20-year-old Michael Neaverson is heading into his third year as an undergraduate Crop Science student at the University of Nottingham. Michael is from a farming family in South Lincolnshire and is involved in all aspects of the 600-acre business – wheat, barley, sugar beet, cress seed and marrowfats.


Exams may well be over, but I’m afraid the same can’t be said for my hangover. The strange thing is that I didn’t even have a single drink last night. Nope, my aching limbs and sore head came as a direct result of something completely unrelated: roller-skating.

Before I go any further, I should explain that a roller disco has become somewhat of a cheesy post-exam tradition at Sutton Bonington. Yes, I have now donned skates on more than a few occasions, but all that practice certainly hasn’t made me any better at it. In fact someone told me last night that whilst skating I possess all the grace and poise of John Prescott in a chip shop, which I only refute on the grounds that John Prescott presumably doesn’t spend his Saturday evenings falling face first onto a sports hall floor.

When you’re organising an event with so many potential casualties, it becomes a necessity to hire in professional first aiders. As a cruel but rather ironic twist, the only person that St Johns Ambulance had to treat last night was a member of their own crew who had decided to have a trial skate during his break. Even though he was dressed in full fluorescent overalls, someone of a similar skating calibre to myself still managed to career into him. You should have seen the size of his swollen ankle afterwards.

Away from the sports hall, I’m pleased to say that my final semester is now well underway. After a fortnight of exams, its strangely nice to find yourself back in a lecture room, with modules that this term include Field Crops, Plant Disease Control, Current Issues in Crop Science and Management Consultancy. Of course, there’s also the small issue of a 14,000-word research project to write up.

The spring term also tends to play host to a large amount of open days for potential students, and I’ll doing a talk about student life at most of them. It’s a good job, therefore, that I had the opportunity just after the New Year to attend a course on agriculturally relevant communication skills at NIAB in Cambridge, run by Green Shoots Productions.

I’m normally fairly sceptical about courses like this, but I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever learnt so many fundamentally useful skills in only three days before. We practiced everything from how to convey confidence and clarity in a TV or radio interview, to how to chair meetings or give presentations to small groups of people.

The real heroes for funding the course, however, are the Felix Thornley Cobbald Trust and the John Forest Award, whose tremendous foresight over the years for facilitating agricultural research and education has benefitted – either directly or indirectly – a vast amount of people. Organisations of this type sometimes get slightly forgotten by the time research has been published, but I think it’s incredibly important to recognise them as valuable contributors to the agricultural industry’s productivity, sustainability and wellbeing.

The course in Cambridge was quickly followed by another trip out: this time to the Association of Independent Crop Consultant’s conference at Twickenham Stadium to receive – along with students from each of the other three main agricultural universities – NIAB TAG’s ASSET award. It’s a true privilege to be picked for the award, and I am extremely grateful to all concerned. I’ve written more about the ASSET award and the Trusts mentioned above on the College Calendar blog.

Back at Nottingham, and I’m afraid to say that the Students’ Union launderette has been experiencing some issues. It may have been eating my socks for a few years now, but last week it decided to give up the ghost entirely and started to spew scalding water at an alarming rate all over the floor. Of all the places to put a stopcock, I finally found it in a locked cupboard the other side of a wall.

In fact I was sufficiently troubled by the whole experience to consult the master of practical consultancy: the FW’s very own agony uncle Farmer Frank.

“It took me ages to find the stopcock in the flooding launderette,” I said. “Where would the main cock normally be located?”

“Usually in the farm office,” he replied.

Would someone please enlighten me as to what he means?


Read more of Michael’s columns on our dedicated page.

COLMN