17 October 2017
The Paul Wilson Scholarship has been established at Harper Adams University in memory of my late husband.
Paul was from a non-farming background but chose to leave Loughborough Sixth Form aged 17 and seek paid work experience on farms of contrasting size in Oxfordshire, Devon and Leicestershire.
Paul had already committed to the hours of training necessary for competitive cycling and tasted success winning the National Cycling Schoolboy Time Trial championship in 1966. This was good training for farm work. The farms all had in common large dairy herds, which meant long hours and a daily commitment.
Paul loved the active outdoor life from the beginning and approached each task with enthusiasm and energy, he learnt quickly from his much older work colleagues to ‘mix a bit of time with it’ and commit to doing each job well, however tedious, as that meant you could move onto something different.
Paul took advice on college options and Harper came highly recommended. Paul joined the NDA 2 year course there in 1970 aged 20. He lodged with the local vet but entered enthusiastically into all aspects of college life.
Two years later he successfully completed the course and enrolled on the AMBA course (Agricultural Marketing and Business Administration) then delivered at Stoke Polytechnic. He won the annual course prize and found the material fascinating, often returning to the ideas as the years passed.
Newly married in 1973, Paul took a job as a tractor driver on a South Oxfordshire farm with a large herd of pedigree Guernseys. Paul, full of boundless energy and practical skills, renovated farm machinery, took on the relief milking, trialled new technology with the purchase of a new large round bailer as well as setting a huge vegetable garden and renovating the farm cottage.
All this skill and enthusiasm didn’t go unnoticed and Paul was quickly promoted to working. Farm Manager which required the new skills of business and man management. During the next five years, Paul learnt a great deal about the rigours of on farm life. Now with two children he sought a change of direction away from practical farming and into the new and rapidly developing world of crop protection.
He took a job as the main agronomist in a small Oxfordshire company. Paul’s practical start enabled him to understand the challenges facing farmers with the drive to increase yields and inputs, the corresponding rapid developments in technology and the economic pressures.
The committed and forward-looking farmers with whom he began to work closely became life-long friends and their working partnerships very successful. So many tributes to Paul’s commitment, integrity and expertise have flooded in from both his farmers and colleagues.
When the company was bought by Technicrop and became a much bigger outfit Paul remained at the forefront of new developments, returning to Harper regularly to take the Basis qualifications, always striving to improve outcomes for farmers, meanwhile keeping abreast of any new technology.
He was instrumental in testing the first dedicated software for the agronomy industry, the Crop Walker programme developed by Muddy Boots software. It’s a great credit to Paul’s legacy that so many of today’s agronomists use CropWalker and Muddy Boots software.
He always sought the product detail from the manufacturers, the knowledge of plant pathologists, soil scientists, industry trials, field experience and combined this with his practical knowledge of farming practice and the ever growing body of knowledge now available to the industry to achieve the best outcomes possible each year.
Paul was never alarmed by change but embraced it positively. When Technicrop was bought by Frontier in 2003, far from being threatened by it he embraced it as an opportunity. Although working from home could be lonely, it was never as isolated as farm work.
Paul was never out of touch with his colleagues and farmers, the advent of the mobile phone was crucial here and he worked closely and positively with everyone, delighting in the exchange of knowledge and ideas, always excited by new young talent whom he enjoyed mentoring and was happy to wave them on by.
Following his initial cancer diagnosis Paul was unable to return to field walking but took on the role of ‘hotline adviser’ for Frontier agronomists. His patient input with colleagues and constant support on the hotline, providing technical and moral support in equal measure, was greatly valued by colleagues who held him in high regard both within Frontier and the wider industry.
Paul’s career as an agronomist spanned 37 years. Work was his primary commitment but he found time for many other passions, classic motorbikes, Bugatti rallies, family, friends and grandchildren, a lifelong love of cycling and the great European road races and literature and politics. He had a continual curiosity and love of life.
He respected the industry and enjoyed his work and always strove to do the very best job he could.
He would be pleased to know that the high esteem in which he is held by his farmers, colleagues and the wider industry has inspired them along with his family and friends to donate such generous funds towards this scholarship.
Written by Carolyn Wilson
The Development Trust and the University Secretary, Dr Catherine Baxter, would like to thank Carolyn Wilson, the wider Wilson family, Paul’s colleagues, friends and farmers and the following companies who have supported the Paul Wilson Scholarship: