Alfija Kalpiss

Southern England Farms, Cornwall

Alfija is a fantastically well-motivated individual, whose infectiously sunny outlook on life had the judges grinning from ear to ear.

An admirable work ethic combined with such a deep-rooted passion for helping people is what makes this farmworker an incredibly valuable asset to the farm she works for.

Alfija Kalpiss

© Jim Wileman

In her current role, she is dedicated to looking after the welfare, induction and training of the 300 or so members of staff who work at the farm in peak harvest seasons.

She has also worked as a harvest team member, picking courgettes and other vegetables, later graduating to harvest manager level, co-ordinating veg-picking teams.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards 2016: Farmworker of the Year finalists revealed

“It’s funny, never in my life did I think I would do anything to do with farming,” she says.

Farm facts

  • More than 2,000ha of rented land across Cornwall, growing spring greens, courgettes, broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower
  • 180 core staff working full time year round, growing to more than 300 in peak seasons
  • Farm supplies Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and other food processors

While now in more of a supervisory role, this 34-year-old mum is rarely found behind a desk and has not forgotten how she started out.

She is still just as keen to work in a team out in the fields as she was 11 years ago, when she moved from Lithuania to start a better life.

Alfija will often work side-by-side with new team members to show them the ropes and get them up to speed.

This means the entire team works smoothly and efficiently and the required daily tonnages are met.

The judges were impressed with her unflappable nature and how she makes light work of logistically complex tasks and manages such extensive responsibilities.

When asked how she manages to keep in constant contact with such a large workforce, she explains that she did find it tricky initially after being promoted to her staff and welfare role, but her meticulous organisation and can-do attitude made it work.

Winning ways

  • Commands respect and has an infectiously positive attitude to life and her work
  • Makes light work of complex and extensive responsibilities
  • An integral link in the running of the farm business

“I know everyone who works here, not just because I am inducting new staff members and training them, but because I am talking to all of them all of the time.”

Knowing that the seasonal workers are happy and continue to come back to work on the farm year after year makes her glow with pride.

Some staff members have been returning to work the busy harvest shifts from March to October for more than a decade now, keeping staff turnover low and productivity high.

This is a massive testament to Alfija’s achievements and influence   at all levels of the business.

Alfija’s helpfulness extends far beyond work though, with many staff members who come from other European countries also needing her help with bank accounts, healthcare, accommodation, childcare and school-related matters.

She has come a long way in the 11 years she’s been working at Southern England Farms, barely able to speak a word of English when she arrived.

She is now fluent in the language of the country she calls home and is learning Bulgarian and Polish to be able to communicate with all of her colleagues more clearly, as the farm attracts workers from across Europe.

“I am motivated to always be improving and challenging myself for a better future for myself and my family,” she says.

Sponsor’s view

Isuzu-logo“It was humbling to see this cheery, enthusiastic and dedicated farmworker keeping her harvest teams happy and productive. A vital cog in the farm operation, Alfija is a hugely deserving winner and an unforgettable character”

Chris Hawken, Group marketing director, Isuzu