Woman who helped establish Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services steps down as a trustee

Darlington and Stockton Times: STANDING DOWN: Grace Hall, left, with UTASS’s chairman Dr Jonathan Nainby-Luxmoore and project manager Diane Spark STANDING DOWN: Grace Hall, left, with UTASS’s chairman Dr Jonathan Nainby-Luxmoore and project manager Diane Spark

ONE of the founder members of a charity which supports hundreds of rural farming families has stood down after 20 years' involvement with the organisation.

Grace Hall was part of a small working group whose efforts led to the launch of Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services (Utass) in May 2000.

She was the first Utass chairperson – a role she held until 2009 – and remained a trustee until standing down this week.

Based in Middleton-in-Teesdale, Utass has 1,500 members.

It offers a range of services to upper Teesdale's farmers and their families, from IT training and briefings on government and EU documents to running a youth club.

Mrs Hall said the idea of establishing a project in upper Teesdale was first raised when she was an executive committee member of Durham Rural Community Council (now Durham Community Action).

“We were just people who were interested. We were a very varied group,” said Mrs Hall, a farmer's daughter and farmer's wife, of Satley, near Lanchester.

“It was seven years before Utass actually came into being,” she said.

“It sounds a long time but we had to be very careful. We did not want to put something in that was not going to work.”

Mrs Hall said she was extremely proud of the role Utass fulfills in supporting the rural farming community.

“Utass has grown and the services it provides now are needed more than ever.”

She also paid tribute to the support Utass has received from the Prince of Wales, who has visited the group's base three times since its launch.

“I know the Prince of Wales would like Utass to be replicated elsewhere if possible and his support brings the work of Utass to wider attention – you know what you are doing is considered to be extremely worthwhile.”

Mrs Hall said that after 20 years, she felt it was the right time to stand down as a trustee.

“Utass is in a strong position and I am leaving it in very good health. I have really enjoyed my involvement although I could not have done it without the help and support of the other trustees.

“I will most definitely keep in touch with how things are going there – you can't be in an organisation like that then suddenly lose all interest in it.”

A presentation of gifts was made to Mrs Hall by fellow trustees. She also received flowers and a letter from the Prince of Wales.

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