About us

Management Development Services Ltd (MDS) was set up in 1986 by a group of forward-thinking growers concerned about the shortage of skilled managers within the industry.

It quickly established itself as a leading training provider in the fresh food, produce, horticultural and agricultural industry. Since then it has expanded steadily as companies seek to safeguard the future by attracting and providing training for the right calibre of recruit.

Today, MDS encompasses the whole supply chain of vegetables, salads, fruit, flowers, plants, arable and prepared food products not only based in the UK but also for operations in many countries around the world.

MDS represents a consortium of member companies comprising growers, suppliers and supermarkets. There is consistent interest from potential new members who wish to be involved in what is now seen as a ‘model’ for specialist management training.

The strength of MDS comes from members working in partnership with a common goal, even though some may be competitors in the commercial world. It is run by a Board of Directors appointed from within the membership, with day-to-day management support from the office team in Peterborough.

Our Staff

Christine Tacon


Christine Tacon was appointed Chair of MDS in May 2016. She started her professional career with Coats Viyella as an engineer. She then moved into marketing working at Mars, Vodafone, Redland Bricks and Anchor (now Fonterra). From 2000 to 2012 she ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business, Farmcare, the largest in the UK. She was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture in 2004.

Christine is the first Groceries Code Adjudicator, a role set up by Act of Parliament to enforce compliance with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice which regulates the relationship between the 10 large grocery retailers and their direct suppliers. It is a 3 day per week position. She is also a Non-Executive Director of Anglia Farmers, a purchasing co-operative, and is a member of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Christine studied production engineering at Cambridge University. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Cranfield University and honorary professorship from Harper Adams University. Christine is married with 2 children and lives in Macclesfield on the edge of the Peak District.

Saffy Connolly

Chief Operating Officer

Saffy has been employed by MDS since May 2005. She holds the post of Chief Operating Officer and prior to this she held the post of Development Manager. Saffy brings strong interpersonal skills to the role which were developed during a successful career in welfare and social work, including the Probation Service and prior to that working for SSAFA with the RAF. Whilst employed by MDS these skills have been developed further with particular focus on recruitment, mentoring and coaching of trainees whilst ensuring the development and implementation of the MDS strategy. Saffy has a Bsc in Criminal Justice studies and a BA in Social Science and Social Policy. She was attracted to MDS by its commitment to helping young people reach their potential.

Saffy Connolly

Gretta Ryan

People Development Manager

Gretta joined MDS in November 2018 as People Development Manager. With a successful career spanning over 20 years working in sales, marketing, event planning and training, Gretta is looking forward to supporting trainee development and the coordination of the training programme.

Kirsty Barden

Recruitment Manager

After graduating from university with a degree in Forensic Science Kirsty completed MDS in 2010. Her understanding of the industry and her experiences as a trainee mean she is well placed to identify the qualities and attributes required to maintain the high standards of MDS trainees. Kirsty was originally attracted to the food and fresh produce industry due to its diverse and fast-paced nature.

Anna Williams

Development Manager

Having completed the MDS scheme in 2014, Anna joined MDS in November 2016. Her experience of being a trainee as well as her exposure to the industry is a welcome addition to the team. Originally a languages graduate, Anna was attracted to the industry because of its forward-thinking fast-paced nature. She is now looking forward to contributing to delivering MDS’ increasingly ambitious business plan.

Helen Lancaster


Helen joined MDS in May 2013 as the Office Administrator. She brings with her over ten years of experience working in office environments. Helen supports the whole MDS process from an administrative perspective all the way from recruitment through to graduation.

Beverley Tegala

Finance Officer and Administrator

Beverley joined MDS in August 2016 from the education sector where she worked within finance and business administration. Beverley is also a crop protection scientist and brings her expertise in this industry to MDS. An essential part of the MDS team, Beverley is responsible for finance management, company budgets, administration, interviews and represents MDS at careers fairs.

Board of Directors

  • Dan Bell, Head of Finance, Greenyard Fresh
  • Rebecca Charnley, Commercial Manager, Barfoots
  • Beverly Dixon, HR Director, Shropshire Group
  • Will Holmes, Head of Sales & Marketing, Syngenta UK
  • Trish McCarron, HR Director, Worldwide Fruit
  • Jon Tyrrell, Supply Chain Manager, The Chia Co.
  • Richard Whittle. Director, Protolan