Staffing For The Future

28 January 2018

Getting the best from the people you work with in times of change

By Nicola Currie, Easton&Otley College Apprenticeship Ambassador

Employees are the back bone of our businesses. It is their commitment and involvement which ensures that a business can grow and adapt to change. This ability to re think and move with the times will be even more vital in Defra’s brave new world of farming post Brexit

Now is the time of year when many farmers are off to the machinery shows to check out the latest big kit. How many are investing the same amount of thought into ensuring their staff have the right training so they can give of their best, the very same people who will be using all that expensive technology?

Farming’s track record of staff training is, let’s be honest, mixed; it ranges from the fantastic to the non-existent.  This is in contrast with the next generation of farmers many of whom do so much to keep on top of the latest developments.

‘I want to give farmers and land managers time and the tools to adapt to the future, so we avoid a precipitate cliff edge but also prepare properly for the changes which are coming’ were Defra SoS Michael Gove’s words at Oxford. This sounds like an echo from the early nineties when tax breaks were introduced to enable unprofitable dairy units to close down ‘with dignity’. Many who failed to grasp that opportunity later regretted it.  Those who took it had scope to learn new skills and adapt to change.

Consultants use the phrase ‘Human Capital’. Easton&Otley College is holding a free Farmer’s Meeting which asks if Human Capital is farming’s least recognised asset.

Too often staff development is the Cinderella of farm business planning, yet we know that training is key in all the most successful businesses. The College want to help change this. It is so important not to get trapped in the bubble of being too busy with the day to day. We want to initiate the debate in our region by bringing together a diverse panel of speakers to help farmers start the discussion on how they think they should to be investing in themselves and their staff to prepare for this time of great change.

Those work based training certificates: PA1, PA2 Forktlift truck operator and the rest are not the answer, necessities yes but too many farming business stop there, tick the HSE box and feel they have done all that is needed. Good training gives buy in to a business, makes people feel valued and helps retention.

Three speakers will show the innovative way they work with their staff to ensure everyone has the knowledge they need to contribute fully to their business, including a very successful model of succession planning within a family business.

David Horton-Fawkes  CEO of Gascoyne Estates who was until recently Estates Director at Holkham will explain why their farm staff are given training sessions with soil and crop scientists to ensure everyone fully understands what the business is doing and why.

Sally Bendall MD of Hollow Trees Farm with its national award winning farm shop and schools farm trail, has created a training programme specially designed to train the young people she employs with extra support for those from non-farming back grounds.



Boxford Suffolk Farms director Robert England will outline the Peak family succession policy which has enabled the business to expand so successfully, keeping the extended family involved but enabling the business to employ people like himself who bring the extra skills as and when they are needed.

Chaired by BBC Radio 4 Farming Today’s Anna Hill the evening will end with a discussion from the floor.

‘Nurturing our human capital – farming’s least recognised asset’ is free to all farmers. It is being held at Easton&Otley Easton campus on Thursday 8th February from 4pm sponsored by Barclays Bank. Contact to book. 

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