15 March 2002

What use is a good education?

Our New Generation Survey

showed that many young

people still feel they have a

future in farming but

optimism and a good

education dont always bring

the rewards they promise

I COME from a small hill livestock unit producing prime fat Texel x lambs and Aberdeen Angus x beef – a vocation and lifestyle I enjoyed and thrived on.

I knew long ago there would never be enough money to give me a decent wage, especially if I wanted my own place. I decided to get an education so that I could have a second job – much to the disgruntlement of my father – who wanted me to do as I was told and not think for myself. (I am 28-years-old – do other people experience this with their parents?)

I now have an HND in Agriculture and a degree in Forestry Management. My degree cost me a fortune. I left university with the same amount of debt as a student of computer engineering, medicine, psychiatry etc. We were promised that our degrees would enable us to command a higher wage, help us move up the career ladder, blah, blah, blah.

Firstly, I came home to try to develop what I already had – my father had stated the farm was mine and he was retired. I had many good ideas, ideas that move with the times. I laid down my five and 10-year plan and looked at all the openings, opportunities and threats. My parents quickly realised that I knew too much, was moving too fast and it was going to upset their farm. So they stamped out any future development, which left me back where I started, except I was several thousand £s worse off.

Secondly, I started looking for a job. It took me six months to get a half decent salaried job but unfortunately it meant me leaving the farm and moving to an island off the west coast of Scotland. I now spend my time crippling crofters with red tape and penalising them every time they make a mistake with their record keeping.

I have worked out that it is going to take me around six to eight years to pay off my student loans and other debts – the same debts as a computer engineer who will go on to earn £20,000 upwards in his/her first job. The salary I receive is commensurate with an HND holder, not a degree holder. Are there other graduates in the same position? If change is required in agriculture isnt it about time that the educated in the farming community are paid a realistic wage for doing a realistic job?

My father now resents me, the farm has now stopped operating and Ill never go back to farming in this country as I have had a glimpse of the future.

Name and address supplied.

If you have experience of the issues raised in this letter, tell us about them. There is £10 waiting for the senders of every letter published. Write to Farmlife, farmers weekly, Quadrant House, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS or email tessa.gates@rbi.co.uk