Alexandra (Lexi) Taylor, Spence Agricultural Scholar 2019
Lexi is eligible for a scholarship because she is from a village in north Lincolnshire, which is an area where the Trust owns a large estate. During her first term of study she introduces herself and offers some advice to future students.
My name is Alexandra Taylor, but I’ve almost always been called Lexi, I am 19 years old. I am from Lincolnshire and have lived there since I was very small. Having always ridden horses, when we sold the last of our horses while I was going into my first year of sixth form, I (possibly influenced by mum and dad!) decided I might get rather bored not doing very much all summer. Thus followed the conversation about me getting a job. I have always had an interest in agriculture as my grandparents were potato farmers, so I decided a harvest job would suit, mostly because I knew I’d be working lots and earning well.
Fortunately, we had some family friends who have a mixed farm in a village about 20 minutes away from home; so, I emailed and asked if there was any slim possibility of me coming to work for them. Luckily the owner is open minded and has daughters himself, so was prepared to give me a chance – much to bafflement of some others (17-year-old girl who had just passed her driving test!).
After a nervous first few days, learning how to drive all of the tractors and telehandlers, I slowly started to settle into it – although I’ll admit I was coming home absolutely exhausted every evening! Now, three years on, I have continued to work for the same farm every summer and on other occasions around school; I absolutely love every second of it – which is lucky when you work a 99-hour week in the middle of August and your friends are at the pub!
So, I decided I needed to learn a bit more about why I do all of the different tasks I do over the summer and that an agricultural degree would be the perfect course for me. I chose the course at Nottingham because I found it was the most scientific (I am doing Agricultural and Crop science) and the most forward-thinking – two things that are really important going into the challenging times facing the agricultural industry.
I am also fascinated by modernising agriculture and trying to improve the conversation around food production and farming on the whole, I think embracing social media and other educational campaigns will be hugely influential in helping to improve the attitude towards farming. I also strongly believe young people should be exposed to agriculture much more for two reasons. The first being that they will then understand where their food comes from, have an appreciation for how it is produced and the work that goes into it – thus hopefully improving their consumer decisions, such as buying British, Red Tractor-approved and in-season foods; helping the British farming community and reducing the effects of food travel on climate change. The second reason is that it could easily be a career path that might suit them which they may not even know is an option.
I know I was doubted by many people and questioned when choosing to work in farming – there is still a perception that only boys can do it and that we might not be strong enough or that a girl may not ‘hack’ the hours that go with farming. For anyone reading this who wonders about these things – my advice would be to go for it if you think you’ll enjoy it; there may be times you’re not strong enough, or not tall enough to reach but nine times out of ten there’s another way and you will manage it – if not, ask for help, and that’s absolutely fine too! You may also be exhausted and may have to deal with some stick when you break things – but it is all in the right spirit and you might also make friends for life. On the other end of the spectrum you might just hear what I heard while at a job interview for a maize contractor in New Zealand “Oh, you’ll be fantastic, girls never break things like the boys do!” so I suppose it goes both ways!
Overall, I hope my degree helps me to make a difference to agriculture, and that I continue to love what I will forever be learning about. I don’t yet know exactly what my ambitions are in terms of a future career, but I hope I am still able to do the hands-on, practical jobs that I enjoy doing, while also maybe having an impact on something much bigger; but I suppose only time will tell!