David Stuffins recently joined the pool of assessors who undertake Red Tractor assessments for the certification body, SAI Global and we caught up with him about his experience as a new assessor. 

Dave, what was your background before becoming an assessor? 

At home we run about 200 ewes lambing through February and March, and also manage two herds of Pedigree Hereford Cattle – which means my wife is now very busy. I have worked on mixed farms and had a spell selling agricultural machinery.

What led you down the career path that is on-farm assessing?

I have always enjoyed farming as my first passion but needed to support our enterprises at home. From previous experience of selling machinery, I knew I enjoyed meeting and talking to farmers, so I looked for something that gave me that opportunity.

You were recently ‘signed off’ as an assessor – can you share something of the process/training you went through to get to become an assessor? 

Red Tractor provide online training videos for each set of standards which was followed up with training organised by the Certification Body I work for. I went on multiple farm audits to see and learn how other assessors carry out the audits. I was then “shadowed” by other assessors, when carrying out my first few audits whose support was invaluable. 

Can you tell us a little about what the Red Tractor Academy is and what tests this included?

It is an online training facility with thorough videos explaining the standards, followed by online multiple-choice exams and written exam questions. These were very thorough and an excellent way of ensuring I understood the standards and how they are applied on farm.

How does Red Tractor support you in your work as an assessor? It is of course important that as assessor’s you know the standards, but the interaction with our farming members is equally important– was this ‘assessed’ at all?

Red Tractor are very good at organising ongoing Webinar based training to update assessors on changes and audit feedback. I was relieved, from my farming perspective, how Red Tractor wanted to come on farm themselves and assess my auditing. It was good to see how interested Red Tractor were in how I communicated with farmers and carried out the audit.

Assessors have the dual role of gathering details to show compliance and representing the brand of Red Tractor – what challenges can this bring? 

For me this is one of the reasons I enjoy the job – the challenge of applying the standards and helping the farmer to meet them. Auditing, for me is not looking to find faults, but to work with members to show them how compliance can be demonstrated.