It may be hard to find a listening bank these days but Siobhan Stainton’s clients often call her the “Listening Book Keeper”.
Howgill Dairy farmers’ wife Siobhan is part of a new local team launched in Cumbria and Northumberland by SAC Consulting to help farmers keep on top of their paper work.
However, in Siobhan’s experience, her job is as much about lending a sympathetic ear as laying out balance sheets.
“Farming can be a lonely life,” she says.
“Often there is no one to talk things through with and a regular visit from someone from the outside, but who understands the life and what running a farm business is like, can make all the difference.”
Siobhan has plenty of personal experience. Although not born into farming she fell in love with the industry as a child, during on-farm holidays.
She studied for her degree at Newcastle University and, when not involved in running her own farm accounts business, helps David, the farmer she also fell in love with, on their upland dairy and sheep farm.
All this in addition to being mother to three teenagers.
While a colleague works out of SAC Consulting’s Wooler office, Siobahn will operate in the area around their office in Kendal Livestock Mart. It is an area and a rural population she knows well.
The Farm Book Keeping service (FBS) is available throughout Cumbria, Lancashire and Northumberland, with plans to extend it to Yorkshire. It offers monthly book keeping and annual budgeting services, helping farmers keep accurate monthly records and track progress against budgets throughout the year.
“Every farmer and rural business knows it’s important, but if you are working on your own, with calving and lambing or silage making it can be hard to find the time”, she says.
“A monthly or quarterly visit by a properly trained person can bring order out of chaos, as one of my clients describes it. I can not only get things tidy but, if they want to, can discuss issues that the figures might show up.”
SAC Consulting is part of Scotland’s Rural College with its large network of industry experts and researchers. Should farmers chose to they have access to advice on items like cutting energy bills, improving their business efficiency and even reducing their carbon footprint.
According to Siobhan it’s amazing what proper records and accounts show up.
“It’s an old saying that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it and farm book keeping works that way. From proper livestock recording, to health planning and a proper idea of fertiliser costs. They help farmers stay within the regulations and boost the bottom line.”
The FBS prides itself on it understanding of local conditions and local needs. Having trusted locals like Siobhan at the sharp end is part of that. It also means the next time farmers visit their banks they may listen that little bit better.