28 November 1997

Introducing our team…

WE have a staff of seven at Easton Lodge, including myself. All are full-time employees, with the exception of farms secretary Heather Shead who works a 24-hour week.

Five members of staff have worked on the farm for an average of 17 years so that turnover is not a problem I have had to contend with. Indeed, we have been fortunate to have a loyal and hard- working team.

David Cham joined us as head tractor driver in 1980 and was subsequently promoted to farm foreman. He runs the arable unit of 242ha (598 acres) with the assistance of a sandwich year student shared with the pig unit and seasoned casual labour for hand roguing, bale carting and muck handling.

Jasper Renold has been with us since 1983 and as pig manager looks after the unit and is responsible for two further members of staff and a part share of the student plus other casual labour from time to time.

As well as farm management duties both Jasper and I show many visitors around the farms every year ranging from school groups, farmers discussion clubs, foreign visitors, students and even a group from Friends of the Earth.

Commitment

That, combined with the editorial commitment to this farm page and liaising with colleagues to produce various features throughout the year, provides farms secretary Heather Shead with a varied work programme.

Heathers other duties range from dealing with invoices and receipts, correspondence, salaries, compiling an agrochemical buying list for A1 Farmers Agronomy Group to preparing our visitors handouts.

Head stockman John Knighton has now notched up 20 years in the pig unit and has seen many changes in housing and management during that time.

When built in 1968 on a greenfield site the unit was designed to house 300 sows farrowing down in Solari pens and selling weaners at 30kg. Now the numbers have increased to 360 sows and the sale weight is 96kg with much investment in housing along the way but no additional labour.

Farrowing incumbents

The position of farrowing specialist has had a number of incumbents over the years and is filled at present by Diana Townroe.

Diana came to us in March of last year. It was a difficult period when numbers reared were far from satisfactory, but since then we have made good progress in the farrowing department.

After leaving college in 1987 Diana gained useful practical experience in positions of responsibility but felt the need to add to her academic qualifications. To that end in 1992 she embarked on an ANCA distance learning course in pig business and management at Easton College of Agriculture, Norwich.

Having taken her final exams last July, Diana recently received her results – a pass with credit and the distinction of being the first woman to gain her ANCA via distance learning. Thats no mean feat while holding down a full time and physically demanding job.

The bad news for us, though not for Diana, is that she leaves us next spring to marry John Williams who farms in the Welsh mountains near Lampeter. Consequently we shall be advertising for her replacement early next year.

We have had a succession of sandwich year students from various colleges over the years and when James Ledger from Kent, studying at Writtle College, left us in September his replacement had already been with us for two months.

Phillip Reed, whose home is at Haverhill in Suffolk, is studying for a BSc in Agriculture at Seale-Hayne Agricultural College in Devon. He will spend 14 months with us before picking up his studies again next year.

Phillip already has qualifications from Otley College near Ipswich and has gained practical experience on farms majoring in livestock.

He has gained his craftsman certificates in pig, milk and beef production as well as a number of certificates of competency.

Split duties

His duties during his time with us will be fairly evenly split between the arable and pig units providing relief labour during holidays, weekends off and additional labour during the peak periods of harvest and autumn sowing.

The last member of the team, albeit temporary, is Edward Hayes, who, on leaving Stamford School last summer, is doing a years practical work in animal husbandry on various farms before going to veterinary college in October 1998.

His contribution to pigs will be to work for us for 16 weeks during which time he and other members of staff will carry out much needed repairs and housing modifications to enable the unit to qualify for our Farm Assured British Pigs (FAB Pigs) certification.

Its goodbye from her and hello from him. Diana Townroe (left) has been Easton Lodge pig units farrowing specialist for the past eight months and sadly, for us, will be leaving in the spring to take up a new life in Wales. Meanwhile, Phillip Reed is to spend 14 months working on both the pig and arable units. Hes studying for a BSc at Seale-Hayne in Devon.