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APRIL 2014


April 2014




Rock ‘n’ Roll Edition – Various Artists





Farming is the new rock ‘n’ roll


Farming festivals


Rural v urban


From fame to farm


Win tickets to see The Wurzels!


All you need is...farming


Stick it to the man – Emily


Fork the system


Stick it to the man – Alice

Emily Cole Victoria Wilkins


AgriChat on the airwaves

Designed by:


Go go gadget

John Cottle


Come see us at Cereals 2014!

Cover illustrated by:


A day in the life


Stick it to the man – Grace


Stick it to the man – Laura


New to farming?

Published by: NFU, Agriculture House, Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, CV8 2TZ

Filled with words by:

Alex Griffiths

Farming festivals illustrated by: Rhianna Wurman

42. Poster

Advertising sold by: Alan Brown 02476 858955

When we say that farming is the new rock ‘n’ roll, we’re not encouraging you all to throw televisions out of windows or get a bad tattoo. Rock ‘n’ roll is a state of mind – it’s that swagger that comes with knowing you’re at the top of your game, you’re cool and that other people would love to be you. That’s farming at the moment. Agriculture has never been as fashionable as it is today – pop stars are shunning tour buses and crowds of screaming girls for life on the farm. Hell, the future King of England is even getting involved. And when we asked you all if you’d rather be a farmer than a rock star, the answer was unanimously: “YES!” In true rock ‘n’ roll style, we wanted you to stick it to the man. To write about something you really care about. Loads of you entered our columnist competition and we whittled it down to four entries that made us think or made us laugh,

and embodied the #studentfarmer spirit. With this in mind, we’re practising what we preach and going on the road. Cereals, one of the biggest events on the farming calendar, is hosting a conference for young people and we will have our own slot on both days. We’re very aware that it can be difficult for young people to get their views across and make anyone to listen – we’re determined to help solve that problem. We’d love to see you there – for more details turn to page 35. And that’s just one way we’re making your summer amazing – we have a huge amount of competitions in this edition, including (drum roll please) backstage passes to meet The Wurzels. If that isn’t rock ‘n’ roll, we don’t know what is.

Emily Cole Editor of #studentfarmer Email: Twitter: @studentfarmer





April 2014


Come rain or shine, the farming community all look after each other. The flooding in Somerset is a prime example of how we all stick together. Working with livestock can be


stressful at times but it can also be beautiful – no matter how many times I have seen a lamb being born (which is a lot of times!) I still find it magical

Just as rock ‘n’ roll became more than just a particular taste

I am not from a farming family, I am from a town and basically go against all the farming stereotypes. You don’t have to be a farmer’s son or daughter to get into farming – you just need to be interested and very keen to succeed


in music, farming


is more than just a


production method –


our food choices can


be a way of expressing


our attitudes, beliefs


and sometimes our ethics

I was always told: find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life. For me, that job is

Farming is just simply the best

farming. One life – live it and farm

job going – you get to work out in the fresh air all the time (no stuffy office), no day is ever the same and you get to work with stock


– you can chat to them and they


always agree with you! We are the only people who rock tweed correctly. And farming wouldn’t

Because it is very much defined by the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’– farming is very much hard work, but we certainly know how to party!

quite be farming without the YFC – you’re part of one massive farming family!

April 2014




Redfest When: 25-26 July Where: Red Hill, Surrey Best thing: It’s acceptable to listen to heavy metal without being laughed at Acts confirmed: Peace, Hudson Taylor, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Lulu James, Billy Lockett and much more Fascinating fact: It started out with a pub and a farmer, like most great things do Who should go? The festival has a reputation for championing new bands. So, if you want to hear the next big thing before they’re famous, this is the place.

The Wickerman Festival When: 25-26 July Where: East Kirkcarswell, Scotland Best thing: Festival-goers are encouraged to make much merriment but are asked to refrain from burning things ceremoniously (there’s enough of this anyway) Acts confirmed: Dizzee Rascal, The Feeling, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Model Aeroplanes, The Zombies, Big Country, Finding Albert Fascinating fact: 320 sheep, 600 lambs, 60 cows and 60 calves are relocated elsewhere while the festival is on Who should go? Fans of funfairs, circuses, segways, mountain biking and fire (a 40ft Wickerman is set alight every year). You don’t necessarily have to do all these things at once – although we would be impressed.

April 2014


Lounge on the Farm When: 2 August Where: Merton Farm, Canterbury Best thing: Lounge on the Farm has its very own ale, which is brewed by Shepherd Neame Acts confirmed: Fun Lovin’ Criminals are headlining Fascinating fact: Burgers at the festival come from cows born and bred at Merton Farm – field to plate without leaving the farm gate. And the event gets through 4,000kg of ice, so rest assured your pint will be nice and cold Who should go? Apparently the farm has fantastic drainage and therefore it never stays muddy for long. So, if the infamous images of people covered in mud have put you off, Lounge on the Farm is the festival for you.

FarmFest When: 1-2 August Where: Gilcombe Farm, Somerset

Underneath the Stars

Best thing: It started as a festival for friends – and it’s stayed that way

When: 25-27 July Where: Cannon Hall Farm, Yorkshire Best thing: It’s the baby of the bunch – this is its first year! Acts confirmed: Kate Rusby, The Puppini Sisters, Richard Thompson, Treacherous Orchestra, Sarah Jarosz, Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds, plus many more

Acts confirmed: Public Service Broadcasting, Melt Yourself Down, Alpines, DJ Food, Skinny Lister, Emily and The Woods, Beans on Toast

Fascinating fact: The festival field is normally home to 500 sheep

Fascinating fact: The main stage at Farmfest has been constructed and designed using a lorry that was bought on eBay for just 50p

Who should go: Do you like the ‘idea’ of festivals, but have heard one too many horror stories? This is the one for you – the event is determined to provide the best possible facilities, so banish all thoughts of queuing for blocked plastic portaloos, damp outdoor stages, soggy chips and sour beer.

Who should go: Short on pennies? FarmFestival aren’t fans of inflated prices, so you won’t need to sell a family member in order to attend.



WIN FESTIVAL TICKETS! For your chance to win, do the following: 1) open up an email 2) put the name of the festival in the subject line 3) include your name, address and phone number 4) send it to 5) cross your fingers

Redfest: one pair of weekend tickets Lounge on the Farm: two pairs of tickets FarmFest: two pairs of weekend tickets The Wickerman Festival: one pair of weekend tickets Underneath the Stars: two pairs of camping tickets PLUS YOU COULD WIN THESE GREAT PRIZES... Sleep in style


Have you ever tried to find one green tent in a field of thousands? Well we have, and it isn’t something we’d recommend. With that in mind, FieldCandy have given us an AMAZING cow tent to give away to one lucky reader. If you want to win this prize (and why wouldn’t you?) put ‘Amazing cow tent’ in the subject line and email your name, address and phone number to for your chance to win. Happy camping!

Mole Valley Farmers are giving us two pairs of Barbour classic wellies to give away. For your chance to win, email your name, address and phone number with ‘Barbour wellies’ in the subject line to And, for the second year running, Mole Valley Farmers will be searching for festival welly testers. Have a look at the Mole Valley Farmers’ Twitter and Facebook pages for more information!

Don’t be stinky Let’s be honest, you’ll never be 100 per cent prepared for a festival, but these festival kits by Filthy Fox will give you a bit of an advantage (disposable toilet anyone?). It includes everything you’ll forget to take with you and they’re giving us five kits to give away. For your chance to win, email your name, address and phone number to studentfarmer@ with ‘Filthy Fox’ in the subject line.

April 2014


the “Even if people do know ey have no basics of farming, th how involved ap preciation for just is” and time-consuming it

NAME: Tom Lander TOPIC: Rural v urban


don’t think my father minds too much that my degree is in languages and international politics, as opposed to agriculture. When I was growing up and working on the farm, I assured him for years that farming was all I wanted to do, but somehow I ended up living in London, miles from any herds or flocks. In my final year I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore and moved back home and now I commute – it’s a large part of my day, but it’s beyond worth it. Yet whenever I’m in town it’s always a novelty for people when they find out my background and what I do at weekends. I suppose I can’t blame them – when you live in the city, the notion of vast open spaces and woodland is limited to a few acres of parkland surrounded by tarmac, smoke and concrete. What I hate though is how it feels as if farmers simply don’t exist. For most urbanites, food production means binge-stacked shelves and neatly arranged, clinical man-made packets, ready for the taking. The thought that someone barely 30 miles from them is dedicating their life to rearing cattle or growing wheat never crosses their mind. I’m not angry at any individuals here, more at the idea that it’s normal that the connection between field and fork is at best underplayed and at worst unknown or ignored. Aside from being the last thing they expect, telling people I’m currently spending my weekends in a lambing shed is often met with indifference. I don’t think that’s because people aren’t interested, but because they recognise how ignorant they are and are embarrassed to ask about what they know should be common knowledge. What they fail to realise is that rather than being indignant, I’d love to tell them more. I love revealing just how much there is to

farming: it’s all normal on the farm, but for the uninitiated even the basic concept of foot rot is a revelation. I’m not saying that we should get our anoraks on and describe NVZs or gestation periods in length, but we should simply let people know that being a farmer means rolling a dozen or more jobs into one. This is what really gets me: even if people do know the basics of farming, they have no appreciation for just how involved and time-consuming it is, and that you need real passion and dedication to not only take it up, but to carry it on year after year. I think that the stereotype of a backwardsbumpkin is still predominant in the collective imagination. What people fail to realise is that farmers have always needed to be flexible, intelligent and dynamic in order to survive. The current generation of young farmers, and those in the wider industry, have to live up to these qualities even more today as British agriculture secures its future survival. Simply by changing the job titles, I’m confident that I could make any farmer’s CV equal to any of the managers and executives that I see flitting around the city. I’m close to graduating now and all I’m thinking about is how I can get out there and make people care about food, farmers and the countryside. They’re happy to enjoy what these three things have to offer, but less willing to understand them. I want to help change that.




April 2014


meet JONATHAN BENJAMIN (JB) GILL Farming’s newest recruit just so happens to be a former member of the boy band JLS. He started off with a 10 acre smallholding in Kent and he’s recently bought a 180 acre deer farm in Wick, Scotland I had a plot of land and I wanted to do something with it. That’s how it all started. It was a little bit of an unorthodox decision really because farming isn’t in my blood, or something I have mountains of experience in. When I looked into the different options, deer farming really stood out as something to explore – deer come and go on my land as they please, so I was really keen to go down that route. It just proves that you don’t have to have it in your genes – and that it’s cool.

Even when I was in JLS I came back home to farm. Farming isn’t something I went into straight out of JLS – obviously I have more time now the group are no longer together but I was still involved in farming while we were together. It takes a lot of time and not only practically – I’ve done hours of research about topics, what they mean and how to do them the right way. However it’s not something you can read in a book – you have to learn on the ground. You can’t just read a textbook and immediately earn the right to call yourself a farmer.

I felt part of this industry right from the beginning – but it’s all about education. People have been so welcoming and supporting – they even think I bring a new dimension to farming. Farming can sometimes be seen as a potentially dying trade – lots of people live in the countryside then want to move to the city to try out new and different things. And there are so

many young people who want to get into farming but just don’t know how. Then there are others who see it as just a family-farming industry. They think you’re either born into it or not into it at all – that’s wrong. I want to change that and show you don’t have to be born into the industry.

Farming is a real contrast to the industry I’m used to. Entertainment is all about being at the top. It’s generally about having success over and above the rest. In farming, people want to include me and want me to be part of their industry, their culture and the farming world. It’s different – but a good different.

Tradition and history makes British farming the best in the world. British farming is steeped in history across the board and it’s worldrenowned. I feel that British farming is a pioneer for the industry as a whole. It’s amazing to be part of something where you can see what happens from farm to fork, you grow it and eat it –

it’s great and that love will never die out.

Be encouraged. Jump into it. Take me, for example – I had no experience in farming and I didn’t know much about it before I started researching. There is no reason why anyone should limit their learning just because they don’t know or don’t understand. There’s always the opportunity to learn, investigate and develop yourself. Venture into something different that you’re passionate about – what’s bad about that?

We need to prove that farmers have good fashion sense. That’s one stereotype that definitely needs to go! That has got to change radically and I’m going to prove everyone wrong. Farming is rock ‘n’ roll – more people should know that.

My pig has a Twitter account. Ginger is amazing. She has her own fans and she’s a massive diva. So when we’re talking about rock ‘n’ roll, farming does have it and especially on my farm – it’s all about Ginger.


April 2014




If you’re a typical young farmer you will know all the words to Combine Harvester and you’ll be damned proud about it too. Singer and top-notch accordion player Tommy Banner dishes the dirt about life on the road We wear wellies at the Royal Bath and West show. That’s the only connection we have to farming. Oh, we also drink milk. I’ve had a go at farming but it’s too much hard work for me. We sure love to write songs about it, though.

It does what it says on the tin. That’s why I think young people love our music. We’re not about making angry music; we show everyone a good time. We do a gig in Barnstaple and four generations of the same family come every year and every so often a new generation is added to the pack – talk about keeping it in the family!

The life of a Wurzel is a great one. We had the chance to play on Top of the Pops and share our music with thousands of people – what’s not great

about that? We don’t do a lot of gigs anymore; we have one-night stands.

Someone actually drove a tractor through a haystack. The song came about after a guy named Ed Welch, who was a music producer at EMI, returned from a trip to Ireland. He overheard a conversation where someone said ‘I drove my tractor through your haystack last night’. Everything in the song stemmed from that one line and conversation.

When he came back it took us a few weeks to finalise the song. We were in the studio at that time so we just put our own Wurzel slant on it. We’ve been singing Combine Harvester since 1976 so let’s just say we’ve probably sung it thousands or even hundreds-of-thousands of times. It never gets old.




DO YOU LOVE COMBINE HARVESTER MORE THAN WE DO? We doubt it, but we’re still going to give you the chance to win BACKSTAGE tickets to their gig in Leamington Spa on 23 May. You and a friend will be put on the guest list, so you can watch the gig and meet the band. Don’t say we don’t treat you. Email us at with ‘The Wurzels’ in the subject line, and let us know your name and contact details. Oh, and make sure you’re free on 23 May. NO ONE STANDS UP THE WURZELS.



All you need is...


April 2014


How a random idea is born…


hen we decided that the theme of this edition would be ‘farming is the new rock ‘n’ roll’ we knew we needed to do another big photoshoot to prove our point. We wanted to take a classic rock ‘n’ roll image and make it our own. The Beatles’ Abbey Road cover was the obvious choice. That was the easy bit. The hard bit would be convincing everyone else that it was a good idea and then getting some people to pose for us! An email that starts with: ‘We’re going to recreate the famous Abbey Road image with young farmers, got any we

can borrow?’ had massive potential to look a tad deranged. However, luckily, Reaseheath College thought it was a great idea too. Some of you won’t have a clue what the original image looks like – in which case, get on Google, immediately. And have a listen to The Beatles – try it, you might just like it. Every British person is born with an innate appreciation for The Beatles – it’s in your DNA, don’t fight it. We’re so pleased with the finished image and we hope you like it too. Our models were fantastic – despite constant rain, they pretended to walk

like pros. Big thanks to Cognac too – a calf with a name like that was always going to be a rock star. We had a brilliant day – there’s nothing better than meeting our readers and hearing what they have to say. Here are some behind the scenes shots of how we put the image together and a few words from the people who took part. They’re not just pretty faces…

Ella Raw, 17 “I’d recommend farming to everyone – I love working outside with animals. Would I rather be a farmer than a rock star? Definitely! Any day!”

Callum Pitchford, 18

Chris Adamson, 19 “I’ve been to America and I want to go to Australia next. In America I did the 2,000 mile harvest. You start in Texas and work your way up to Canada. Then you go back down and start again! “The perception that the media puts across of farming is wrong. We’re not just in it to make loads of money – we’re farmers because we love it. “The media pick out the bad farms more than the great farms. They only want whatever sells more papers – they don’t tell the good news.”

“I have a black eye in this photo... I was trying to lift a sheep up with some straps because she is off her feet at the moment. But I didn’t tie them properly and one of the metal couplings fell down on top of me. That’s pretty rock ‘n’ roll, isn’t it?”



ck ‘n’ roll because ro w ne e th is ng mi “Far ere is nothing” without farming, th

Nathan Edwards, 17 “Why is farming the new rock ‘n’ roll? Because it’s the future, isn’t it?”

Erica Bowyer, 16 “When I was growing up, we had a family friend who was a milkman. I visited him one day to ask if his dog could come to my dog’s birthday party (!) and he was calving a cow. I remember standing there, watching him, amazed – I knew it was what I wanted to do. I’ve always loved sheep – I got two lambs when I was 11 and every year I’ve bought more – I’ve started breeding them now. I didn’t tell my mum – I got them, and told her afterwards!”

Amy Bowman, 19 “I’m from Liverpool – originally I wanted to be a veterinary nurse but I couldn’t find a place, so I ended up doing the level 2 qualification for a year and I realised it was what I wanted to do. Anyone can do it – you just need to be hardworking and determined. “I don’t like the way girls are singled out. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I prove them wrong.”

April 2014




“The reality faci ng today’s farmer presents on ly two choices: expand an d diversify or leave the indust ry”

hatever happened to the Herriot wannabes? As a veterinary student at Bristol University, it is pretty rare to find anyone who wants to go into farm practice. Too often, the veterinary profession is portrayed solely from a small animal perspective – not only could this account for the lack of prospective farm vets but also for the ridiculously high girl:boy ratio at vet school. Thankfully, I’m one of the (mad?) few who want to spend their life shoulder-deep in a cow. I spent my childhood rambling in the idyllic Welsh hills. Dad used to perch me on his shoulders to watch the combines and I would toddle into the cow sheds, fascinated by these gentle beasts. There were seven dairy farms in my village then. Now only one survives which, like so many others, struggles to keep afloat under the burden of TB restrictions. Even in my lifetime, farming has changed considerably. In most cases, this change is good to see; it must, like every other industry, move with the times in order to be sustainable. The reality facing today’s farmer presents only two choices: expand and diversify or leave the industry. Sadly, this has forced many out of business, but the farms that remain are part of the new farming age and are heading towards an exciting future. Expansion can only work alongside efficiency, and this is where the farm vet comes into play. It is, therefore, of some concern that aspiring farm vets are in decline. A conservation attempt has been set up in the form of the Farm Association of Veterinary Students

(FAVS). There are regular farm-related events in every vet school as well as an annual congress over a weekend in February which I’ve just attended. It was a fantastic event with an impressive range of topics, from dealing with difficult calvings (amusingly demonstrated with a toy dog and a water butt) to deer management and responsible use of medicines. One of the most important roles of FAVS is to bridge the gap between the farming and veterinary professions – Bristol has run events with its local YFC, one of the lectures at congress focused on what farmers expect from vets and £600 was raised over the weekend to help those whose farms were flooded on the Somerset Levels. This link seems crucial to me as the farmer-vet partnership is growing ever stronger. Regular visits, clear treatment plans and a sound knowledge of the farm as a whole are becoming increasingly vital for our work. Sick animals reduce efficiency and profits, which is not sustainable in what is fundamentally a business enterprise. Hence, our approach must now be primarily prophylactic, with vets making crucial decisions alongside the farmer on issues such as vaccination, dealing with new diseases and responsible use of anthelmintics and antibiotics. It seems that both farming communities and veterinary practices face similar issues in getting young people interested in working with production animals, but I believe that if we work together, strong foundations can be built which will stand both professions in good stead for the many challenges that will undoubtedly be faced in the future.

FORK THE April 2014


SYSTEM There’s anarchy amongst the young horicultural set – it’s time to listen up

JAMES WONG BOTANIST AND BBC PRESENTER THERE IS MORE TO HORTICULTURE THAN WHAT GOOGLE TELLS YOU. I don’t agree with what the internet tells you about horticulture. It’s a load of rubbish. The first thing that comes up is the government’s job profiles website – its definition of a ‘horticultural worker’ says your daily activities will include cutting back dead growth, sweeping up leaves and (wait for it) general tidying up. They say that no qualifications are needed to work in the industry, although, some knowledge of plants might be desirable. You will start at £12k a year – which is less than minimum wage. Wow, I can’t wait, sign me the hell up. DON’T LISTEN TO YOUR CAREER ADVISER. SHE’LL TELL YOU BAD THINGS. No offence to career advisers, but in all honesty they’re probably going to point you in the wrong direction. They’ll probably tell you what a bad choice loving plants is. I have a friend called Carlos Magdalena who sounds exotic, but once you

translate it to English it means ‘Charles Muffin’. He’s a code breaker and basically figures out how to grow plants that no one knows how to grow. How cool is that? Take that, careers advisers. There was a kid in the 1970s who took a cutting of a plant into his career adviser. She didn’t say ‘what on earth are you doing with that’ or ‘that’s against health and safety’ or ‘put it down, it’s dirty, go and be an insurance salesman’ – she told him how great it was and took him to the National Herbarium to figure out what it was. The guy at the herbarium nearly had a heart attack because they’d believed the plant had been extinct for more than 100 years – that cutting was thought to be the last one. That’s an example of a good careers adviser.

NO, I DON’T LOVE HORTICULTURE BECAUSE I LIKE FRESH AIR – I LOVE IT BECAUSE I GET TO BE AN ASTRONAUT. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But, like I said, horticulture is infinitely diverse. There’s one guy in space called Mike Hopkins. He’s an engineer in the International Space Station and he’s growing plants on the side, trying to get them to grow in that environment. Believe it or not, NASA are hiring horticulturalists right now. FOR THE RECORD, WE’RE NOT ALL ALAN TITCHMARSH. Just like the fact that we’re not all 65, have a walled garden and trot around dressed in French provincial gear. We’re none of



“Strip away the checked shirts and wellies and us farming and horticulture geeks are real-world superheroes” those things. You have to break the mould and separate yourself from the stereotypes. Do it differently. Horticulture can be its own worst enemy at times – it can be more than a little adverse to risking new ideas or standing out from the crowd. It then wonders why it isn’t of mass mainstream appeal. IT’S OK TO BE CRAZY. When I first decided to design a garden at Chelsea Flower Show with absolutely zero experience or training, I just cold-called the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and asked for an application form. When I came up with the idea that working in TV could be fun, I randomly emailed all the producers of my favourite TV shows. Most people think these are such crazy long shots they would never bother attempting them. But five




RHS medal-winning gardens and four TV series later, I am pretty glad I took those ‘ridiculous’ gambles. WE’RE NOT LITTER PICKERS. To the superpowers of the future – China, Brazil and India – horticulture is a cutting-edge science; the key to saving our global future. NASA is planning on creating a garden on the moon by 2016, believing it to be essential for the future of space travel, and the

Singaporeans are pumping billions into 21st century eco-architecture. Meanwhile, in the UK we have been sold a myth that it’s all about laying decks on makeover TV. It is scandalous! Mastering horticulture is crucial for tackling the biggest challenges that face humanity, from food security to climate change and stemming the massive loss in biodiversity. We need our best and brightest to know that it is not about mowing and digging holes, but quite literally about ensuring human survival. Strip away the checked shirts and wellies and us farming and horticulture geeks are real-world superheroes.

April 2014



JACK SHILLEY FOUNDER OF YOUNGHORT HORTICULTURE IS IN MY BLOOD, SO WHAT? I’ve been interested in horticulture since I was six-years-old when I managed to bag my first-ever greenhouse. Since that moment I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in, so my future career was pretty much set in stone in my eyes. YoungHort started last year after a great reception on Twitter. TV gardener Christine Walkden encouraged us to make a go of it and here we are. WE’RE ALL HERE FOR THE SAME REASON. Sure, the initiative experienced some hiccups at the start, but that was because of the definition of a ‘young horticulturist’. The older generation of horticulturists don’t consider themselves, well, old. It’s important to strike a balance where young horticulturists think we’re hip and trendy, but still retaining the knowledge base of the older generation. I’M NOT OLD, SO WHY DOES EVERYONE THINK I SHOULD BE? Just because I love horticulture doesn’t mean I’m an old man. There is a lot that needs to change including people’s perception of the industry – especially the perception of the younger generation. We are

skilled. We are out there and we are capable of holding our own. There’s this assumption that everyone behind a gardening article has to be around 65 – it’s wrong. The public needs to know that young people are passionate about this sector and they’re just as knowledgeable as the older generation. I DON’T DIG UP WEEDS ALL DAY. Horticulture is so diverse and it’s not about trimming branches and digging out weeds until the cows come home. I CAN EVEN GARDEN WITH AN IPAD. Not literally. But seeing as the younger generation is now so hooked on technology the sector has had to embrace it and it hasn’t half embraced it well. For example, you can control the conditions in a greenhouse via the touch of a button. If you look at the opportunities out there you’d see that it’s not just about weeds and branches – you could be sowing seeds in a totally man-controlled and hi-tech greenhouse or developing the next big breakthrough – the possibilities are endless.

The wonderful thing about horticulture is that it’s easy to dabble in it before you commit. It’s a bit difficult to decide if you want to be a dairy farmer without getting up at 4am and surrounding yourself with udders, but it’s easy to try horticulture on a small-scale before deciding if you want it to be your career. Horticulture is also one of the easiest ways for people in urban areas to see if they have a green-finger and if, actually, they’d like to trade in their 9-5 admin job for something a bit more exciting, thank you very much. A campaign that aims to seize on peoples’ increased interest in growing food and flowers is Grow Wild. It hopes to inspire people across the UK to transform unloved spaces with wild flowers. As rebellion goes, we think it’s pretty amazing. UK native wild flowers have seen their numbers fall by a huge 97 per cent since the 1930s. But, hopefully, Grow Wild will inspire people to transform empty urban spaces and even windowsills into wildlife friendly wild flower patches. So, if you’re looking for a cheap way to rebel and fancy getting your hands dirty, visit for more details. The project will be transforming urban rooftops, underpasses, bus stops and even a clapped-out taxi. Lots of people in urban areas never venture out to the countryside – so maybe it’s time it was brought to them?

April 2014


Memoirs of a lambing student NAME: Alice Dyer TOPIC: Lambing


t’s a dark drizzly morning and I’ve spent the past hour trying to work out which escaped lambs have wormed their way into the wrong pen with the wrong ewe and I’ve got a hundred other things that need to be done. That’s right, you’ve got it; it’s lambing time. There’s something amazing about watching life come into the world and a ewe immediately doting on her newborn offspring. But there are also the downsides. When I say this I particularly recollect one event that my boss and I entitled ‘the water birth’. No, we have not discovered a new method of pain relief for lambing ewes. It was first thing and we were checking some tegs that were lambing in the field. One ewe in obvious need of help was being particularly stubborn to catch and we very cleverly (or so we thought) cornered her on the edge of a lake. As I took one final leap for the beast she had other ideas and propelled herself headfirst into the pond while her lamb’s head simultaneously emerged. At risk of drowning both the lamb and the ewe, we had little time to decide what to do. My boss, very kindly, opted to be the scuba diver at this point and followed the ewe into the water and passed me the lamb which needed urgent resuscitation. Soaking wet, she rugby tackled the ewe out of the water while I put my mouth round the lamb’s amniotic fluid-covered nose and brought her back to life. Saving an animal’s life is a great feeling but before you’ve even had breakfast it’s not for those with a weak stomach. Sheep seem to have a strange knack of doing the complete opposite of what you want, without you even showing them a hint of what you wanted them to do in the first place. It’s always the day you decide that lambing is quiet and you give yourself the afternoon off that a ewe prolapses and quintuplets are born. Sadly with life comes death and one day, carrying a dead lamb back in from the field, a car pulled up next to me and a man popped his head out. He started asking the normal mindless questions such as ‘are they ready for market yet?’ Eventually he built up the courage to ask ‘if I’d like to give him my number’ which I politely declined. It wasn’t until afterwards that it struck me he had just asked out a girl who was covered in mud, iodine, milk powder and various other unpleasant fluids, and who was carrying a dead lamb that no longer had any ears. Now I know men

Goat – not sheep

“There’s something amazing about watching life come into the world and a ewe immediately doting on her newborn offspring” have some unusual fetishes but that was something else! This wasn’t the only time I experienced judgement at an all-time low. On the occasion that I’d need to move the sheep up the quiet lanes, cars would often have to pull over to let us pass but, of course, there were also the ones that refused. They refused on such a level that once or twice we’d find ourselves retrieving sheep that had been pushed all the way into the local town and were happily exploring the library and cleverly avoiding the kebab shop. Lambing can be a stressful time for the best of us, with those Texel-shaped bruises, iodine stained fingers and abnormal lack of sleep, but it makes it all worthwhile when you get to watch those lambs grow, race each other up and down the field and, of course, that one special bottle-fed lamb who follows you everywhere you go. Let’s be honest, would you really want it any other way?



Meet Becca, the newest member of AgriChatUK. The team took over the airwaves at Radio 1 for a whole hour recently, to convince the masses that farming is the new rock ‘n’ roll. Here’s her behind-the-scenes account:

April 2014



he BBC Radio 1 experience was definitely a day I won’t forget any time soon. We arrived in earnest, all prepped and ready for our radio debut, although we managed to refrain from the stereotype and left our wellies at home for the day. After a quick briefing over a coffee, we decided that I would host, Will, John, Simon and Jez would join me in the studio and Ed and Charles would run the Twitter discussion for our hour-long special. Radio 1 was awesome, the epitome of cool, with famous signatures adorning the walls, neon lights and state-of-the-art DJ equipment. A far cry from the fresh air and mud of the farmyard! However we couldn’t look around for long and we had to concentrate as Aled, our producer (from the Sunday Surgery), took us through the controls and programme. The desk was a maze of buttons for the phone lines, mikes, music and sound effects, and we had to make sure we pressed them at the right time, in the right order. It definitely wasn’t as easy as the Radio 1 DJs make it sound! But there wasn’t much time to feel daunted because before we knew it we were on. I was so pleased we had been pretty organised because the hour I was worried about filling disappeared really quickly and we had more content than we could use. We’d invited guests to join us on the phone from all sorts of farming sectors. From using drones to monitor crops, to the sexiest farmers in the UK, we chatted away and showed Radio 1 listeners that farming can be progressive, dynamic and fun. Despite not wanting to highlight the less glam side of farming, it was some of the lovely Kate Beaven’s comments that made the final cut – who would guess that welly-wanging and amniotic fluid could be such a crowd pleaser! We played our favourite tunes, gambled our

reputation with a few games and nattered away – and before we knew it, it was all over. I loved the experience; it was such an adrenalin rush and we didn’t even broadcast live. I spend every day writing about agriculture for the NFU so it was a real pleasure to chat about an industry I love so much. We left BBC Centre on a real high and celebrated in the time-honoured way – with a drink in the pub. I’m not sure I have a voice for radio but if anyone gives you the chance to be centre stage in this way, I’d definitely recommend you give it a go!

What is Access All Areas? Radio 1 opened its doors in February to the Great British public. They took listeners behind the scenes online and through podcasts and this year they also invited thirty groups of people to record their very own hour-long show. AgriChatUK was one of the lucky groups selected out of the thousand that applied.

What is AgriChatUK? Every Thursday, farmers get together on Twitter to chat using the hashtag #agrichatuk. There is a different topic every week and everyone is welcome to get involved. The seven AgriChatUK hosts take it in turns to run discussions. Whoever is hosting posts a question every 15 minutes to keep the conversation going. So whether you’re a farmer, student or are just interested in where your food comes from, why not join in – everyone is welcome!

Fancy listening to Becca and the AgriChatUK team? If you want to listen to AgriChatUK Access All Areas at Radio 1 then visit



Go go gadget Tractors, dairy parlours and farm offices are now packing kit that would be the envy of any IT department. But where will the technology go next? Ben Pike looks at the research going on at the University of Reading

That’s not precision – THIS is precision

Researchers are hoping that a new technology called eyeWeed will soon become an essential tool for the arable farmers of the future. High levels of blackgrass in 2013 and the ever-reducing number of products available to control the problem means that there’s a huge amount of interest in the five-year project which concludes next year. Cameras mounted on 24 and 36-metre spray booms capture tens of thousands of sample images which create a map revealing where there is a blackgrass problem. The data – captured during T3 spraying when the crop is mature – then talks to the sprayer during the autumn at pre and post-emergence spraying and treats problem areas, reducing the amount of the field that requires spraying with expensive chemicals. Field mapping and precision spraying are of course already well used by farmers, but what’s revolutionary about this concept is the sheer accuracy and detail of the images that the camera is capturing. Using sensors from the same company that captured images for Google’s incredible Street View application, the cameras work at an ultra-high resolution, capturing detail to one-third of a millimetre.

Gassy cows High-tech research does not only take place in the arable sector. Professor Chris Reynolds is at the heart of a major £3.5m project that examines how altering a cow’s diet affects performance, both in terms of output and, crucially, the amount of nitrogen the animal excretes. Dairy farmers typically feed diets with higher concentrations of crude protein than the animals need, to ensure maximum production and good milk protein levels. But the problem is that cows don’t use the protein efficiently – around three quarters of the nitrogen they consume through the protein comes out the other end, and that’s not good for the environment. Prof Reynolds has previously measured

cow performance over a five-week period with a low-protein maize forage diet and saw improved performance with no penalty on milk yield. Now he’s taking more than 200 Holstein heifers and measuring the impact over three lactations. “We want to show we can feed these diets without too much milk loss but also reveal the long-term impact for farmers,” he said.

Underground capital Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life, but it looks like extreme weather can now be added to that list. Scientists have been looking at how farmers can improve their resilience against future droughts by investing in their soil. Dr Simon Mortimer is developing a way to increase farmland’s resistance to extreme weather events by looking closely at the make-up of their fields. The Soilsense project examines soil biology and its organic matter, measuring how the ground impacts on crop growth. “We have found that if you have a bacteria-dominated below-ground it’s very sensitive to weather whereas fungal-dominated soil is more resilient,” he said.

April 2014


Come and see us at

Cereals 2014 Chrishall Grange, Cambridgeshire: 11-12 June


ne of the biggest events in the arable calendar is, without a doubt, Cereals. Imagine Disneyland for farmers, and you’re not far off. Featuring the very latest products, live demonstrations and talks on issues affecting the sector, it really is an unmissable two days for anyone interested in arable farming. And we haven’t even mentioned the amazing freebies yet… This year, young farmers will be in the spotlight at Cereals. A new addition to the show will be the Inspire Pavilion, sponsored by McDonalds, Massey Ferguson and De Lacy. The two-day conference will feature lots of inspiring talks and interesting debates, and #studentfarmer has been given a slot on each day to talk about the issues we think you’re interested in. On the first day, we will explore why it’s important for young people from agricultural backgrounds to gain experience away from the family farm. The panel will feature Stephen Jones, who has established his own commercial quinoa crop, and James Mills, an NFU combinable crops adviser. On the second day, our focus will shift to how young people who aren’t from farming backgrounds can enter the industry. Our speakers will be Matt Sharp, a first-generation farmer who established his own farming business while he was still at university, and Rebecca Wells, who represents British farmers in Europe at the NFU’s Brussels office. And, finally, our input doesn’t stop there – the afternoon will feature a panel discussion entitled ‘Stories to inspire you’ and one #studentfarmer representative will be stepping up to take part on each day. First up is Helen Reeve, who farms her own beef herd, works six days a week at a dairy farm and also teaches. And second we have Rebecca Watkins, who was selected last year to represent Europe on the International Youth Ag Summit Board of Directors. We’ve featured all these people in #studentfarmer before, so we’re excited to hear what they have to say. Interested? You should be. Put 11-12 June in your diary. Book tickets online and avoid queues on the day by visiting



A DAY IN the life What the average 24-hours looks like for four completely different jobs in the agricultural industry

Matt Ford

CHarlotte Emma Harbottle



When I first started my career with the NFU and NFU Mutual as a group secretary, I thought it was going to mean leaving the farming industry behind, but I soon found that moving from the farm into the office wasn’t such a bad thing. The NFU offered me a great career at a time when I couldn’t see any future for myself in the industry due to accidents I had sustained on the farm. I was a trainee group secretary first and no two days were the same – I did a huge amount of travelling around the country and saw how different agriculture is from Penrith all the way down to Northamptonshire, where my family live. I can recall one day in particular where I knew the role of a group secretary was not just a career, but also a lifestyle.

5.50am: Arrive at work. Change into overalls, steel-toed boots, chainmail apron and flat cap. Turn on the computer and put the kettle on! I sort emails and reply to commercial customers via their email/text orders. I then get to work setting the counter up. This is probably the nicest part of the day, making things look vibrant and displaying meat for the customers to choose from.

8:30am: I had my normal morning chat with the senior group secretary. However, you can plan for the day, but you never really know what is going to happen.

1pm: Lunchtime for the staff, which is when I usually cover their break time, unless I’m running away to have a meeting with a chef or a new customer (or as my staff call it, skiving…). There is never a ‘normal’ day and there is never a dull moment. We thrive on the fresh challenge of the next day. We deal with over 25 different local and national suppliers so we receive deliveries throughout the day. We also portion up carcasses, keep the counter full, communicate to the social media world, handle phone enquiries, help other businesses and the most important bit is (drum roll please) serving customers. I also do quite a lot of writing (or as my staff call it, skiving again – apparently I skive a lot) for all sorts of magazines and I’m in the middle of writing a book.

8:50am: The assistant agent told us there had been a barn fire at a policyholder’s farm. We immediately went to the farm to make sure they were ok and to ensure the claim had been set in motion to get them back up and running. 12pm: We went to another member’s farm to review their policy. For me this is the best part of the job – you get to meet a wide range of people who farm on different scales with different objectives. The job of a group secretary and agent of the NFU Mutual is to ensure the future of farming by protecting their property and income through insurance and helping them with any industry related issues. I would highly recommend anyone graduating and looking for a stable career to send their CV into the NFU, not only for the job role I am in but also for their graduate scheme. The support and training they offer is invaluable and your dream career could be waiting for you! For more details visit

9am: The staff arrive and get changed into appropriate uniform and then we set to it for the day. It’s a great atmosphere – there’s always hilarious banter, which is never-ending.

3.30pm: We start the clean down, wash all knives and equipment, leave the fridges in order, clean the floors and empty the counter. 5pm: My staff and I are due at the pub for a very urgent appointment with a pint or, in my case, a G&T – ready for it all to start again tomorrow!

April 2014






Because I’m a young woman, people don’t expect me to turn up on farm representing Tesco. Some will be wary of me because they’re older and more experienced which means I have to break down a lot of barriers. I am responsible for everything agricultural in a UK store in the pork and egg category – that’s up until the point of slaughter for pork and pre-point of pack for eggs. My days are varied. In a typical morning I will be out on farm, then have a lunchtime meeting with processors to look at strategies to support British farming. In the afternoon it might be a trip to the abattoir to look at welfare in lairage and slaughter. Squeezed into the day will be calls to Tesco’s buyers and the technical managers to let them know what’s happening on the ground and to brief them on anything that will affect their supply. Meeting farmers for Tesco is great. I also have the opportunity to go and see new technology, breeding systems and supply chain developments abroad. Due to the size and scale of Tesco, the job allows you to make changes or improvements that have a significant impact on farmers, customers and the wider supply chain. On the flip side, the job has long hours and a lot of travel too – this adds variety but can be a challenge. British farming is in a place of huge opportunity and potential. Retailers are getting on board with it, and I’m really pleased to be part of a team at Tesco that’s embracing that change. Young people in the industry should be really excited about the future.

6.30am: Awoken by a Labrador in need of relief. 6.32am: Ensure the cat’s safe passage past the hungry dog. 6.50am: Draw up a to-do list. 8am: I belong to a group that introduces small businesses to each other with the aim of hooking you up with work. It’s like speed dating without any chance of a kiss, but it’s a good way for like-minded people to meet. Not as cringe-worthy as it sounds, honest. 10am: Down to the farm. I’ll typically visit three farms a week for interviews and pictures. Freelance journalists either get commissioned by editors to cover a story or they come up with the idea themselves and sell it to an editor. Generally I try to find farmers who are doing something really different, really well or really crazy. 1.30pm: Dog walk round the local fields. When you have a full-time job you need to have regular breaks (for coffee and cake, obviously). It’s the same when you run your own business, but my escape is taking the hound out. It beats chatting to an awkward bloke you’ve never met before while you wait for the kettle to boil. 5pm: If a job needs doing, I can’t afford to ignore it, so despite not really wanting to work past 5pm I regularly have to get articles written up on the same day. Some jobs are straightforward – others aren’t. Nothing makes a journalist’s heart sink more than the sight of a molecular biologist taking the stand at a conference – you know it’s going to be a long night deciphering complex language. 7pm: Food in the oven, beer in hand and football on the telly. Working day over and out.



“Taking the initiative and travelling can be beneficial when developing your own farming systems at home”

NAME: Grace Munro Henworth TOPIC: Travelling


lthough agricultural practices are very specific to individual areas, agriculture is globally diverse and employs a greater number of people than any other industry in the world. It is because of this that I believe students should be encouraged to spend time learning about farming both home and abroad. With the global population estimated to reach 9.6bn by 2050, and poverty levels set to increase, we are constantly reminded about the approaching global food crisis. It will be down to the students being educated now to find solutions to alleviate this problem.

The world demands skilled agricultural professionals that understand the social and technological aspects of innovation processes, and who can apply that knowledge in a variety of contexts worldwide. Therefore, it is important that we, as students, are educated on an international scale. Although a lot can be learnt through theoretical teaching, being fully submerged in another country allows students to broaden their perspectives on the world and reassess their place in it. Taking the initiative and travelling can be beneficial when developing your own farming systems at home. When talking to many friends outside the agricultural industry, they assume that I am ‘just going to go and farm at home’ in the same manner that three previous generations have farmed before me. Although I am fortunate enough to be able to do this, I understand that the world is a far bigger place and I believe that I can use what I have learnt from my travels to improve and move the farm forward. Travelling also builds a network of connections that you can use throughout your lifetime. Fortunately, we work in an industry that pushes us to be rounded individuals – it’s only really a farmer that

could repair a piece of machinery with a few cable ties or some baler twine! These skills enable us to turn our hand to other things in the outside world, so why not make the most of them? I recognise that I have been lucky enough to have already seen agricultural practices abroad with my own eyes, but I do appreciate why others may be reluctant to do so. It is easy to become disassociated with the rest of the world when each day requires sitting on the tractor at home in order to make a living. But, the future of food for the entire world rests on our generation’s shoulders, so it is imperative that we are educated with an international mindset. Opportunities to travel are few and far between; more opportunities need to be created to enable young agriculturalists to travel abroad to not only developed countries, but developing countries. The terms ‘food security’ and ‘global food crisis’ are used on a daily basis, but I am unsure whether everyone understands the impact that poverty in another country could have on us in the UK. It is time to open our eyes and realise that we have a lot to learn from those farming the land thousands of miles away.






They use no-till in the northern steppes to help retain snow – there for increasing soil moisture levels

Innovative selfmodification of machinery and equipment for flower bulb harvests and hydroponic centres

Extensively grazed dairy systems

They use centrepivot irrigation systems

Widespread use of breeding technologies within the sheep industry

FALKLAND ISLANDS Average farm size is 10,000 hectares There are about 640,000 sheep on the island

April 2014


“Just because I wasn’t born and raised on a farm, doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about the industry and its future in this country”

NAME: Laura Williams TOPIC: The future of farming


ne quarter of school children think that fish fingers come from chicken or pigs, according to a recent survey by the British Nutrition Foundation. That’s one quarter of the 27,500 five-16 year olds in Britain today. How is this possible when 73 per cent of five-eight year olds have been on a farm visit? Although I’m not from an agricultural background, I have a clear appreciation for the origins of fish fingers. However, I didn’t expect that this would hamper my chance of getting a career in the agricultural industry, despite gaining a good degree from an agricultural university. The agricultural industry is aware that it needs to encourage more young people to take an interest, even if it’s just having an understanding of where the food on their plate has come from. In turn, this would create a new wave of support for an industry that has previously suffered from negative public opinion. So why is it that new entrants,

with degrees, work experience and a good understanding of the industry, are facing barriers to stop them getting into agriculture? In the Future of Farming Review report produced last year, David Heath MP stressed how farming must be opened up to a new generation of talented and entrepreneurial entrants. The already hard-working and highly skilled employees of agriculture can surely only be improved by the addition of new ideas and different skills from those outside the industry. As climate change causes ever-erratic weather patterns to batter our countryside, our farmers will continue to face huge challenges as they will need to boost agricultural productivity in order to keep up with an ever-increasing population. Just because I wasn’t born and raised on a farm, doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about the industry and its future. I worked extremely hard for four years at university, and have proved myself on many work experience placements, including

those on farms. Surely I deserve a chance to make my mark? I don’t believe that I’m alone in feeling like this either. So what can be done? Including elements of agriculture in the curriculum from an early age will generate knowledge and insight in a new generation. It will improve public opinion of farming as a whole, and help give a rounded argument in situations such as the floods at the start of the year (for example, it’s difficult for the public to sympathise with farmers’ struggles when flood water is running off fields and straight into their front rooms!). However, education is powerful, and had these people known exactly what the floods meant for those farmers who were also severely affected, they would surely have been more likely to pull together and support each other. Teaching children the origins of food empowers them, enabling them to take more interest in their nutrition, and be more aware of buying British in the future. As for new entrants to the industry, we should encourage farmers and companies to provide more graduate training schemes, to give those with the passion and knowledge the technical skills they need to further improve the industry. This will surely benefit us all.

April 2014


Vicky, our new writer, is not from a farming background, like many of you. So, we are going to introduce her to a new aspect of farming every edition and see how she gets on. Like Vicky, many people have an image of the slaughter process in their minds that is incorrect. So we shoved her in an abattoir and made her write about it. Over to Vicky…


f you had seen my face when an email arrived in my inbox with the words ‘lamb’, ‘meat’ and ‘abattoir’ in the heading, you’d probably have thought I’d been subjected to watching the end of Marley and Me on repeat. In the minutes that followed, I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to kill a sheep with my bare hands. I’m not from a farming background. You may be able to tell. I’m not the kind of person who shouts ‘mint sauce’ out of the window while driving past a field full of sheep. However, I agreed to go to the YFC and Eblex ‘meat for the market’ day, to get an insight into how to handle animals, judge carcasses and understand the market. The day came and I got to the abattoir, Elliot & Son in Chesterfield, at 9am sharp. First up, EBLEX’s Steve Powdrill taught us how to grade and judge both live animals and carcasses in line with the EUROPA grid. I managed to grasp it and surprisingly I wasn’t that bad. However, it’s all well and good being told what things are and what they should look like, but until you put what you’ve learnt into practice, nine times out of 10 you haven’t got a hope in hell. So off we trotted to the holding area. There were seven sheep in the holding pen, all males, numbered from one to seven. They were different breeds and sizes and we had to handle each one and feel the loin, dock and ribs and then grade them on what we thought they were and what they would ‘kill out’ at. I graded all seven and I was quite proud that I managed to be in the general area for all of them. See – miracles can happen. After grading we were told to wrap-up warm and head back to the teaching room where we were handed overalls and hairnets. I’d got so many layers on that the buttons were bursting. I’d literally taken it to heart to wrap up – I was a human sausage roll.

“I’m not afraid to admit that I was a bit of a wuss and opted out of seeing the slaughter segment of the afternoon” I’m not afraid to admit that I was a bit of a wuss and opted out of seeing the slaughter segment of the afternoon. However, I wasn’t the only one – strength in numbers and all that. Afterwards we watched the carcass weighing process and it turned out that all our sheep weighed a lot more than we had predicted, but it was good to see that our EUROPA grading was in the right area. The sheep were wheeled off to a chiller and we were then able to look in the different areas that were cooling meat down including pork, beef and lamb. The chiller tour was the last item on the agenda, so the team made its way back to the classroom. All kitted out in overalls, we looked like a farming rendition of the Backstreet Boys after they went through that weird white phase. I’m not a farmer and I have no experience of practical farming, but actually, I feel like I learnt a lot from this trip. It opened my eyes up to the work of the YFC and all of the different aspects of knowing where our meat comes from. It’s nice to know how the meat on my plate is prepared, cut and distributed.

#STUDENTFARMER - April 2014  

#studentfarmer is the NFU's magazine for the next generation of farmers.

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