Helen Carr-Smith has been welcoming face of the Bluefaced Leicester Sheep Breeders' Association for more than 10 years now, and as national secretary, she is keen to help anyone needing a helping hand, but there is a lot more to our Helen than secretarial skills.

She's a farmer through and through and together with her husband Robert Smith, they make a formidable team at agricultural shows and sales.

What is your background in agriculture?

I was born in Hexham to Dad, David and Mum, Mary. The family farm is at Highwood, on the outskirts of Hexham and is a mixed beef, sheep and arable unit where I spent many happy years growing up with my older sister Kathleen (Kate) and younger brother David helping feed lambs, straw bed sheds and feed cattle with fork after fork full of sweet smelling silage. Mum and Dad now live away from the family farm which is now run by brother David with his wife Katy and their two boys David and Robson. My sister Kate now farms on the Scottish Borders with her husband Davy and my god daughter Nina.

After I finished school in 1988, I worked at Hexham Auction Mart on a YTS scheme for a year through the local council, which to three days a week and on to fulltime, doing everything from catalogue preparation to clerking sales. It was at the market, that I first came in to contact with my current employers the Bluefaced Leicester Sheep Breeders’ Association, as I used to travel once a year with the auctioneers from Hexham down to the NSA Wales and Border Ram Sales at Builth Wells to assist Michael Walton with the Association Sale. It was also while working at the mart that I met my future husband, Robert Smith. I worked at Hexham Auction for 20 happy years leaving in May 2009.

What is your job and what does it entail?

In May, 2009, I started my current job as national secretary for the Bluefaced Leicester Sheep Breeders’ Association along with help of part-time assistant Rachael Marston. One of the biggest jobs is the production of the annual flock book which contains the registrations for all the lambs born the previous year, which should be out for Easter every year. April, May and June is the time when members' tag orders are processed and with a current membership of 1440 this is no small task. This year was made all the more difficult with Covid 19 when everyone was working from home too.

During lambing, we prepare our promotional material for the year ahead working with the publicity committee. We have also been working with graphic designer Sarah Harvey to develop a fresh new logo and branding for for our 60th year in 2022.

In a normal year, much of May, June and July are spent out of the office promoting the breed across the UK and Ireland, taking display stands around the four national shows and NSA events meeting up with existing members and signing up new ones. This year of course has been very different with the loss of all our agricultural shows so to help with promotion this year I have recently been working with the designers at Welland Creative who have developed a fresh and new website for members.

July, August and September is catalogue and sale preparation time when I liaise with auctioneers to make sure preparations are in place for association ram sales. Catalogue entries are taken by the office with the catalogues produced in house using the Grassroots database.

We have in the past produced two magazines a year for members and I have had an active role working with the publicity committee in sourcing articles and features to be included in these publications, this year for the first time we were going to change to a year book but due to Covid 19 when there are no shows, this year’s book has been postponed.

I also work with the national chairman and regional chairman to help organise meetings throughout the year.

What aspects of agriculture do you and your family love most?

Springtime is one of my favourite times, bringing new life into the world, and the trees begin to come in to leaf again. The agricultural shows have always been something for the whole family has looked forward to so there cancellation has been a huge loss. My Dad used to love showing sheep at the local Roman Wall Show, right in the heart of Northumberland in view of Sycamore Gap, and his love of showing and shows has passed down the generations as my brother is current president of the Northumberland County Show, held annually at Bywell.

Favourite agricultural show?

To tell you the truth, I don’t have a favourite agricultural show as I like them all, they all have their own special qualities that make them unique.

Best piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

Never regret and never look back, yesterday is history, today is now and tomorrow is the future.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Being able to help people – if people are stressing because they have missed a deadline for putting a tag order in or are late putting an entry in for a sale, if I can help I will, and if it gives a positive result at the end of the day, then I like to think I am doing my job well.

Biggest achievement to date?

In April, 2010 which was still within my first year working for the Association I received a letter from the auctioneers at Welshpool Livestock Mart asking if the association would like to send a representative to attend the opening of the new market and I was asked by the chairman Phil Davies, if I would like to attend. I said I would, and it was only after I accepted that I found out that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was performing the opening ceremony, and that she would be meeting the breed representatives. It was one of the proudest days of my life to represent the breed and the membership at this event. A day I will never forget.

If you weren’t working for the Bluefaced Leicester Association what would you like to do?

I would love to be a private detective or work for MI6 as I love a good murder mystery or anything to do with James Bond. If that was not possible, I would love to be a teacher at Hogwarts School of Witch Craft and Wizardry.

What’s your favourite breed of cattle and sheep and why?

My favourite breed of cattle is without doubt the Jersey. When I was a little girl, I used to love going to my Grandad and Grandmas farm where grandma used to milk a couple of Jersey cows by hand and I would help her make butter. Robert and I now have a Border Fine Art of a Jersey cow named Ethel in memory of my Grandma.

Sheep of course is the Bluefaced Leicester. I have been involved with the breed for the last 30 years through my two jobs and I can honestly say I have enjoyed every moment.

What are the main problems in the industry?

My concern lies in general public's lack of knowledge and understanding of food production in the UK which could be improved through education by people from the agricultural sector visiting urban schools and colleges.

What is the way forward for British agriculture?

In this ever-changing world we need to promote that British is Best. Our Government ensures that food in this country is produced under the strictest regulations and to the highest standard, but we need to improve our branding so food produced in the UK is the first choice of the consumer.

Outwith farming, are you involved in any other organisations?

I help my husband Robert with his livestock photography and video work. I am very proud of his achievements over the past 10 years.

Any hobbies?

I love to watch a game of rugby (union) either live or on the TV. I have been to a couple of the Internationals with Robert at Murrayfield and the Principality Stadium and would love to see the All Blacks’ live sometime. My Dad also keeps a couple of national hunt racers and I love to see the smile on his face when they win a race. A few years ago, as a surprise for my birthday, Robert managed to organise a visit for us both to go to Jackdaws Castle in Cheltenham to meet one of my racing heroes Jonjo O'Neil, another day in my life I won’t forget in a hurry.

Favourite alcoholic beverage?

A nice full bodied Chilean red wine – Casillero del Diablo in front of a roaring fire.