Qualified stepladder operator seeks employment

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.

Anyone who says that you can get a top-class degree in an agricultural science without working extremely hard has either never been a student, cheats in their exams or is a barefaced liar. That is unless you are a certified genius, in which case you can help me with my viral pathology course work.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the past few weeks have been incredibly busy. The game really is stepped up between second and third year; not only do these couple of semesters count for around two-thirds of your total marks, a huge amount of my time is also spent doing Students Union work – be it attending and chairing meetings, manning the office or organising events.

Traditionally, third year is home to the vast majority of your dissertation project work, and I’ve spent the past few days in the lab doing DNA analysis on my wheat samples. I’ve been working on 60 plots sown for last harvest to try and identify the best method of timing fungicides to control eyespot, and I’m currently working through the mountain of data that I’ve collected. Hopefully by the time of my next column I’ll have made much more progress.

In addition to the final year project, there is also the small matter of lectures and their associated course work. This semester I have elected to do modules such as Field Crops Cereals (which involves all aspects of cereal agronomy), Rural Business Management, Soil Science (who knew that the chemical structure of clay could you be so interesting?) and – just to make myself feel complete – Molecular Plant Pathology. I can already hear the ladies queuing up for a guy with a qualification in that last one.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve also had a few comments from people saying that my campus-wide emails are slowly becoming more and more sarcastic. As you can tell from the end of the previous paragraph, I’ve decided to completely abandon this form of humour altogether.

Away from the lecture room, the start of the year is always one of the busiest times of the university calendar. I’m pleased to say that fresher’s week went reasonably well with no major incidents to report, though we did somehow manage to break two of the six massive speakers in the bar. I’m sure that if you’d had a couple of beers, you wouldn’t have noticed while you were dancing to such classics as the Baywatch theme-tune. However, on closer examination one sounds like a hissing cockroach and the other like a brick in a washing machine. Time to get the screwdrivers out I fear.

Our campus’s semi-regular comedy night – Funny Farm – has also made a return in the past couple of weeks with the bar absolutely rammed with people. We only get professional acts in to perform and as most of them rarely come to such rural locations as Sutton Bonington, it sometimes takes them a little while to adjust to their surroundings.

If you have never been to a comedy night, I wouldn’t recommend sitting on the front row unless you enjoy being picked on, especially if you are a YFC ploughing champion and the act is from the middle of London, or – as was the case last time – you own any quantity of pet snails.

With the scary thought always looming that we’ve only got a few months left here, I’ve started applying for jobs. I’d like to point out to any potential employer that I have gained a new qualification in the past year though. Such is the red tape in this world that I had to go on an hour-long course specifically on how to climb three feet up a stepladder.

Back at home and things are not going so well. As I write, the lack of rain in our part of the world has become a serious issue and it is likely that at least some wheat will have to be redrilled when the rain finally arrives. We are fortunate in some respects because we do not grow oilseed rape, though unfortunate in others as everything was ploughing so well in September that we decided to do the whole farm. Only time will tell whether this was a mistake.


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