A machinery specialist and a former student on the Guild’s new entrant training course are among the latest new members.
Freelance machinery writer Steven Vale has worked from his home in the Netherlands for the past 22 years but is a prolific contributor to a number of magazines published in Britain.
His journalism career started with the dealer trade magazine Agricultural Machinery Journal, then published by Miller Freeman, before a round-the-world trip with his Dutch girlfriend (now his wife) Hilda opened his eyes to other writing opportunities.
“I was used to working abroad, having picked melons on an Israeli Kibbutz in 1980 after completing a three-year OND course in agriculture at Moulton College in Northamptonshire,” Steven explains. “After three and a half years on AMJ, starting as a trainee journalist, the travel bug struck again and Hilda and I set off for on a six-month world tour.”
The journey took longer than expected. They spent 18 months in Sydney,
Australia, where Steven worked as production manager for the Australian Beef Journal, Australian Pork Journal, Rural Merchant and the Australian Poultry Digest, and got back to Europe in 1988, more than three years after setting off!
It was then, in a one-room flat in an old town house in Amsterdam, that Steven started his freelancing career.
“During those early years I worked mainly for What’s New in Farming but I also helped co-produce a couple of South American Travel Guides for Hilary Bradt Publications,” he recalls. “I’m still based in Holland, but now in the village of De Rijp north of Amsterdam, where I live with Hilda and our children Carmina (15) and Cameron (13).
These days, Steven likes to combine his love of travel and interest in machines by reporting on the European farm machinery scene, covering all the main shows for titles such as Classic Tractor and Farmers Guardian.
More recently he was asked to track down some of the largest earthmoving equipment in the business for British magazine Earthmovers and has teamed up with Guild member Roger Smith at Old Pond Publishing to help make a series of ‘Massive Machine’ DVDs.
Big machines are few and far between in Holland but one thing the Dutch do have is a lot of glass. So it is little wonder that Steven is a regular contributor to Commercial Greenhouse Grower, published by another fellow Guild member, John Jarrett of ACT Publishing.
Now 49, Steven says he loves the variety of his job. One day he can be interviewing a Dutch organic farmer or looking at tomatoes in one of the world’s largest Greenhouses; and the next, standing in the bottom of a mine photographing and taking notes on the world’s biggest earthmovers.
23-year-old food and economics graduate William Wilson has joined the Guild after completing the John Deere-sponsored newcomer training scheme in 2007 and winning the runner-up award for the ‘best student article’.
William spent the work experience element of the course with Mistral, the specialist environment, food and rural affairs PR consultancy established in 1976 by Guild member Mike Evans. During his time there, Will worked with Guild member Tom Allen-Stevens on the RASE Royal Show account in the year when the last day had to be cancelled at short notice as a result of heavy, prolonged rain and adverse ground conditions.
“It was an incredible experience and I learned so much,” says William. “It was a shame for all the stakeholders that the last day had to be cancelled but it gave me an amazing insight into managing the communication of such a situation.
“We worked with the media out in the show’s national catchment area and with the police and breed and horse societies in a bid to stop last-day visitors travelling to Stoneleigh. It proved a frenetic few hours!”
After graduating from the University of Reading, where he studied Food Marketing and Business Economics, William spent six months travelling around Australia working for large-scale farming businesses and mining companies.
“Having been brought up on a farm in Suffolk and working for various large farming companies as a student it was incredible to see the scale and management style of the farms in Australia,” he says. “I look forward to lots more travelling and building on these experiences in future.”
In April this year, William joined MDS Ltd, a company which aims to bring graduates into the fresh food and produce industry through post graduate training and paid placements. He has just started his first placement, working as an assistant farm manager for Spearhead International, growing potatoes on the Suffolk coast.
“With Mistral handling knowledge transfer for the Potato Council, perhaps some of my old contacts will prove useful,” he suggests. “MDS Ltd will give me a fantastic chance to work at different levels of the food supply chain, and get some valuable training in the process; I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
William adds: “I am passionate about agriculture and its future in the UK and the world. Specifically, I can see that attracting future entrants and the need to build on its public image and identify its role in society is vital.
“The contacts and experiences the Guild has given me have already been so valuable .I look forward to participating in future events and continuing my writing – so members; please feel free to get in touch if you think I can be involved.”