Should I or shouldn’t I? – Summer jobs Q&A for farmers and students

Should I or shouldn’t I?… Felix Carter, agribusiness consultant at Savills in Cambridge, answers your questions


Where do I find harvest students?

All the well-known colleges and universities that run agriculture courses – The Royal Agricultural College, Harper Adams, Reading, Newcastle and Writtle – are a useful source. It is worth approaching local senior schools and sixth-form colleges that may have enthusiastic students who might be from a farming background or looking to pursue a career in agriculture. And your local Young Farmers Clubs are worth contacting.

Do you need to interview candidates and take references?

Interviewing candidates is a must and a reference provides further support. There is no better test than meeting someone face-to-face. But there are other ways, particularly if, for example, a student is in Cornwall and the prospective employer is in Lincolnshire. A telephone conversation supported by a call to a suitable referee may be sufficient, or consider using Skype.

Does a student need qualifications to legally carry out the work required?

Some qualifications are essential. Below is a list of the most important, but this may vary depending on the farming operation.

• Full UK driving licence (or category F tractor test for 16-year-olds and over, conditions apply).

• Rough terrain telehandler certificate – loading/unloading lorries or trailers, manoeuvring fertiliser, stacking bales are all frequent events on many farms.

• Spraying certificates – PA1 (safe use of pesticides), PA2 (ground crop sprayers) and PA6 (hand-held applicator) certificates will be required if the student is to carry out certain spray operations.

• Trailer test – if you passed a car driving test on or after 1 January 1997, you’re limited to vehicles up to 3.5t, towing a trailer up to 750kg, or a vehicle and trailer combination up to 3.5t. You will need to pass an additional driving test in B+E if you wish to tow a trailer combination that exceeds these weight limits.

• Chainsaw certificate – low in importance but in some cases might be high on the agenda.

• Combine course – not essential, but it is a useful starting point for a potential combine driver

How much do you need to pay?

The two basic forms of pay are for the standard 39-hour week followed by overtime, or a slightly higher fixed hourly rate. It is worth bearing the following in mind:

• The Agricultural Wages Order 2009 – needs to be adhered to and the suitable grade of worker applied to the individual.

Working Time Regulations – the student has to sign the relevant forms to opt out.

• Tax implications – including PAYE and National Insurance.

What are the advantages of the same student returning for another year?

This saves time and removes any stress of not finding anyone suitable. You are aware of their capabilities and limitations and each year you can further their education and experience. They will also already have a good knowledge of the farm’s geography, equipment, machinery, drying systems etc, plus the full-time staff should feel more comfortable as they’ll know them.


I’ve been offered a job, should I visit the farm before committing?

It is always useful to visit the farm before accepting the job to better understand how they operate. Even if you come from a farming background, there are different ways of doing things and it’s worth ensuring you are prepared to adopt someone else’s approach.

This also enables you to meet your employer if you haven’t already done so, which is good because it will give you the opportunity to discuss questions face-to-face. It’s likely you’ll be part of a team, so it helps to meet them too.

How much room for negotiation is there over rates of pay?

Your room for negotiation is relatively small, especially if there are other general farm workers on one of the lower grades of agricultural wage. If you have lots of experience and qualifications, you will potentially qualify for Grade 2 Standard Worker wages. But remember, you will be probably be earning more than your friends working evenings in a pub. The number of available hours of work can lead to a summer of high earnings.

How often can I expect to be paid?

Pay days tend to be fortnightly or monthly. Depending on when your first pay day is in relation to your arrival, there might well be potential for a forward payment; maybe for your first food shop, which will be deducted from your wages.

What’s the situation regarding accommodation?

Every farm will be different. You are unlikely to receive five-star accommodation. Saying that, I do know of a farm where hot meals are brought out to the field most evenings. There are a number of options if the student is too far away from home to commute. Caravans, static homes, and cottages are often provided; alternatively you could be invited to live with the family.

In some cases, farmers may deduct a proportion of your wage to contribute towards gas, electricity, insurance, council tax, and food, if you are living in. Make sure you clarify this before starting.

How useful is this on my CV?

It can stand you in good stead for jobs in many rural businesses. If nothing else, it will show that you are prepared to work long – often antisocial – hours. If you have pleased your employer he may be happy to provide a reference.