According to Farmers Weekly, website insurance giant Aviva wants £9,000 a year to insure a 1984 Land Rover 90 belonging to Mr Adam Horsfield, a Cambridgeshire A-level student who plans to go on to study at Harper Adams.
Mr Horsfield described the quote as ‘unreal’ but, speaking as someone who has employed a long line of mostly male agricultural college sandwich year students over the past 20 years, I would suggest that a £9,000 annual insurance premium to take on the liability of a young male let loose with 2.5 litres of turbocharged Land Rover is not nearly ‘real’ enough. (Before I go any further, let me reassure any former student employees of mine that might be reading this that I do not propose to name names in what follows below but would remind them that we all know where the bodies are buried.)
When I read about Mr Horsfield’s insurance quote I instantly recalled a phone call that I once received from someone I shall simply call ‘Student A’. He wanted to know: ‘who are you insured with?’ which I didn’t like the sound of at all because two hours earlier I’d lent him my Land Rover for the afternoon so that he could take his driving test in it.
He had, it turned out, passed his driving test with flying colours but instead of coming straight back to the farm decided ‘to do a quick bit of food shopping to stock up the flat’. This had involved driving into the local supermarket car park where he’d become confused about which vehicles were supposed to give way within the car park traffic system. He’d managed to ram a Vauxhall Cavalier side on at 30mph. The shell shocked mother and both of her two young children were fortunately unharmed but Student A accurately suggested that the Cavalier ‘was probably a write-off’ and my Land Rover ‘a bit of a mess’.
So it was that I was introduced to the wonderful world of skyrocketing insurance premiums that goes hand in hand with the employment of agricultural college sandwich year students. By now I am awaiting the arrival of Student Q but the 20-year trail of devastation goes on. I once sat in my car watching Student H reverse a grain trailer across a wheat stubble only to realise, too late, that he was headed for the bonnet of my car.Combine offloading augers have been heavily re-designed by Students B, D and L by bringing them into heavy contact with infield telegraph poles. And then there was the time Student F (yes, well named as it turned out) parked a tractor and grain trailer on the field headland without applying the handbrake. It didn’t matter when the trailer was empty but as it was filled with barley from the combine harvester the gravitational pull increased to the point where the whole rig took off down the field, sailed through a hedge and high fence, finally coming to a stop in the middle of a neighbour’s newly resurfaced tennis court.
Regular staff, who often have the task of patching up the damage left in the wake of students, sometimes venture to suggest to me that we might be better off without such youthful ‘help’. But I couldn’t disagree more. Whatever the level of mayhem they bring with them all of the students we have employed on the farm have lasted their full term and always given value for money. Sometimes that has not always been in the strict financial sense – as I am sure NFU Mutual would agree – but give me a mix of youth and experience on the farm every time.
Stephen Carr runs an 800ha (1,950-acre) sheep, arable and beef farm on the South Downs near Eastbourne in partnership with his wife, Fizz. A third of the acreage is in conversion to organic status.