The personal relationship between Chippindale Foods and the farmers they work with. Richard knows every farmer really well and it’s obvious that his knowledge and experience is appreciated, particularly by the new producers that are just starting out with chickens.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learnt?

I had no idea how much went into hen welfare and how important it is to have a healthy flock. Stress has an effect on egg size, shape and quality so it really is important to make sure the hens are happy and well fed. The farmers spend a lot of time going round the flock to check up on them and make sure all’s well and now I understand why.

How will you be spending the coming months?

I’m looking forward to familiarising myself with each farmer and flock. There’s so much to learn and every farm and producer does things differently. What they all have in common is a desire to produce very high quality eggs and operate a cost effective business. That means collecting and analysing a lot of data. It’s all very technical and I intend to spend time learning as much as I can about that side of things while I’m on site with the producers.