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22nd September 2006 at 01:00
James Newington

Born: 1970

Job: Farmer

Attended: Plumpton College, 1997-99

Studied: National Diploma in Agriculture (NDA)

James Newington is responsible for the much heralded Wimbledon strawberries, served up each summer at the All England Club tennis championships. As a farm manager in Maidstone, Kent, he oversees the production of up to 2,000 tonnes of strawberries each year and is in charge of 450 people. Their work includes the growing of a huge quantity of raspberries and various other arable products.

The level of teaching was very good, but some lecturers were let down by a lack of practical knowledge. I learned as much from my fellow students, who had their own area of expertise. But I have fond memories of all the staff at Plumpton.

My favourite would have been Des Lambert, who was more the farm manager at the time. Geoff Gregory, the machinery lecturer, was a lovely old guy who taught us weather and EEC studies.

I had the capacity to learn more, but college gave me life skills more than practical skills, and both have been invaluable in my career.

I recallbeing told to "think before you open your mouth" and that was the best advice I was ever given.

From the front, the college looked very established and welcoming, built of brick with plenty of character and large wooden front doors. Once you got around the back it was more 1960s functionality, but tidy. The facilities were perfectly adequate for my requirements.

I have not forgotten the canteen food, which was quite good. The fried breakfast was the best thing for a hangover.

I have been back, but not for a few years. I went to college a boy, and came out a young man. The experience of being a full-boarder had most influence on me, because prior to college, I had had a fairly quiet life at home on the farm, with a couple of close friends and no social life.

I came out of college a confident young man with a group of extremely close, good friends - the sort of people you could rely on in a crisis. I have a couple of friends I speak to regularly, and I meet up with others at weddings and so on.

I don't think I would have done anything differently. When I was there, I lived life to the full and they are still the best years of my life, with the fondest memories. If I could, I would do it all again.

After college, I worked for a summer and travelled to New Zealand and the United States for five months with one of my college friends. Since then, I have had various jobs in farming, working my way up the ladder. And I hope to have my own business.

James Newington was talking to Shekhar Bhatia

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