Of all the things I thought might happen when I started college, royal visits, sieving cow excrement and watching lads being hypnotised into believing they’re called Emily and Daphne were not among them. No, they just didn’t occur to me. Making it all the more incredible has been writing this column.
Farmers Weekly has a lot to answer for. It can take some credit for initially making me wonder whether a naive childhood dream of becoming a farmer had some potential of coming true. We’ve yet to see if I can thank or blame it for that.
Writing the column then helped me through a difficult first year at college, having to look out for the interesting and entertaining aspects to write about. Now I’ve even chosen to go back for a top-up year.
We’re enrolling once more on Tuesday 21 of this month and I think there will be seven students carrying on from the Foundation degree course. Last year a few new people joined at this stage including a lad from Northern Ireland and two girls from Denmark, so there’s a curiosity about who’s going to be there on enrolment day.
Others from the Foundation degree have decided it was time to start their careers and I wish them all the very best, though they’ll be missed. They’ve been through what I’ve delayed until this year: Serious planning for the future. This coming year is really a springboard into the deep end and it’s going to be hard leaving behind a cushy college life to find out if I will be able to find a future in agriculture.
“You’ll either sink or swim,” I’m often told. Not exactly a helpful observation on the face of it. As a new entrant (and female to boot) I’ve felt an incredible level of support but, considering the number of people I know of who want to farm, only very few seem to make it through to farming in their own right.
My study last year about new entrants in Yorkshire found only one who had achieved the dream from scratch within the last 10 years. He and his wife had done so through a mixture of determination, shrewdness, the right contacts and being in the right place at the right time.
With the end of college in sight I now realise that this is all just the warm-up for the real game. It’s exciting looking at possibilities though. One in particular appeals to me and that is the potential for a job shepherding and expanding a sheep enterprise – right up my street. I just hope my juvenile looks don’t put off potential employers. “You’ll thank your lucky stars you look 10 years younger one of these days,” I’m often told. But maybe not at the age of 21.
But before I get too carried away with thoughts of life after college there’s going to be plenty to occupy me in the meantime. The top-up year concentrates on Agricultural Resource Management and to me that means the looming prospect of compiling and analysing endless accounts. The hope is that they will stop being scary quagmires of figures by the end of this year.
The previous third year students went on study tours to Scotland and Denmark and there’s been the suggestion of the Paris Show in the pipeline. So perhaps frog legs and escargot will be on the menu.
There’s plenty to look forward to as well as plenty to look back on. And now the College Calendar baton is being passed on to the next two student writers I’m looking forward to reading what they have to make of the whole extraordinary experience that is college life.