Steve Mears gets ready for the new academic year

The annual agricultural marathon, commonly known as harvest, is complete here in Malvern. The last 30 acres of spring beans passing through the combine marked the finish line. However, in reality the finish line is still a long way off as attention has now turned to cultivations and drilling.

Harvest 2010 has generally been trouble free with thankfully no major breakdowns and not too many disruptions from the weather. I understand that overall yields were reasonable, with the feed wheat averaging over 4t/ac on some blocks of land.

Good yields and fine weather go a long way to making a successful harvest, but as many farmers will agree, teamwork also plays an important role. Like many farms across the country, the whole family gets involved and helps out.

Whether it’s delivering supplies of fish and chips to the field when working late, or collecting parts from suppliers, it helps to have all hands on deck at one of the busiest times of the year. Even my boss’s daughter Jennifer has been grain carting on occasions (although taking corners slightly too quickly when the trailers are fully laden with wheat has resulted in the odd spillage – her fault and mine).

With the combine now back in the barn, we’re starting all over again for next year. Cultivations are under way and are being carried out by either a Shakerator or the Simba DTX I mentioned last month, followed by a set of Vaderstad Carrier discs.

Around 280 acres of oilseed rape has been drilled to date. The rape has slowly begun to emerge, much to the delight of the many pests that feed off the young seedlings. Slugs in particular have favoured the crop and, as a result, measures have been applied in the worst-hit areas to try and reduce the damage.

Alongside drilling, hedge cutting is steadily progressing and lime has been spread on some areas of the farm by a local contractor. As well as arable, the farm is also home to around 150 sheep, and one damp morning was recently spent weaning the ewes and lambs. I’ve never worked with sheep before and I quickly realised how much of a challenge they can be to control.

Livestock and tractors aside, it will soon be time to move back up to Harper to start my second year. The first year flew by and I am pretty sure this year will go just as quickly – albeit with a bit more studying than the last. Unlike last year, where only 40% was needed to pass, the marks I achieve in this coming year will actually count towards my final degree.

Like most freshers I lived on campus in halls of residence during my first year. It was great fun having friends just down the corridor and being a stone’s throw from lecture theatre (and more importantly, the bar).

However, this year, along with five friends, I’m moving into a house in the local town of Newport. The idea of living independently and no longer having fire drills to contend with in the early hours of the morning is very appealing, but only time will tell if we can manage to keep the house clean.

Returning to Harper also means taking up the executive position of “Secretary of the Harper Field Sports Society”. Since being reinstated last autumn, the society has grown in strength and established a wealth of contacts and opportunities to pursue field sports with local shoots and hunts across Shropshire and further afield.

I’m looking forward to joining the new executive and keen to help build on the success of last year, initially by attracting new members to the society during the fresher’s fair in early October.

And now with the summer drawing to a close, so is my time as a student columnist. It has been a privilege to write these columns and I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Thank you to all those friends, family, course mates and members of the public for their positive feedback.

I wish my successor all the best and look forward to reading how their experiences of college life compare to mine.