8 December 2000

Far more than secretary…

Last years winner Sally Wood received her commemorative trophy at the Royal Show from Tim Porter, head of agriculture at Lloyds TSB. She was a worthy winner, but had to fight off stiff competition to take the title.

A QUICK glance at the credentials of last years Farm Secretary of the Year shows just how much a well-trained office professional can offer a farming business.

Sally Wood, from Chesterfield in Derbyshire, was indeed a worthy winner of this annual competition. Her day-to-day tasks include book-keeping, VAT, wages, correspondence, invoicing and tackling IACS and other MAFF forms.

She is also a dab hand at cash flow projections and farm budgeting, and could give many professional business consultants a run for their money.

It is a far cry from the popular, albeit unfair, image of a secretary. But it reflects the increasing demands put on office staff, be they full time or freelance. Many farmers, faced with plummeting incomes, have cut back on labour. They are having to work longer hours for less reward.

Yet the mound of paperwork grows and the red tape gets longer. Farmers need help, but they demand value for money. That is where the professional administrator comes in. And it is why the organisers of this annual competition have decided to revamp it.

The most obvious change is the name. Farm Business Administra-tor 2001 reflects the increasingly high standards shown by the contestants over the years the competition has been running.

But the format has been updated, too. Those who clear the first round of questions will be set a real-life case study. Steve and Anne Kirk, who farm dairy and arable at Holt Farm, near Lutterworth, Leics, have agreed to participate in this years competition.

Contestants will given all the necessary information to enable them to prepare a SWOT analysis, suggest changes to move the business forward, and prepare financial forecasts to back up their decision.

Finalists will then be invited on to the farm in early May, for an informal interview with the judges about themselves, and to explain their plans for the farm.

To reflect the high standard expected, and the effort involved, the prize money has been raised. The winner will receive a cheque from Lloyds TSB for £750, and the runner-up £250.

So, if you think you have what it takes to win the prestigious title Farm Business Administrator 2001, dont delay. Start answering the first round questions, fill in the entry form and return with your CV to IAgSA as soon as possible. And the very best of luck. &#42


&#8226 The winner will receive a cheque for £750 from Lloyds TSB, a selection of Farmplan computer software and a years subscription to the Royal Agricultural Society of England, to farmers weekly and to IAgSA.

&#8226 The runner-up will receive a cheque for £250 and a years subscription to farmers weekly and to IAgSA.

&#8226 The winner and runner-up will also receive a Black Horse trophy from Lloyds TSB at a special awards ceremony at this years Royal Show.

&#8226 All those entering the second round will receive a Lloyds Bank Small Business Guide.

&#8226 Entrants may be self-nominated or put forward by their employer. Employers nominating the winner and runner-up will receive a bottle of champagne from the sponsors.