Promising Suffolk farming student takes top title at college

Steve Lambert and Nathan Rayner

Suffolk New College farming student of the year Nathan Rayner, right, with tutor Steve Lambert - Credit: Suffolk New College

A talented 20-year-old from a non-farming background is celebrating after being named agricultural student of the year by Suffolk New College.

Nathan Rayner, from Cotton, near Stowmarket, claimed top farming honours and now goes on to take up a place at Nottingham University where he will study agriculture from this September.

The cream of the crop from the college's intake of agriculture and horticulture students were honoured at a ceremony in Ipswich - with a total of 31 students rewarded for their efforts during 2021/22.

The learners studied on a variety of courses at the college's Ipswich and Suffolk Rural (Otley) campuses.

Also among the winners of land-based prizes was Helen Fincham, 41, from Naughton who was named floristry student of the year, while Finn Evans, 18, from Hollesley, took the horticulture student of the year title.

Helen Fincham and Alison Liddiard

Suffolk New College floristry student of the year Helen Fincham with tutor Alison Liddiard - Credit: Suffolk New College

Nathan - who is working for Ayling Group before heading off to university - said: “I found out at work (that I’d won) and it’s certainly another feather in the cap. Not being from a farming background means it gives credibility to my name.”

Helen - who used to be a shepherd and a beef farmer before seeking a career changed said she was "quite shocked" to win the title.

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"I don’t want to be a florist – I want to be a British flower grower. I’ve done this so I can understand the market. I’ve had to work at it but I’ve won student of the year," she said. 

"I just came to college to learn something new. It’s nice recognition.”

Finn was unable to attend the awards event but tutor David Smith said he had showed "outstanding commitment" to the course.

Finn Evans

Suffolk New College horticulture student of the year Finn Evans at the Suffolk Rural campus in Otley - Credit: Suffolk New College

"He is very supportive of other learners, is always willing to help and always has a smile on his face,” he said.

College principal Viv Gillespie said congratulated Nathan, Helen, Finn and all the otherr winners.

Deputy principal and event host Alan Pease said: “You have all shown great dedication – my message to students for the future is, pay attention, work hard and give it your best shot.”

All winners received either a cheque for £150 or equipment related to their course worth the same sum, a certificate and an engraved power bank for their phones.