4 August 1995

Service with smile

MARTYN Nicholls is as happy with a spanner in his hand servicing a 4×4 pick-up as he is behind the wheel of a tractor.

But this versatility does not just come from natural ability. For Mr Nicholls, although a Welsh farmers son, took a somewhat unconventional route into tractor driving. He spent the first four years of his working life as a garage mechanic before returning to farming in 1989.

"Most of todays tractor drivers have some mechanical ability and it is certainly a big bonus to have that ability when looking for a job. Most tractor-driving adverts now specify mechanical knowledge needed," Mr Nicholls explains.

"Combining the two jobs – mechanic and tractor driver – keeps life interesting. I went back into farming because I was getting bored of being stuck in the workshop."

Now 26, Mr Nicholls has been tractor driver/mechanic at Priory Farms, Holme Sen Drove, Huntingdon, Cambs, for the past four years. He works for the farms vegetable enterprise, which grows 240ha (600 acres) of onions, carrots and parsnips on contracted land throughout Suffolk and Norfolk. The farms own arable land is let out under share farming agreements.

Besides looking after the business New Holland Ford tractors and planting/lifting machinery Mr Nicholls also services the farms fleet of five vans and pick-ups which ferry staff over the 50-mile radius that the vegetable operation covers.

Main tractor driving tasks are operating one of Priory Farms two 20m (66ft) trailed sprayers, applying fertiliser with an Amazone ZA-M spreader and lifting carrots with a modified Grimme potato harvester. His tractor is a 100hp New Holland Ford 7840 SLE.

To get to the final, Mr Nicholls answered the initial questionnaire in FARMERS WEEKLY and was one of the successful semi-finalists at last months Royal Show.

"My nerves got to me at the Royal, although they did calm down as the event went on. Even so I didnt think I scored particularly well on my last section, the tractor/trailer reversing, where I needed a couple of shunts to complete the task."

In the end I was quite surprised to qualify."