8 August 1997

Hectic schedule as students roll up their sleeves

The education of our two "adopted" Brooksby College agricultural students now continues with a years work experience. Keen to see how life out of the classroom was treating them, Andy Collings tracked them down

THERE is no doubt about it – noisy tractors, dusty conditions and long hours are the ingredients which make for happy agricultural students.

At least they do for Phil Knight and Ted Duffin, students now into the second year of their three-year NDA course at Brooksby College, Leics. A sandwich course, this year sees them gaining practical, on-farm experience.

Ted Duffin has become part of the team led by Bill Wright on a 480ha (1200-acre) farm at Rothley, Leics, where, apart from a 200-cow dairy herd, barley, wheat, linseed, peas and oilseed rape are grown.

All of which adds up to a pretty intensive grounding for Ted in a wide range of tasks.

"Its all rather hectic," says Ted. "To date, Ive mainly been involved in preparing for harvest and carting corn from the JD2064 combine to the barn. But there is clearly more variety to look forward to as the year progresses."

And has the year spent at Brooksby College helped in his farm work so far?

"Not perhaps in the actual driving of tractors," explains Ted. "But I certainly have a greater understanding of the broader issues of farming – the value of crops and the marketing of them, for example."

Employer Bill Wright reports he is pleased with Teds progress. "He fits in well with our other staff," he says. "Im sure he will be fine."

Meanwhile, some 60 or so miles to the north-east at Brandon, near Grantham, Lincs, Phil Knight is finding plenty to do on the 1800ha (4500 acres) run by Philip Burtt.

Like Ted, Phil has been working into the night as harvest pressures mount. On the day we visited him he was preparing to powerharrow 14ha (35 acres) of ploughed land in preparation for oilseed rape.

Clearly fully at home on his freshly cleaned MF6170/4m Roterra outfit complete with CB, mobile phone and stereo radio, Phil was looking forward to becoming involved in the farms other crops – sugar beet, linseed, onions, carrots and potatoes.

"Its all large scale farming in this area," he says. "Large fields, large machinery and large amounts of overtime. But its interesting and Im enjoying it."

Discovering the strength and whereabouts of the local ale has also added to his enjoyment, he comments – although on the odd morning he admits such activities have reeked their revenge.

Still, its all part of student life and both Phil and Ted are clearly enjoying being on farm. A visit planned for the autumn should present an opportunity to see just how they have survived the busy summer months.

Experiences which should stand them in good stead as farmers weekly continues to watch their careers evolve.n

Ted Duffin gets to grips with a mid-season combine clean down.

NDA course details

&#8226 Year 1: Farm machinery, animal science, crop science, animal husbandry, farm building and estate maintenance, book-keeping.

&#8226 Year 2: College supervised practical farm work.

&#8226 Year 3: Machinery management, financial management, labour management, agricultural policy, advanced animal production, advanced crop production.

&#8226 Current position: Year 2.

Phil Knight squares up the powerharrow before setting off for another stint in the field: "Large fields, large machinery and large amounts of overtime."