Rook Row Farm, Malevern, Worcestershire
• Ability to do any job
• Multi-lingual skills a big benefit
• Pickers appreciate her fairness
• Most of us can do one or two things well, but Liliya Kucher is one of those rare people who excel at almost everything they turn their hand to.
Whether it’s upping the workrate of a veg picking team, delivering a lamb or changing the points on the plough, Liliya can do it all. Not immediately, of course, but when she puts her mind to something, it soon gets done.
Which is why she is such a pivotal person at Andrew Green’s vegetable business at Rook Row Farm near Malvern. His family grows 60ha (150 acres) of runner beans, tenderstem broccoli, mange tout, sugar snap peas and courgettes for the big supermarkets.
The buyers demand high-quality produce, so crops have to be picked with hour-by-hour precision. It’s not a job that many UK workers like doing, so the farm relies on up to 120 workers a year from Eastern Europe. That means up to eight different languages are spoken, so supervision of workers has to be of the highest calibre.
“We produce difficult products that need a lot of care,” says Andrew. “The supermarkets are looking for almost perfect products.”
The crops are processed and pre-packed on site and there’s also a flock of 270 breeding ewes that consume the veg packhouse waste. The months of July, August and September, says Andrew, are just plain manic.
It was into this whirlwind of a business that Liliya Kucher stepped five years ago. She had come to the UK from Ukraine through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Scheme (SAWS).
But behind the ready smile and friendly personality was someone who was determined to get involved in far more than just picking veg. And five years on, she is involved in virtually every aspect of this farm other than negotiating prices with supermarket buyers.
Liliya’s language skills (she can get by in Bulgarian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian as well as her native Ukrainian) meant she could work closely with the pickers to come up with a more effective way of doing it.
She’s increasingly involved in the agronomic side, too, making decisions about when and where crops will be planted and costing out current and new varieties. She also does a lot of the cultivation work as well helping with the lambing, vaccination and worming of the sheep flock.
What of the future? Liliya is currently working towards a managerial and supervisory diploma, followed up by a management and leadership training course.
Liliya is certainly destined to go places in the future, but her current role is providing lots of satisfaction and challenges. Which is good news for Andrew Green.
“If she left tomorrow, we’d have to employ two or three people to replace her,” he says. And there’s no greater compliment than that.
• 100ha of speciality vegetables
• Grown for supermarkets
• 120 seasonal workers
• 270 breeding ewes
“We are proud to sponsor the Farmworker of the Year. This category is in perfect synergy with our product, as a successful farmworker is as pivotal to the success and smooth running of any farm as a dependable 4×4 pick-up”
William Brown, General Manager
2011 Farmers Weekly Awards