Olenska (Olly) Sullivan-Harris, Spence Agricultural Scholar 2020

I am Olenska but most people call me Olly. All my life I have lived in a village on the edge of Cambridgeshire so I’m much more accustomed to life away from the rest of the world. I do not come from a farming background, my mum is a teacher and my dad is a software engineer. However, I have always been obsessed with farming. Every weekend I would beg my family to take me to the Wimpole Estate (a National Trust property) just so I could visit the farm and stare at the animals and tractors for hours, much to their annoyance!

As I got older and all my friends were getting after school jobs, I decided to begin volunteering at the farm which I had always been fascinated by. Here I started to develop a greater passion for the livestock as well as working alongside the great team. It quickly became my happy place, with every week leading up to the Saturday where I would finally be able to go back to the farm.

There were many challenges that would arise from the unpredictable nature of the farm, so you are constantly solving problems and thinking on your feet. This touch and go nature of agriculture excites me greatly and is one of the main reasons why I have chosen to pursue a career in it. Ultimately, I would like to run my own beef farm, where I will be able to use knowledge gained at university to spread the importance of sustainable agriculture.

I chose the University of Nottingham as when I came to the open day with my dad it just clicked with me. I immediately felt at home and was able to see myself studying here. All the lecturers were so helpful, this was reinforced when one of the agriculture lecturers came and sat with me while I ate my lunch and chatted with me about the course. I also chose the University of Nottingham due to its plethora of opportunities such as studying abroad.

Due to Covid-19 the start to university was rather different than expected, with most practicals and lectures online there was little ability to mix with other students also on the same agriculture course. In order to combat this the lecturers organised socially distanced walks that would take us off campus and helped us to get away from our flats into the fresh air.

I am currently really enjoying the global food security module. Next term I am looking forward to taking grassland management and learning about the utilisation of grasslands, which will be fascinating.

I am deeply grateful for having received this scholarship, it has enabled me to settle better into university with less financial stress. I will be using this money to buy any equipment I need as well as my membership with the Agricultural Society here at Nottingham, and any trips that are needed to help widen my knowledge of agriculture. Alongside providing me funding so I will be able to get my tractor diving licence.

If you are considering applying to the University of Nottingham or for the Spence Agricultural Scholarship, then I would really recommend that you just go for it! I initially had not even considered that I would be eligible for a scholarship until the Trust suggested it to me. It is a great stepping-stone in the right direction for a career in agriculture.