Lantra Instructor Awards
- Will Ed be an
Instructor ‘til the
cows come home?

An Instructor since 1970, Ed Willmot is still going strong at 79 and his decades of experience instructing those in agriculture earned him the Long Service award at Lantra's inaugural Instructor Excellence Awards, held at the land-based industries awarding body’s base at Stoneleigh Park in June.


“They've been a long time coming,” he reflects. A welcome initiative by Lantra then? “Oh yes, a very good move. They encourage Instructors to do their best – a system of recognition for the work they do. We should promote them as much as we can.”


Ed’s life has been steeped in the land-based sector. He’d left Harper Adams in 1965 to teach rural science at Reaseheath College in the school of agriculture, studying crop husbandry as an extracurricular subject.


Meanwhile, 1969 marked the birth of the Agricultural Training Board. “The Cheshire branch shared an office with me at Reaseheath and chats with them sparked an interest in freelance training. I began instructing mainly on the livestock side and for courses explaining the ins and outs of the new metric system coming in to farm hands.


“The work was demanding and I was delivering the courses in the Horncastle area, Lincolnshire.” Life was about to become harder still. “I took over the farm from dad and that kept me busy but instructing proved a good added source of income. However, it took out two or three days a week at harvest time. The courses varied quite a bit, from cattle handling and haltering - plenty of those, I remember, to dairy routines.


Ed also became involved in storage and safe use of veterinary medicines, but his major move came in 1978 when he was called to the Orkneys. “Cattle lameness was a problem,” he says. “Foot trimming was not performed well, and cattle responded badly if they stood in too much slurry or were moved to large areas of concrete.


“I was trained in how to perform the procedure properly, then started targeting universities, especially Edinburgh and Liverpool to teach vets in the work. I was delivering cattle foot training courses until 2022.”


“When the ATB morphed into Lantra, they always developed a standard to ensure you could deliver a course and encouraged Instructors to continue professional development by holding training days, which gave you the opportunity to meet others doing a similar job. As a freelancer it was tremendous to meet them and swap ideas and experiences.


“Our sector is very fragmented and covers businesses of every size, from single handed to large estates. Lantra made it possible to deal with them all in a safe environment and I applaud that.


"Lantra is very supportive in helping Instructors develop themselves in how they present, to allow them to deliver more effectively.


“They’ve also gone a long way to ensure they give as good a quality product throughout as possible and they can only do that if the Instructors are of the highest standard. And in turn, to achieve that is all about moving forward, not stagnating – to be able to fully interact with trainees.


“If you’re training a group of four, for example, you’re dealing with different personalities,” Ed states, “some dominant, others quiet and reserved but you have to include everyone, level the group out to make them involved. Coax them out of themselves so they know they are as good as the next guy. That’s where the Instructor's skills comes in.”


After so long as a freelance Instructor, has Ed mastered working for himself? “Working for the ATB, my expenses were covered, so no worries there but you do incur costs. Then you have to consider whether or not you have the personal energy to do the job, ensuring that you always arrive on time for the course but that’s not really a barrier but about proper planning. I have a course in Aylesbury in November and I’ve insisted on staying locally the night before.


“The satisfaction element keeps me going. You see someone you have trained go from not having the skills to do something to being able to. In foot training, for example, I meet up with contractors who I instructed and that makes me feel proud of what I have been able to help them achieve.


“You feel you have contributed nationally to progressing skills in the sector – that’s a big element for me, a degree of pride that I’ve made a difference in what has been massive inroads by the old ATB and now Lantra.”


Has he thought about taking it a little easier as he approaches his 80th birthday? “Well, I still do a full day’s work on the farm, doing what I want to do not what I hope to do.  Starting at 8.30, I rarely finish before 7pm, and that can involve grain haulage, cattle movement and tending to our sheep.”


Son Paul is taking on more of the day to day, Ed notes. “We reseed the fields frequently and our livery unit numbers some 20 horses, so they take time, as does harvesting the grass for silage and hay.


“My daughter-in-law loves flower arranging, while my grandson took an apprenticeship in agriculture.”


Does he still aspire to achieve more himself, as he has inspired so many learners over so many years?


“I’ve no desire to sit on a sofa with a rug around my knees,” he states firmly. “I’m still active in the local community – I’ve sat on Ashover Parish Council since 1973, and as chairman for 25 years. It adds another dimension to daily life and focuses my mind on something different.”