It was June and I was preparing for my first major show as Show Secretary of my local horticultural society. Our judge for our Summer Show was Peter Cranfield. Over lunch I told Peter that I was in training to be a judge with the Essex Guild of Horticultural Judges. He suggested that I should enter the National Vegetable Society judging exam in October. I am always keen to further my knowledge and so agreed to do it.

I could not believe how quickly the exam came round. The first part of the exam is a written paper. This contains some multiple choice, some two mark questions and then some longer six mark questions. This was the last exam based on the old style judging guide. From 2018 the new edition of the judging guide will be used to form the base of the exam. There were 100 marks up for grabs and the pass mark was 75. It felt like a long time since I had last sat in an exam hall!

Having warmed up it was now time for the main event. The room had eight classes laid out with five entries in each class. The vegetables included potatoes, carrots and onions. At the top of the hall there were two five vegetable collections. At the other end of the hall there were three vegetables all with faults that had to be identified. At first I was quite intimidated by the classes. Most of the exhibits were of a very high standard. Some had been entered in the Westminster show the week before.


It was fantastically well organised and run event. I went away feeling that I had given it my best but that I would not have passed the practical as it was tough and I had never judged to such  standards before. Having said this, I was determined to use the experience to stand me in good stead to have another go at some point.

In the weeks that passed I had almost forgotten all about the exam and the results. One day I received a large envelope and inside was a certificate, letter and badge informing me that I had passed both parts of the exam and I was now an NVS qualified judge.. At the age of 22 I believe that I must be one of the youngest ever to take the NVS judging exam let alone pass it. I honestly could not believe it as it was completely unexpected but wonderful surprise

The main goal of my blog is to give readers a first hand account of the day and what you can expect. What I really want it to do is to encourage others to give it a go. To keep the shows going up and down the country we need more people to become judges. If you have ever thought of judging then have a go at the exam in October this year. It will be a fantastic experience and I guarantee that you will be a better grower, shower or judge for the experience. The exam is always the first Saturday of October so get in touch with your local DA and find out more. I promise that you will not regret it!

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