Vicky Anderson started as a farm secretary on Lady Bell’s Arncliffe Farms estate over 30 years ago and after a brief excursion into working for an accountancy practice set up on her own business offering farm secretarial services.
Vicky now runs Vicky Anderson Business Services & Training from her and husband Richard’s Beech Hill Farm at Ellerbeck near Northallerton, having taken on the training aspect of her business 15 years ago. Vicky said her introduction to providing training for farmers and now many more besides came about in a random manner.
“I had one of my clients say ‘you’d be good at that Vicky’. I had no idea what he meant at the time.
“My business up until then had been in farm secretarial services, bookkeeping, the traditional kind of thing. When I took a proper look at providing training services for rural skills I decided that if we were going to do it we were going to go about it professionally and that all training would be to set standards of such as City & Guilds qualifications and Lantra approved.
“The ability to offer training courses and finding the appropriate training providers sat neatly alongside what we were already doing for clients on the farm secretarial side. We were immediately able to make contact with farmers about their training needs for such as telehandler, chainsaw and ATV handling courses and many more besides.”
Changes have been afoot in the balance between the two main sectors where Vicky’s business operates since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
“Our business now sees us working primarily with farmers but also other industries and disciplines. Our work on the farm secretarial side that includes bookkeeping, VAT and payrolls now sees us also offering far more advice to farm businesses than ever before, particularly since before the pandemic.
“At that time, I would have said our bookkeeping side was shrinking but now a lot more people are coming to the conclusion they need someone to give them more assistance about their business and plans for the future. Some just don’t want to handle that side any more.
“We have also recently been able to attract bespoke training funding that assists our clients further in terms of defraying their cost towards training and advice. This can be on the farm business advice side as well as the regular training courses.
“It can include a financial review of the farm business, which especially for planning after the pandemic can be extremely useful. It means we sit down with a client and talk through their plans, staffing arrangements and what happens if certain things take place.”
Training courses make up around 50 per cent of Vicky’s overall business. Her team of five plus herself are split fairly equally between the two sectors of farm business and secretarial and training services.
Vicky said the training arm of her business continues to prove as popular as ever, and that one course being booked often leads to a discussion that brings about others that are required.
“We had a lady recently who approached us for pesticide training where she was concerned about being ecologically correct with her spraying and management of land next to a lake.
"There was also a training need for a chainsaw course to maintain woodland in the right manner. When you start talking about what a client needs you are often able to pinpoint others that are also needed.”
Vicky’s young team has been her inspiration in the past months.
“We’ve been able to employ two new people during the pandemic and that is for me the most marvellous thing and really exciting.
“There were times when I had some really important decisions to make. We tried working from home but instead we found it easier to create our own little bubble that everyone was happy with.
“One of the girls was the training coordinator and asked that I please wouldn’t furlough her, despite there being hardly any training carried out.
“We didn’t furlough her, instead she retrained onto bookkeeping, payrolls and she even deep cleaned everything when our cleaner couldn’t come. She was fantastic. That’s the kind of team that we have here and I am absolutely thrilled that we won the award for them.”
Vicky said her work in the training sector is now way beyond purely farming provision.
“We have taken on a lot of council training for such as those working in parks plus the National Parks and Wildlife Trust.”