Meet the Team
Rob Hitch, Chair of The Farmer Network
I have been a partner in Dodd & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers since 2007, where I specialise in farming businesses and associated industries. I joined the company in 1997 after six years with Genus, the national dairy consultancy.
I have been a Director of the Farmer Network since 2010 and have had a keen interest and long-standing involvement within the Company’s flagship “Farming Ambition” – Business Support for Young People Programme.
I am pleased to be working with the Farmer Network team to support farmers and their businesses through the agricultural transition period. The next couple of years will throw up many challenges and opportunities which we will all need to help each other through. This will also be a time of change for The Farmer Network and I look forward to watching the organisation continue to grow and develop to meet the needs of its members and the wider farming community.
Adam Day, Managing Director
"I have spent 30 years working as a Land Agent and Auctioneer throughout Cumbria and beyond. I still enjoy auctioneering on a freelance basis, mostly at Penrith Mart, where I first started my career many years ago.
I Joined the Farmer Network in 2015 initially working 3 days per week but now working 4 days per week. I am involved in all facets of the Network working closely with the Board of Directors and the Management Council’s to ensure that the Network is delivering what members want and need. A priority in my role has been to raise awareness of the Farmer Network and increase membership. In doing so we have been able improve income streams and project funding. The Farmer Network is a sustainable business model and well placed to continue providing a range of services and support for farmers, their families and their businesses going forward.
Away from the Network I perform with a band called the Soul Survivors and we travel all over the North playing at weddings and functions. I also potter about in a vegetable allotment which in tandem with my garden remains a constant challenge."
Head Office Team
Donna Gough, Senior Operations Manager
"I’ve worked as Office Manager since 2011, overseeing the office staff and work tasks. I am also heavily involved with membership recruitment, sponsorship liaison and promotion. I also work on the company finances.
Outside of work I enjoy helping out on my dad’s farm where we run 400 texel/beltex/cheviot ewes. I take holidays in lambing time and help out on my days off and weekends."
Melanie Mawson, Finance Officer
"I have worked for The Farmer Network for 10 years as the Finance Officer. My duties include all the financial aspects of the company and providing office support. I normally work 3 days per week from the office and occasionally from home. I live near Penrith with my husband and two daughters."
Angela Chappelhow, Office Assistant
"I’ve worked for the network since 2011 as an office assistant, helping with fuel orders, membership, invoicing and helping other members of staff with admin jobs. I am also a coordinator for the North Cumbria Grassroots Dairy Club.
Outside of work I enjoy working on the family dairy farm along with looking after my two young boys."
Kelly Kitching, Admin Assistant
I started working for The Farmer Network in March 2022 as an admin assistant. I will be dealing with fuel orders, memberships and general admin.
Outside of work I enjoy helping out on my partners Dairy, Beef & Sheep farm along with looking after my children.
Laura Barker, Admin Assistant
I started working for The Farmer Network in March 2022 as an admin assistant with Kelly Kitching. I will be dealing with fuel orders, memberships and general admin.
When I’m not in work I’m usually out helping with the sheep on the family farm, with my little boy.
Veronica Waller, Senior Project Manager
"I work as a Project Manager for the Farmer Network managing a range of projects including Grassroots Clubs, the CSS Facilitation Fund groups, a project engaging farmers about Natural Flood Management and the Storm Emma relief fund. I also help farmers with grant applications particularly to the Countryside Productivity Scheme and Leader programmes and write funding bids. I have worked for the Farmer Network for almost 10 years and previously worked for the Leader programme as a grants officer, for Voluntary Action Cumbria on projects including the marketing of native breed lamb and documenting hill farming systems and before that for the National Farmers’ Union as a Policy Adviser. I work part time as I have two children of school age and spend most of my time away from work running after them."
Kate Gascoyne, Project Manager
"I’ve worked for The Farmer Network on a part-time basis for 10 years, fitting it around other work and also time on the home smallholding producing beef, eggs, fruit and salad crops. I organise events and farmer group meetings and co-ordinate the Business Support for Young People project, enabling them to get the most from the advice and support available from the Prince’s Trust and local expertise. I also co-ordinate the Farmer Network input into the Hill Sheep Health project, Farmers against Parasites, working with hill farmers, in partnership with the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and the London and Liverpool Vet schools. For a number of years I managed the overall Farm Trials project with support from the Prince’s Countryside Fund and other organisations and I am currently trying to develop new farmer-led projects to build on what we have already learned."
Helen Bullock, Northumberland Project Manager
I have joined The Farmer Network as the Northumberland Project Manager; I have previously worked for Northumberland National Park as the Farm Network Support officer and prior to that I was Marketing Manager at Unison Colour Ltd and before that spent 10 years working in large projects for DWP.
I am looking forward to implementing The Farmer Network in Northumberland, and I am keen to emulate the successes seen in Cumbria and Yorkshire. With agriculture being the focus for a lot of change and uncertainty due to the governments transition plan, farmers need our support more than ever before.
I am a farmer’s daughter from the North Tyne Valley in Northumberland where my family breed Galloway and White shorthorn cattle along with Cheviot and blackface sheep on their 400 hectare farm.
Ruth Dalton, Project Manager
I work for the Farmer Network managing the new Sheep Scab Project in the North of England. This project aims to help groups of farmers access the new blood test for scab, and coordinate treatment to eradicate the problem from their local area.
I also work a day a week for the Pasture Fed Livestock Association so I've been working with Kate Gascoyne to organise joint events for farmers interested in incorporating more trees into their livestock enterprise.
At home we have a small farm with a pedigree native breed suckler herd, and I occasionally do some freelance consultancy, specialising in native breeds."
Vicky Slater, West Cumbria Coordinator
I have been working for the Farmer Network for just over 12 months now, as a coordinator mainly across West Cumbria. I will be working closely with Will Rawling to organise the West Coast Grassroots Club as well as working alongside Kate and Veronica on some of the Farmer Network projects including the Hill Sheep Health Project and Discussion Groups.
Outside the Farmer Network I work on the family beef and sheep farm up on Cold Fell. We also offer Open Access Educational visits, working with local schools getting Primary aged children out onto the farm. I also have three young children of my own to keep me busy.
Carol Moffat, East Cumbria & Western Dales Coordinator
"I am a Farmer Network Coordinator, working across the Yorkshire Dales including Swaledale Wensleydale, and the Western Dales as well as my home area around Sedbergh. I organise the Grass Roots clubs in Sedbergh and Askrigg and also run the Swaledale Facilitation Group prinicipally engaged in Natural Flood Management.
Claire Foster and I also work together to manage the Yorkshire members Fuel Buying Group. I am also running a project in the Westmorland Dales which will include knowledge transfer events, skills development courses for young people, funded training courses and lots more. I also sit on the board for the Farmer Network, and the Yorkshire Dales Council to get a real take on what the farmers want from the Network and influence our work. Away from the Network I also work in partnership with my Dad and Brother on our tenanted Farm in Garsdale. So never a dull moment for me!"
Peter Faulder, Forgotten Lands Facilitator
I became the Facilitator for the Forgotten Lands Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund in the north-east corner of Cumbria in January 2020. I organise meetings workshops for the group throughout the year with the help of Chris Turner of Natural England. Unfortunately, due to covid most of these have been on zoom, but we are looking forward to having face to face workshops again soon.
I am a FACTS and BASIS soil and water qualified and an independent adviser. Much of my advisory work is on Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming programme in soil, water, infrastructure auditing, nutrient planning and soil sampling. I grew up on a farm in north Cumbria where my eldest brother currently farms and still return if required.
Claire Foster, Eastern Dales Coordinator
"I am a farmer’s daughter originally from Ledston, a small village to the east of Leeds, where my parents are arable farmers. I now live at Pateley Bridge with my other half who is a beef and sheep farmer. I studied at Askham Bryan College and have a BSc in Sustainable Land Management.
I began my role with The Farmer Network in August 2016 working closely with fellow Yorkshire Dales Coordinator, Carol Moffat on services including the Yorkshire Members Fuel Buying Group. I also run training courses, organise farmer meetings & events and facilitate a Grassroots Club for farmers in Wharfedale.
I am also a partner in the Yorkshire Farming and Wildlife Partnership. I am FACTS qualified and have the BASIS Soil and Water Management qualification.
I do like to work on the farm when time permits and I enjoy going to local shows and sales."
Kate Chester - Cumbria Coordinator
I am a farmer’s daughter from just outside Cockermouth in Cumbria, where my dad is a dairy farmer. I studied at Newton Rigg college, and worked in my local veterinary practice ‘Millcroft Veterinary Group’ for over 12 years, covering all aspects of work and then as the practice grew and merged with other veterinary practices my work was focused on the farm side.
I left the veterinary work when my daughter and son were born, and my work since then has been from running and teaching in my own swimming school, and then latterly in the last 2 years, working with a sports company delivery fitness and wellness lessons coaching primary school children with a lot of my work being farm to fork programmes.
I have recently joined the Farmer Network team to be a local co-ordinator for the West Cumbria area, helping and supporting farmers with our new ‘Farm for the Future’ Programme which we are excited to start in October. Along side all other aspects of the role from organising training courses, farmer meetings and events.
When not at work, we are either at our Cumberland and Foxhounds Pony Club events, or Cockermouth Junior Football Club as my children are very involved with these hobbies! I enjoy going to our local shows with my children, and generally being either at the lake on the paddle board or up the fells!
Sarah Fleetwood - Yorkshire Dales Coordinator
I have recently joined the Farmer Network as a Yorkshire Dales Co-ordinator and look forward to supporting farmers across the Yorkshire Dales through various projects. I am keen to promote the Farmer Network throughout the area and work to increase memberships and reach more farmers to offer support and services.
I farm with my family at Brimham Rocks near to Pateley Bridge. We are beef and sheep farmers producing store and prime cattle along side commercial Texel and Suffolk tups and prime lambs. I studied Agriculture at Askham Bryan College and then continued to gain an MSc in Rural Land Management. My family keeps me busy, with a full age range of children from University to preschool and various in between! We enjoy visiting auctions, shows and other events. As well as farming at home I am also Secretary for the Dalesbred Sheep Breeders Association, a role I find highly rewarding.
Rachael Graham – Northumberland Farm Coordinator
I am a farmers daughter from near Lanercost which is a small village between Brampton and Haltwhistle, where we farm suckler cows mainly limousin x and breeding sheep texel x beltex. I live at home currently and when not working for the farmer network I help outside lots on the farm.
I began my role with the farmer network in June 2023 helping to develop the new Northumberland farmer network alongside my colleagues. When I left school I studied a two year agriculture diploma course at the former newton rigg college which I thoroughly enjoyed and met some great friends through this whilst learning everything from the soil up through the different farming systems. I like to show my commercial cattle at local shows, I have done well in my young handlers winning at the Agri Expo, Highland Show and lots more. I am excited to help deliver the new network across Northumberland and look forward to working closely with lots of farmers and businesses.