What’s it all about then?
You’ll be responsible for the smooth running of the farm business, dealing with accounts, budgets, salaries and other financial issues.
You’ll also likely be the first point of contact with suppliers and customers.
You’ll work closely with farmers, farm managers etc to ensure that all tasks are completed to schedule and in compliance with relevant legislation.
The job is a combination of everyday tasks and more complex management issues.
What might I be doing?
The duties will vary from job to job but are very likely to include the following:
- Preparing accounts and budgets and monitoring cash flows
- Keeping accurate records and storing these effectively
- Calculating salaries and maintaining employment records
- Costing and ordering supplies
- Ensuring all payments are made on time
- Making sure all legislative issues are complied with
- Completing forms for subsidies and grants
- Dealing with VAT and tax returns
- Staying on top of general administrative duties
- Getting quotes for machinery and other purchases
- Dealing with suppliers and customers
- Utilising software extensively to complete all tasks
What will be expected of me?
You are going to be someone who has is well organised and with a good head for figures because most of what you do will be concerned with financial issues.
Your communication skills will also need to be tip top, both verbal and written; working most of the time on computer means a high level of competence with various software programmes.
As you are dealing with financial and personnel issues it is important that you are able to use your discretion in certain matters.
Part of the work involves working alone and part involves working with others so you’ll need to be someone who is comfortable with either scenario; this is particularly important when dealing with customers and other external contacts.
Finally and most importantly you’ll be expected to have an interest in all matters rural and farming.
What can I expect?
This is a mainly office based job with standard hours (anywhere between 8am and 6pm), although you may have to work in the evenings and at weekends depending on the level of activity on the farm at any particular time during the year.
You might be employed on a single business although many farm secretaries work on a freelance basis for more than one employer.
This means you might expect flexibility of location and your own transport will be required in many cases.
If you work for one large business you may be provided with accommodation.
What about the pay?
Starting off you might be earning around £15000 to £20000 per annum
More experienced farm secretaries working for larger businesses may earn more than this, possibly up to around £28000 per annum
If you work on a freelance basis you could earn more again, depending on how many hours work you’re prepared to do per week. Freelance farm secretaries may charge between £15 and £20 per hour
These figures are given as a guideline for your benefit only and will vary with location and business size and type – always make sure you check for up to date figures
What qualifications do I need to get in?
Whilst there are no set academic qualifications required for this job, many employers will ask for 5 GCSE passes at grades A*-C or equivalent, possibly coupled with previous experience of farming.
Other useful courses of study include Bookkeeping and Accountancy certificates/diplomas at various levels; you will need to be skilled in the use of IT as well.
Or you might think about studying for a business or general secretarial qualification.
For those looking for industry specific courses, the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators offers the Farm Accounting and Rural Business Administration Training Programme which consists of four distinct units and which offers the benefit of an industry recognised qualification.
Where would I get these qualifications?
The courses noted above are widely available through your local Further Education Colleges and you should check their prospectuses for details.
You could study for these qualifications full-time, part-time or by distance learning.
The Farm Accounting and Rural Business Administration Training Programme is available for delivery but only on Friday and Saturday and only in Warwickshire at time of writing.
What about further training?
You can develop your skills on the job and this may include training in the use of specialised agricultural business computer packages.
If you become a member of an organisation like the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators you will be able to undertake continuing professional Development (CPD) opportunities, workshops, latest news and industry issues.
Anything else I might need to know?
Yes, this is a great job for developing a wide range of secretarial skills whilst keeping in touch with farming and the rural economy.
There are job opportunities for farm secretaries all over the country and you may start off as a fully employed member of staff and move to a more flexible freelance model of work as you gain experience and a reputation for excellence in your job!