|Being a Trustee by Pat Crowe|
Wput the spotlight on Pat Crowe, who kindly wrote this article about her role as a trustee of the Rising Sun Farm...
“I have been a trustee since about 1992 when the Farm Trust was set up and established as a charitable trust. I was working in North Tyneside at the time and was approached to see if I was interested in being part of this new enterprise; the farm was to become a charitable community resource, moving from a commercial enterprise to an organic farm specialising in rare breeds. The Trust would also have educational and social aims providing a therapeutic work environment and a purpose built Day Centre for adults with learning disabilities, and linking local communities and groups with the land for the growing of food. I was already an allotment holder growing food for my young family and my work in the NHS brought me into contact with adults with learning difficulties, so this was the ideal opportunity for me.
The Farm Trust Board is responsible for ensuring that its charitable objectives are met and that all of its activities are open and transparent. The Board provides the strategic direction for the Farm’s development and we have a Trading Company arm which deals with the day to day operation of the farming activity. I take the lead on producing the Business Plans and the priorities for the year; we then use these to formulate our grant applications – we are reliant on grants for any capital developments required. As well as ensuring, with the other Board members, good governance of the Trust and its assets, I sign cheques, participate at Board meetings and write up the Minutes carrying out any actions required of me. I also attend external events, conferences and courses which might be relevant to the Farm’s development.
Being a trustee and holding a full time job in the early days was something of a struggle. However, I have always had a firm belief in the Trust’s philosophy and ethos, and the value of its educational and social aims. I suppose what I like is seeing the farm grow and flourish, making sure that it is well run and welcoming. We have had many difficult times – around funding, staffing, bad harvests, worn out machinery – and sometimes it has seemed that we have been ‘standing still’. But we have an excellent team of farm volunteers without whom we would have difficulty meeting our objectives; our farm managers and the new food house staff are committed to the farm and its development and I am hopeful that our next 20 years will be even more successful and we will be able to welcome more people to the farm and its activities.
As a Trustee of the Farm, you have to always ensure that you are managing the farm and making decisions which are of benefit to the users and ensure good corporate governance. We are a small charity with minimal staff and we have to accept the pace at which things move. I think the qualities a Trustee needs are to believe in what you are trying to achieve, be mindful that you have a responsibility for the way things operate; enjoy working with people who are volunteers; accept that other people bring different skills, expertise and commitment; and don’t be disappointed if others have never heard of your Trust.
If I had to offer advice to potential trustees – find out all you can about what you are planning to join; identify how you could contribute, whether you have skills and expertise which the Trust requires and which you could share; know how much time and effort you can give – then give it a go!”
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