The selection of the new crop of Nuffield scholars is always a tense time. These days it’s my turn to sit on the selection panel on behalf of the Fruiterers, thinking back to my own anxiety about the 20-minute interview upon which so much depended.

Like many Nuffield scholars, my study opened up my horizons, helped me see beyond the everyday and introduced me to so many opportunities. Farming in the UK has benefitted enormously from the generosity of the Nuffield sponsors, building on William Morris’s initial investment in his brother and then neighbours. 

Previous scholars include Ali Capper, who will be speaking at the fruit show this year and has affected so much change and heightened awareness of the challenges for fruit and hop growers, Feli Felicidad at NIAB EMR, responsible for breeding a generation of delicious berries, Chris Newenham at the helm of the UK’s quintessential jam brand, and we cannot forget Paul Kelly, who introduced the world to bronze turkeys.

This year’s clutch of candidates was outstanding, submitting well thought-out, intelligent applications from people with a clear vision of what was needed in their sector, already skilled but aware of the need for continual evolution and development. 

Our latest Fruiterers scholar is Polly Hilton, the founder of, and cider maker at, Find & Foster Fine Ciders. Her study is on “Elevating the value of and respect for fine cider to safeguard the future of orchards.” She is erudite, driven and absolutely thinking about the future opportunities for the broader industry, not just her own enterprise, I’m really looking forward to learning more from her and seeing where her study takes her.

The mission statement of the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust is Leading positive change in agriculture – Inspiring passion and potential in people. The Trust gives approximately 20 individuals each year the opportunity to research topics of interest in farming, food, horticulture or rural industries. 

A bursary of approximately £7,000 is given towards travel and subsistence expenses. In addition, the trust and the individual award sponsor meet travel and expenses in relation to the pre-study briefing and contemporary scholars conference, which takes the total value of an award to in excess of £12,000. 

Scholars are able to travel anywhere in the world for a period of no less than eight weeks to further their knowledge and understanding of their chosen topic. When they return from their travels they submit a written report which is then published, with the findings, conclusions and recommendations to the focus industry presented at the annual Nuffield Farming Conference. Scholars are also expected to use every opportunity to share their findings and spread their new knowledge as far and wide as possible.

With any luck you’ll be reading this column at the National Fruit Show. If not, please come to Detling, meet with the speakers, learn about all the new tech and support available from exhibitors and take the opportunity to say thank you to Minette Batters for the hard work she has done during her term as NFU President. I’m really interested to see where she will end up next; there is clearly an interesting future ahead for her!

Photo: Bern James /