Bridgette Baker: Sleep, show up – and remember your penknife

Have you ever seen slurry fly into the air like a chocolate fountain? I have.

It’s one of my countless “oh-no” moments during my spring work placement for university, driving a Fendt 720 doing slurry tanking, rolling the silage pit, tedding and more at a large dairy farm in Somerset.

Being a young farmer is full-on, fun and tiring. It’s a time where you are developing skills and an understanding of what good farming practice means.

About the author

Bridgette Baker
Somerset young farmer Bridgette Baker hails from a mixed beef and arable farm near Yeovil, and studies agriculture at the Royal Agricultural University. An enthusiastic member of her local Young Farmers Club, Bridgette keeps her own Oxford Sandy and Black pigs and works her family’s farm rearing calves.
Read more articles by Bridgette Baker

It’s a time when you could get discouraged or knocked back in confidence, as mistakes are easily made in farming and your first job is inevitably where you make many.

Commonly, farmers don’t share their little fails, maybe because they’re frequent or because they don’t dwell on stuff once it’s happened – they learn from it and move on. But I love telling people about such things as it reminds us we’re only human. 

What’s important is, even if you’re progressing slowly, to be patient. Whenever the job feels overwhelming, the best thing to do is show up every day on time, well rested (and remember your penknife). It may take a few weeks or months, but one day you’ll drive home and think: “Yep, I think I’ve got it.”

Also, be respectful of the machinery you’re using, your co-workers, the animals you are caring for, and the farm you work at. Although sometimes, even if you do respect machinery, it still goes pear-shaped.

See also: Bridgette Baker – shout loud and proud about what you do

I had the classic satnav drop-pin scenario of getting sent along the narrowest country lane I have ever seen with a tedder that was wider than my tractor.

The work placement period at agricultural college or university is the best and most important part, putting theory into practice.

I usually work with livestock, but wanted to be a confident tractor driver so was lucky to have found a supportive placement where I have been able to learn and grow.

I have learned – among countless other things – to make sure I close the top hatch of a tanker when spreading slurry, to not always trust the satnav, and that, when you’re tired, good sleep is better than energy drinks.