Farming feature: Nuffield scholars lead field in farming globe-trotters

Paul Kelly, Kelly Turkeys

Paul Kelly, Kelly Turkeys - Credit: Archant

Farming scholarship organisation Nuffield will be holding a ‘Nuffield hour’ from the Anglia Farmers stand at this year’s Suffolk Show 2013 on May 29 from 3pm. The charity’s aim is the develop the agricultural sector leaders and innovators of the future. SARAH CHAMBERS looks at how its scholars benefit from its support.

Nuffield Scholar Tom Bradshaw of W Bradshaw & Son, Fletchers Farm, Fordham, Essex

Nuffield Scholar Tom Bradshaw of W Bradshaw & Son, Fletchers Farm, Fordham, Essex - Credit: Archant

GUY Smith’s brush with law while on a scholarship trip with the Nuffield was “character forming”, he recalls.

Matt Swain – Farm tenant and agri consultant, Bovills Hall Farm, Little Clacton

Matt Swain Farm tenant and agri consultant, Bovills Hall Farm, Little Clacton - Credit: Archant

The St Osyth arable farmer was mistaken for a drug smuggler and taken in for a grilling by the Pamplona police.

Pamplona, in the middle of Basque country on the Spanish side of the border, was bristling with twitchy armed police during Guy’s visit in 1994. It was the morning of his first day when the police knocked on his hotel door. He had only a scant knowledge of the language so communication was limited, and he was promptly carted off to the copshop for interrogation by a “rather nasty” inspector.

An hour or so later, the boys in blue realised their mistake and the atmosphere thawed markedly. “Lo siento! Lo siento!” they cried as they deposited him back at the hotel.

Guy, who is now chair of East Anglia Nuffield, says that for an unknown reason, high adventure is almost inevitably on the cards when a Nuffield scholar ventures forth. The scholarships are open not just to farmers but also to those employed in various ancillary services. The grant aid comes to about £6,000 to £7,000 and it’s up to the scholar to decide how he or she wants to organise the finances for their trip. For some, it part-funds their expenses, and they will put up the rest. Others keep within the set budget.

The trips do have a serious aim - to widen the horizons and knowledge of those who undertake them, and to add to the knowledge bank of our farming industry.

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When they return, the charity hopes their experiences will feed into the development of UK agriculture and develop the agricultural sector leaders and innovators of the future.

On his own visit to Spain, Guy was studying the way the Common Agricultural Policy worked in continental Europe.

He recalls visiting an 50,000 ha East German collective farm with its 5000 landlords, which made him realise his Single Farm Payment forms were a stroll in the park by comparison.

Exceptionally, he won two scholarships - in 1994 and 2000 - and on his second field trip, he visited America, the Low Countries and New Zealand to look at the role of communication in farming.

“Normally the rule is you can only do one but to mark the millenium they waived the rule for one award and I got it,” he explains.

On his return, his Nuffield Scholar status gave him a platform for media work, and his first articles were published in the farming media.

Globetrotting farmer Thomas Bradshaw, of Fordham, near Colchester, travelled to Germany, Australia, America and Argentina to look at the future of soil fertility.

He found himself in awe of the scale and precision of the Argentinian farming system, and impressed by the ‘can do’ attitude of the innovative and inspirational Australians.

Danbury-based turkey supremo Paul Kelly believes his trip to the United States to look at how to market premium food started a creative process which has benefited his business.

It’s clear that although the Nuffield scholars’ studies and experiences vary widely, they all come out of it with renewed drive and sense of purpose.

The idea behind it is to provide opportunities for people across the agricultural industry to travel and study topics of interest.

With the help of HGCA, the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the new Nuffield award will provide a bursary to a scholar for travel anywhere in the world to further their knowledge, explore new ideas and meet influential business contacts within arable and wider sectors.

“A Nuffield offers the opportunity for strategic thinking,” said HGCA sector director Rebecca Geraghty.

“It’s a real positive for the arable industry and we are keen to encourage more applications from our sector.

“Scholarships are highly regarded and help shape the future of the agricultural industry.

“By sponsoring an award, HGCA is complementing the strong level of skills support that is already offered to PhD students.

“The Nuffield award broadens that offer to candidates involved in the arable sector aged between 22 and 45. No academic qualifications are necessary.”

The charity is keen to encourage applications, and this year will be on the Anglia Farmers stand at the Suffolk Show from 3pm to 4pm on May 29, where visitors will be able to find out about the opportunities available through Nuffield Scholarships.

Guy said: “ I am very grateful to Anglia Farmers to allow us to hold a ‘Nuffield hour’.

“The idea is to have an informal gathering of existing Anglian Nuffields as well as attracting prospective scholars who would like to find out more about what undertaking a scholarship involves and how to go about applying.

“I can promise anyone thinking of coming along that the speeches will be very short and the company will be convivial.”

The scholarships are awarded to about 20 individuals each year for research into topics in the food, farming, horticultural and rural sectors. The scheme provides funding to cover periods of study and opportunities to travel the world.

The scheme aims to advance the standard of UK agriculture by enabling the study of practices and techniques employed around the world.

Applicants must have been working in agriculture or a related industry for at least two years, intend to stay within their industry, and be aged between 22 and 45 at the time of application.

n Visit for details.