19 June 1998

Track suit tests sort out the top office operators

DEEP within 200 acres of Hampshire woodland, 15 track-suited farm secretaries and students met last Friday for the final round in the 1998 Farm Secretary of the Year competition.

They tackled a range of mind-bending challenges at Lasham Woodland Training Centre, near Alton, Hants, designed to test communication and organisational skills, confidence, motivation and determination. Such attributes are vital in the pressured environment of todays farm office.

The five-strong team of judges at Lasham was led by Ian Stockley, head of agriculture at Lloyds TSB and Jenny Pine, the new chairman of the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators, which organises the competition.

Practical tests followed a morning of informal discussion with the judges, and an administration test. These enabled judges to assess agricultural knowledge, business skills, initiative and the ability to work under pressure and gave them the chance to develop impressions gained from the first two written rounds held earlier in the year.

The secretaries and students put in some excellent performances, said the centres manager Dave Shaylor.

The competition is divided into three classes – a senior section for those working full-time or part-time on farms in Great Britain, and two student sections, one for mature students over 21, the other for younger entrants.

The winners will be announced at a reception hosted by major sponsor Lloyds TSB at the Royal Show, on Monday, July 6. &#42

Lasham owner Dave Shaylor checks mature student Emma Brewers harness – before testing her head for heights.

Not as easy as it looks. The "Mohican Walk" kept contestants minds (and bodies) at full stretch.

Left: Initiative and co-operation were put to the test in a series of tasks.

Below: Senior section contestants Linda Bratley (left) and Kathy Gould took

the chance to branch out from their usual line of work.

Judges (from left) Ian Stockley (Lloyds TSB), Jenny Pine (IAgSA chairman), Debbie Dann (IAgSA), Robert Harris (FW) and Fiona Ives (IAgSA) were press-ganged into the afternoon activities.