Watching freshers week through experienced eyes

19-year-old Harriet Wilson is going into her second year at Harper Adams, where she is studying for a BSc in Agri-Food Marketing with Business. Back home she manages her own herd of British Blue cattle on the family’s 260-acre farm in Haughton, Stafford.

The sun came out to welcome us back to Harper for the new term, along with around 700 wide-eyed first years. I can’t believe it was a year ago that I was in their shoes, ready to experience possibly the best 12 days of the social calendar; Freshers’ Week.

We moved successfully into our new house without any breakages and cooked our first roast dinner which was an accomplishment in itself. Unfortunately I am currently sitting in the library writing this month’s column as we are having problems with the internet again. It is pressing times such as these which make you appreciate your BlackBerry – how else would I receive my daily fix of Facebook?

I returned home from London at the start of September and moved straight into tidying up the farm ready for the NFYFC Stockman of the Year finals. Competitors from all over the country came to judge our cattle before going onto Harper Adams to complete sheep, pigs and dairy judging. I was making good progress clearing out the sheds until Dad became a hindrance by picking out useless parts from the rubbish. He also managed to electrocute himself whilst trying to fix an electric prodder. Evidently it was my fault as I talking to him at the same time; I always seem to take the blame! Consequently, he decided to keep it in the house to threaten to use it as an aid to get my sister and I out of bed each morning.

It has probably been the driest summer ever for us back at home; the fields are bare and most of the pits have dried up which has resulted in several of the sheep getting stuck. Guess who has to go in first?

Things started to look up when I jetted off to Belgium as part of a group of young breeders from the British Blue Society. A group of 12 of us from England, Scotland and Wales spent four days visiting the best pedigree farms and studs in the country. It was fantastic opportunity to view different production systems (particularly as one farmer was milking the Blue cows with his Holsteins) and breeding techniques, to see the bulls in the flesh rather than in a catalogue and their progeny. It was also interesting to learn about the seven identified genetic defects within the breed and find out that Belgian breeders are now looking to breed a more British type; with more height and better locomotion.

We were so well looked after by the Belgians and also by our chaperones Graham Brindley and Gill Evans; without them the trip would not have gone ahead. A huge thank you must also go to the BB Society for their support and for organising the trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and returned with big ideas about the bulls I want to use within my own small herd back home.

September also sees the start of a new YFC year, including a new top table and Eccleshall YFC’s Dinner Dance; where we were able to see the outtakes for the 2012 Naked Calendar. This brought back dreadful memories of standing naked behind various farm implements on the coldest day of 2011 and then passing out after half an hour; not one of my favourite moments of the year. The boys also introduced Dad to ‘Jagerbombs’ that night and after apparently drinking them under the table, he now feels that it is appropriate to call himself ‘The Jager-meister’.

Before returning to Harper I took part in the college’s open day as a student ambassador by showing prospective students and parents around the campus and farm. It was a huge success and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my Harper experiences. I particularly envy this year’s freshers as they make the most of their first week here and particularly wish them the best of luck in the Freshers’ Challenge, which I am glad to be only watching this time around. On the other hand, I am certainly not looking forward to the prospect of my new timetable, which features 9am lectures every morning.

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