Farming feature: Nic’s back on track

Nic Bertelsen left his job as a marine engineer to be retrained at Easton and Otley College as a far

Nic Bertelsen left his job as a marine engineer to be retrained at Easton and Otley College as a farmer and now works on Gulpher Farm in Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

I went to a good school, Wymondham College, and had a great time. However, at 16 I was unsure what to do with my life and after a few false starts (A-levels and college), I decided to follow an avionics course in the RAF.

Nic Bertelsen left his job as a marine engineer to be retrained at Easton and Otley College as a far

Nic Bertelsen left his job as a marine engineer to be retrained at Easton and Otley College as a farmer and now works on Gulpher Farm in Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

Unfortunately I suffered a major motorcycle accident that had me on crutches for three months, and that meant that I was medically discharged from the force and my RAF career had ended before it really got going.

Nic Bertelsen, with his favourite cow Belle, left his job as a marine engineer to be retrained at Ea

Nic Bertelsen, with his favourite cow Belle, left his job as a marine engineer to be retrained at Easton and Otley College as a farmer and now works on Gulpher Farm in Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

This was a seriously disappointing setback and it took a while to get over, but I managed to get fully rehabilitated and went back into engineering, working, amongst other things, in period property restoration. This was a varied job, and I learnt many new skills. I worked for a local company for a few years, but I had always wanted to run my own business, so when the opportunity came up to work as a marine engineer in 2007, I jumped at the chance. I had been working on boat engines since the age of 14 so it seemed the logical step to take.

Nic Bertelsen, with his favourite cow Belle, left his job as a marine engineer to be retrained at Ea

Nic Bertelsen, with his favourite cow Belle, left his job as a marine engineer to be retrained at Easton and Otley College as a farmer and now works on Gulpher Farm in Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

Initially, things were going incredibly well and I was earning a good living. I was taking between 30 and 40 calls a month just through Yellow Pages but literally when the recession kicked in, that went down to about two calls a month. It simply wasn’t viable to continue so I had to really consider my options.

It was tough – I can’t lie – I was unemployed for a while and couldn’t get a job – I used to drive 50 to 60,000 miles a year when I had my own business but I would put myself forward for positions as a van driver and end up not getting the job. I couldn’t understand it.


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It was at this point that I had a chat with my mum and a penny dropped – big time.

She mentioned that she had been in a similar situation when she was younger and had ended up doing a full-time administration course at the Easton College campus (now Easton and Otley College), and ended up working there for a bit after she qualified. She never looked back.

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We reflected on my love of farming when I was younger. I grew up 150 yards from a small livestock unit, and the farmer next door treated me as his little shadow. Here comes ‘trouble’ he would say laughing! To be taken seriously today however, I would need more than a handful of good GCSE results, and this is when I started to think that maybe a return to education was a possible way forward. By this time I had married my lovely wife Alex – so I needed to level with her as essentially she would have to support me.

That discussion, during the academic summer holiday period, was literally the turning point. My wife and I talked about it and at the very last minute I signed up to an Access course in agriculture and went back into education in 2009.

It was an eye opener and although I enjoyed the first year, it was very time consuming, very fast paced and there was lots to do.

It certainly wasn’t for everyone – of the 12 people who started the course, not everyone completed. Some people didn’t seem committed or have the genuine desire to really do the course but I was – I gave it 110% and at the end of it – I wanted to continue with my development.

So I went onto the foundation degree and graduated this year. I didn’t attend the ceremony – I know what I’ve achieved – I did it for myself and I didn’t want to spend all that money on hiring a gown anyway.

I’ve bettered myself and literally the day I finished my degree, I gained employment working on a dairy farm near Felixstowe.

I was really lucky to just hit it off with the farmer during my interview. It lasted three and a half hours and I must admit – I was literally over the moon when he told me I had got the job. He took a bit of a punt on me as from my experience, (not coming from a farming family) it is quite hard to get any practical experience to prove you can do the job. I’m determined to prove he made the right call on the day though, despite more qualified and experienced candidates applying for the job.

People tend to stay here a long time as the family are incredibly loyal – so I hope to be able to repay that loyalty through my efforts.

It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I managed to get my job six weeks before I finished my degree. In the past, a lack of experience had always held my back – but thanks to my studies and determination, I’m absolutely loving it.

Farming has always been in me – I still have all the old toys from when I was younger. My engineering skills do occasionally come in and I don’t regret going back into education. It’s tough – a lot of hard work - but if you really want to do it, you’ll never look back. I’d like to think that I am proof of that fact.

It’s taken 10 years longer than it should have done but I’ve got a good salary and a nice home thanks to my new career in farming. My friends and family have noticed a change in me and say that I look more relaxed and content. I am finally happy, and feel that my efforts are being rewarded, and that’s not just the steady wage and a roof over my head!

Easton College, where Nic studied, has now merged with Otley College.

Both college campuses offer training and skills in agriculture.

For details about these courses at the Otley campus, you can call 01473 785543 or email info@otleycollege.ac.uk

For information about these courses at the Easton campus, you can call 01603 731200 or email info@easton-college.ac.uk

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