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.
I reckon this magazine is a lucky omen. I mentioned in my last column that we were in desperate need of some rain at home, and the day it was published we received well over an inch – more than the previous two months combined.
So on this basis, I’m going to make a couple more appeals. The oven is a little grubby following an unfortunate pie explosion last night and I haven’t quite plucked up the courage to clean it yet. There’s also a large mushroom growing from under the shower tray, though I’d like to point out that this is in the girl’s bathroom and that the bloke’s is largely fungus free at the moment.
Broken extractor fans aside, I’ve been doing a lot of the lab work for my research project, and the list of coursework has – as usual – been piling up. I’ve just finished writing up an experiment about the effect of barley seed-rate on seedling physiology and next I’ll be calculating the drainage rates of different soil types – again requiring a lengthy report to be handed in. As is always the case with things like this, the further reading and referencing takes more time than the actual experiment itself.
Alongside the more science heavy modules, I’m also studying one called Rural Business Management this semester. There are two bits of coursework associated with it: the first is a report about the feasibility of investment in new grain storage at University Farm, and the second – which we are working on in groups at the moment – is about budgeting for a farm and its enterprises.
We spent an interesting morning looking around a 160ha arable farm just a few miles away, with the aim of compiling a realistic budget incorporating an in-depth cash flow, balance sheet and profit and loss accounts on the fictional assumption that we have the opportunity to take over the tenancy at the beginning of the year.
At the end of the project we will be presenting our proposed enterprises and diversifications to the current tenants, though just to make the project a lot more realistic, we are only able to do this on the basis that we can secure finance for our ideas from the bank. To that end, all of our groups had a meeting with Steve Brown – Agricultural Manager for our region from Barclays – who we had to convince to lend us the capital and working overdraft for our business plans.
Away from the lecture room, the past month has also marked the official opening of a couple of new buildings at Sutton Bonington. One of them – the Bioenergy and Brewing Science Building – actually contains a research brewery funded by SABMiller, one of the largest beer producers in the world. Fortunately for us, they don’t actually have a licence to sell anything they produce here. Seeing as this means that they have to give it away, I’ve had the chance to try a couple of bottles of a special ESB. It’s made using barley from the farm and local hops, and I can assure you that it is extremely good.
I also caught up with a few old friends at the recent OKA Weekend – the two days of the year when Sutton Bonington alumni of any age are welcomed back to play the odd rugby match and generally have a good time. It was really interesting to hear how things have changed over the years from the Student Guild Chair of 1967, though I don’t think we’ll be seeing Rolf Harris or any member of the Goodies speaking at our events any time soon. From what I’ve read about the methods that the blokes used to gain access to the then all-female hall (affectionately known as the Nunnery), I don’t think much has changed in the ingenuity department however.
Not one to turn down any from of paid employment, I’ll once again be packing Christmas hampers in Melton Mowbray during the week preceding the big day. I had a go at hand making the famous pork pies a few months ago, though considering my finished creation kind of looked like the lovechild of Jackie Stallone and a bowl of dog food, I think I’ll leave that bit to the professionals.