Farm secretary role more vital than ever

The Runciman family - Roderick, Amanda, Lewis and Libby - at their Allanshaws farmhouse.
The Runciman family - Roderick, Amanda, Lewis and Libby - at their Allanshaws farmhouse.
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With the ever changing dynamics of agriculture the need for accurate and timely financial and physical records being produced to support the farming businesses has never been greater.

Just ask Amanda Runciman - she knows this better than most as she is not only an experienced farm secretary working in the Borders but is also secretary of the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators, (IAgSA) Scottish Borders Branch.

IAgSA celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary this year and among past national chairmen are two well known farm secretaries from the Borders, Nancy Sloan and Joan Scott Aiton.

When she left school Amanda worked for an export company in Dundee and completed a YTS secretarial course on day release. Coming from a farming background she had the farming knowledge required for her next jobs, in a well established large estate office and on a fruit farm covering all the accounting functions; bookkeeping, VAT, payroll.

Amanda enjoyed the work and with a good deal of experience she took up a post as a mobile farm secretary with FBR in the Borders.

Twenty years on and Amanda farms in partnership with husband Roderick, they have two children Lewis and Libby. Allanshaws Farm is just north of Galashiels where they breed award winning North Country Cheviot sheep on their 1,000 acre hill farm. They also have a suckler herd of cattle.

Amanda keeps the farm accounts and records and also provides farm secretarial services to a dairy farm in the area for two days a week which is useful extra income.

She said: “We are seeing rapid developments in information technology and HMRC requires online completion of returns and in real-time. This creates pressure on farmers to pay more attention to paperwork and keep on top of it.”

Often the farmer is fully occupied on the farm, Roderick is a good example, he appreciates the importance of keeping abreast of technology and is fortunate that Amanda has kept her skills up-to-date and tackles the farm paperwork with confidence and efficiency.

She joined the Scottish Borders Branch of IAgSA when she joined FBR. “IAgSA membership is particularly helpful when we have to tackle new legislation” says Amanda, “the workshop on Auto Enrolment was particularly helpful and our next meeting will include an update on Making Tax Digital.”

IAgSA has various membership grades including subscriber, which is useful for farming family members who “do the books”. Branch meetings and monthly bulletins cover topical issues.

IAgSA also has a training program and mentoring scheme and the first Scottish course on financial recording for farms is being held on June 1/2 at the NFU Scotland, Rural Centre at Ingliston. Some bookkeeping experience and spreadsheet skills are required, for more details please contact the IAgSA national office e:iagsa@iagsa.co.uk tel: 01604 770372.