Taking 5 with the people behind Farmplan

65% of our team have been working in agriculture for more than a decade. This extensive industry knowledge is what makes Farmplan truly unique.

In this section we ‘Take 5’ and chat to some of the people behind the Farmplan story. Join us every eight weeks as we interview a different member of the team.

Meet Helen Barrow – Customer Success Executive at Farmplan

Helen has worked at Farmplan for nearly 13 years and recently started her newly created role. Find out more about her below:

The farming life

I was brought up on a 380-acre farm, where we had a dairy herd and 300 breeding ewes plus fat lambs. Myself and my sisters were very much involved, whether it was milking the cows after school, bedding down, or helping with lambing – my sister and I used to do the night shift for my parents over the weekend so they could have a few extra hours in bed.

One memory I cherish is seeing the cows walking through the morning mist towards me. They always knew when milking time was, you only had to call.

I think my background, like most of us at Farmplan, is what helps me relate to our customers, whether I am speaking with the farmer, farmer’s wife, farm manager, agronomist, or farm secretary. Farming is 365 days of the year: people in farming work incredibly hard. It’s different from other industries and we understand that.

Proactive & personal

The Customer Success Executive role is brand new and reflects a more proactive way of providing customer service and strengthens our first-class Support Services operation. I contact new customers and ensure they’ve received everything they need to get started. It’s very much a cross-departmental role, so I work closely with customer services.

As well as getting new starters up to speed, I reach out to existing customers and ensure everything is okay, perhaps even introducing them to available resources that they may not have been aware of.

We value what our customers say and continuously strive to improve what we offer.

Ever-changing industry

I am very customer-focused, and this new role really pulls on my strengths. I spend each day listening and engaging with our customers and understanding what they need. Every conversation is different, and I pride myself in ensuring every user feels supported and valued.

The Agricultural Industry has changed massively since I was young, from technology on farm, to assurance schemes, environment changes, and digital VAT. We understand the pressures in farming today and have software solutions to help farms stay compliant, analyse performance, and support general day-to-day management. Naturally, we’re always on hand with advice and support in this ever-changing industry. I’ve always worked in the agriculture industry and love working at Farmplan. It’s a great environment; everyone works together to get the right result. We are very supportive of each other, and management has confidence in us to always do the best for our customers and the business.

Meet Kate Jenkins – Account Manager at Farmplan

Kate has worked at Farmplan for 3 years and lives in the Herefordshire countryside about twenty minutes from the office in Ross-on-Wye.

Personal approach

I love the family atmosphere at Farmplan, which exists across the whole company. We enjoy working together to help farmers get more from their businesses and make better decisions through our software, along with all the new opportunities that being part of Proagrica opens up for us.

My daily work life involves dealing with incoming customer enquiries, sometimes in terms of purchasing products, customers calling in, or providing guidance for users seeking to upgrade their software package.

I manage the western region, which roughly covers from Ross-on-Wye up to Cheshire and through Wales. Historically, we’ve not had as strong a presence here as we have to the east. Our mission is to foster a similar growth in these areas.

Our regional approach means users always have a go-to person they can speak with; somebody who knows what’s going on, who’s buying what, what’s needed for the area. It’s beneficial to them and fits well with our personal hands-on approach at Farmplan. We work as a team and I seek out valuable expertise from my colleagues whenever possible.

Changing landscape

Why agriculture? It’s an ever-changing landscape, particularly in how much technology is progressing. A lot of changes are taking place and it’s about working out the best ways we can support farmers as the industry evolves.

For example, the farm I live on previously sold their potatoes to a crisp manufacturer. Now, they’ve founded their own crisp company and make an income selling to pubs and other places. Diversification is a rapidly growing reality for many farms.

More and more farms are considering where they can add value and how. That’s where we come in. What can we offer that supports them growing their business in a way that’s fit for the future? Every farm is unique. Every day is different, that’s for sure. Our work is never the same.

Meet Ben Hatton – Sales and Key Account Manager at Farmplan

Ben has worked at Farmplan for over 10 years. Find out more about him below.

Journey to agriculture
I suppose my journey has been a bit unconventional in that I’m not from an agriculture background per se. I’m originally an engineer by trade, including within the Royal Air Force. That said, I did study land management at college and my brother is a farmer – and a customer, so that keeps my feet on the ground! I live in Sussex and head up a sales team who are mainly based in Herefordshire. For me, the most enjoyable aspect of my role is communicating with customers and working together to help them succeed. That personal engagement is a big part of why I love working at Farmplan.

Smart farming

Day to day, we manage inbound sales enquiries and work with partners on the software side. It’s an interesting time for agriculture; farmers have more and more ways in which they can handle their data and extract value from it.

Precision farming is very much a growing area. In some ways, that term might not give the full picture: we want to help farmers be precise, yes, but also smart. I’ll give an example from a farmer friend of mine. I was asking what precision farming meant to him and he pointed to a row of trees on the field boundary. His great grandfather planted those over 100 years ago and when he ran the plough he’d aim for those trees to stay on course. That is smart farming.

We’re doing the same in a more advanced way. It’s about managing your assets to the best of their ability and using technology as a tool to help deliver that. It has to be coupled with sound thinking and strong local knowledge. Precision farming works in harmony with a smart approach to bring out the best on the farm.

Connections matter

My focus is on building connections. We don’t want to just respond to what’s going on but drive change. My favourite thing about Farmplan is about being able to explore options and support our customers in achieving their goals. I rely greatly on my brilliant colleagues to help with that.

Those relationships are why I enjoy my job. Making connections with customers – and seeing how our working solutions help them move forward to – is what makes the work a genuine pleasure for me and my colleagues.

Meet Helen Davies – Software Services Manager at Farmplan

Helen has worked at Farmplan for over 20 years. Find out more about her below:

Growing up on the farm:
I have been around agriculture all my life and it’s a lifestyle which I am very passionate about. I grew up on a 450-acre mixed farm in Herefordshire. From a young age I was outside, getting stuck in as much as possible, from being chief lambing assistant to driving a tractor and trailer at harvest time. We were very lucky as children to grow up on the farm and experience so many life skills. All this taught me a lot about agriculture from a practical and business perspective.

I still live in the rural community with many friends who are involved in agriculture, food production and retail. It is embedded in my life …and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Connecting with customers:
Having an agricultural background has really helped me throughout my time at Farmplan, especially when talking to customers. We share common ground, I understand the pains they go through, whether that be legislation or the weather! Being able to share experiences and knowledge makes the customer feel at ease, knowing they are talking to someone they can connect with and seek genuine advice from.

Part of the Farmplan story:
I joined Farmplan as a customer support advisor after graduation, before moving on to direct sales in 2001. My journey has given me the opportunity to develop at both a personal and business level – if you asked me in 1999 if I would be a senior member of staff, I would have never believed it!

My role here is varied, ranging from managing the day-to-day operation of the department, ensuring we deliver a consistently high level of customer care, and making sure everything runs smoothly across the team.

I am very proud to work for Farmplan, and I am proud of the products and services we deliver. We really are a big family and it’s a great place to work.

Meet Piers Costley – Vice President of Operations at Farmplan

Piers has worked at Farmplan for almost 30 years, joining us fresh faced straight from agricultural college. Initially, Piers joined as a Trainee Salesman, until later becoming Sales Manager, Managing Director and, more recently, VP Operations for Proagrica.

In January, we caught up with Piers Costley to discuss 2020 and looking ahead at what 2021 holds for Farmplan and the agricultural industry.

Looking back on a challenging year with pride:
Despite the challenges of 2020, Farmplan can look back at the year with some pride. In particular, we are proud of the fact that we provided continuous business services from development and sales right the way through to customer service, training and support. Although how we deliver these services looks remarkably different behind the scenes, we worked hard to limit any service interruption for our customers.

I am delighted with how well my colleagues pulled together in response to the pandemic and utilised the technical infrastructure we’ve developed. Almost all office staff now work from home, but our customers have never seen a difference in the level of support they’ve received; the changes were seamless.