Following his nomination for Farm Worker of the Year in the British Farming Awards, Lackham’s Richard Ingram speaks to us about his time at Wiltshire College & University Centre’s agricultural campus, balancing his vital work at the farms with his role teaching students.
From an agricultural background, Richard’s own father was a farm manager, a role to which Richard himself has always aspired. Starting at Lackham 14 years ago as a Dairyman, Richard says he only occasionally has milking duties these days.
Nowadays he is the Livestock Manager, principally responsible for the management of the farm’s beef herds and calves, which include Limousin, Hereford and British Shorthorn crosses.
His current role encompasses a wide range of responsibilities: ‘That’s what I like, the variation in the role. I’m always meeting lots of people, and no two days are the same.’
At the moment, Richard’s most pressing work is with the young stock - with 80 cows currently to calf he is always on duty. And living on the farm means a crucial part of Richard’s role is night-time and early morning checks on calving cows, ensuring that as many calves as possible survive the crucial early stages of life.
Of course, what sets Lackham apart from other farms is its dual nature as both a working commercial farm and a college. The work carried out by Richard and his colleagues is not only different from that at most farms, but also comes with its own set of challenges.
In addition to Lackham’s farms needing to be profitable and meet industry standards, they must crucially facilitate an infrastructure for learning. Student duties are a crucial part of the daily goings-on at Home and Notton farms, so planning often revolves around the needs of the curriculum as well as the crops and livestock.
However, Richard relishes this challenge.
He said: “Work is completely different in the summer, when the students are away – it’s more like being on a normal farm.
“There are different challenges when the students come back, but it’s unique, being able to teach tomorrow’s farmers, and even learn something from them.
“I’ve been lucky to work with good people, and I enjoy passing on what I’ve learnt.”
In particular, Richard works with students on Foundation courses, helping to build their confidence and enabling them to progress through learning and into employment.
Like their peers studying for agricultural qualifications, Foundation-level students are given farm duties as part of their more flexible timetables.
“They help with cleaning, bedding and feeding – and at the end of every session we give them an opportunity to handle the animals themselves, which the students love,” he said.
“It’s rewarding to see them develop their confidence.”
Lackham was awarded the Edge Award earlier this year, in recognition of the outstanding delivery of practical experience on the farm, and a funding award from the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) will bring further development and expertise to the College. A robotic milking parlour is scheduled to arrive in the coming months, allowing Wiltshire College & University Centre to provide further training for both students and dairy industry professionals.
With this new development, Richard’s role is bound to evolve again, but the core of Lackham’s ethos – equipping students with knowledge that is reinforced by practical skills – will remain as strong as ever.
The winners of the British Farming Awards 2019 will be announced at the awards ceremony in Birmingham, on the Thursday 17th October – best of luck Richard, from everyone at Wiltshire College & University Centre!