Farm Minister reflects on his Writtle College studies at FE Presentation Day

July 2015

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Farm Minister George Eustice MP handed out the awards at Writtle College’s Further Education Presentation Day.

Mr Eustice, a Writtle College alumnus, congratulated the students at the ceremony on Friday 26 June – held for the first time in All Saints Church, Writtle – and said it was a pleasure to be back in Writtle after graduating from the College 22 years ago.

The Minister of State – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who studied a HND in Commercial Horticulture at Writtle College between 1990 and 1993, addressed the students at all four ceremonies.

He said: “I have many fond memories of the College and I have kept in touch with people who I studied with here. They have become my lifelong friends and one of these friends even asked me to be godfather to his children. My first piece of advice to you is to keep in touch with your friends!

“I came from Cornwall to study at Writtle College and I used to drive past other agricultural colleges to come here as it had such a great reputation.

“The knowledge I acquired here at Writtle is still very useful to me today in my role as Farm Minister. Earlier I met with Horticulture Lecturer John Cullum, who was one of my lecturers in crop production and crop science. I still use the knowledge he taught me when dealing with issues as Farm Minister, whether it is red spider mites, the vernalisation of cauliflowers or diquat chemicals. It is an advantage to know about your subject, and sometimes to know more than your officials!”

He recommended the land-based industry as a career because being concerned with the environment naturally leads to a diverse role.

He said: “I was once told to choose something that you are passionate about and then work out how you can make a living out of it. Working in the land-based industry is an extraordinary career to choose. Food production is our biggest manufacturing industry and the population is set to grow by 9 billion by 2050, demand for food is expected to go up by 60%, there is new technology and climate change. Whereas in the last 25 to 30 years we talked about grain mountains and butter mountains, over the next 25 to 30 years it will be about food security. So the prospects for those in the industry are very good.”

The Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle since May 2010 advised students that they may face adversity in their careers but that this may be worthwhile. He drew on a failed attempt to commercially grow strawberries at his family farm in Cornwall that led to the company going into receivership and him learning more about the law and finance. This, he said, led him into politics and he now has the benefit of reconciling his passion for agriculture and horticulture with his political career.

The award ceremonies marked the success of students completing full-time and part-time FE courses at Writtle College including Equine, Animal Studies, Veterinary Nursing, Floristry, Agriculture, Countryside, Art and Design, Sport and Horticulture courses.

This year’s successes include FE horticulture students winning all three of the top accolades in the Young Gardeners of the Year competition at the Ideal Home Show; an FE student winning a floristry competition on the Alan Titchmarsh Show; one of the organisations that offers our students Apprenticeships being highly commended in two national apprenticeship awards; and Sport students canoeing from Devizes to Westminster.

Having been rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted inspectors last year, the College has seen its success rates continue to improve, with 96.6% of our FE Level 3 students progressing to further education or employment, according to the Writtle Destination Survey.