11 Jan 2021 | Animal welfare
Community action at the Brailsford Ploughing match
16 Dec 2020 | James Russell
Considering your organisation’s role within the wider community can be an important aspect of workplace culture. James Russell tells us why his practice team enjoyed getting involved at the Brailsford Ploughing match, and the benefits this brought to the business.
Once a year, we would pack up a sizeable number of people in the practice and decamp to a – usually very muddy – field in Brailsford. Without doubt, this was one of the highlights of the farming calendar for me.
Making use of my skills
I’ve got to be honest, watching people drive slowly in very straight lines leaves me a bit cold, so I didn’t watch much of the ploughing. But I did spend the day using the skills learnt from one of my most formative educational periods. Not necessarily veterinary school, but more perhaps when I was engaged in mass catering as a care worker. This invaluable training gave me the key skill required for the day – making bacon cobs and cups of coffee in industrial quantities.
It was not uncommon for the queue for our complimentary fare to stretch way out of our tent, through the shallower of the wallows of mud and perhaps even into the rural crafts tent opposite. Remember that this was in the halcyon days pre-covid, so people could stand next to each other in that line and chat. By the time these clients and friends arrived with us at the griddle they were invariably cheery, happy to be off the farm for the day. Happy also to be seeing us away from the back end of a cow, or at the very least in a different field. On the whole there were usually also plenty of jokes surrounding the senior vets in the practice spending their day operating a tea urn.
So, what did we get from this as a business? It is very hard to see that we made a whole load of cash on the day – we were giving away hundreds of pounds worth of (locally sourced and farm assured) bacon for starters. We may have had a very occasional speculative query about our services from a friend of a client, or somebody new in the area, but we certainly didn’t go actively seeking new clients.
For me, what made the day so special was the opportunity to feel part of a community that had existed in this way for generations. From the farmers’ kids taking part in our colouring competition, through to the teenaged ‘next generation’ happy to make small talk with us on the promise that we would be getting a beer out later. The farm labourers who we may have grunted and sweated with in our work, but had been too ready to get on to the next job to spend time learning about, through to the decision makers on our farms, people who bore all the responsibility for making the right choices for their enterprise. What a relief for them and us to be able to chat football (I still can’t do rugby!), encourage them to take a well earned holiday and share in their plans, or simply laugh at a joke, usually at our expense, as we shared in the convivial task of feeding as a community.
The measure of the success of the event for me was the relationships we nurtured. The fact that my new graduates and younger vets had an idea who farmer Jones was when they were asked to turn up to his farm in the middle of the night for the first time. They knew that he had a daughter at university, that he supported Derby and that he wouldn’t have a Limousin on the farm! Farmer Jones meanwhile knew that it wasn’t just ‘the vet’ who was turning out to him tonight, it was ‘that one who was at Brailsford, had a good chat with them then, they were very passionate about Texel ewes.’
Community in your culture
Considering your wider community, and where possible supporting team members to get involved, can be a really important part of your veterinary workplaces’ culture.
That relationship to me is what makes being a farm vet so special, a privileged position in that slowly evolving community, a respected human doing their best for the farming businesses we serve. I find it impossible to measure this impact, but that it exists is beyond doubt.
Oh, and for the record, we did also sponsor one of the driving very straight classes, but I was never asked to judge!
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