Farming feature: Saving the countryside - charity celebrates 15 year milestone
PUBLISHED: 12:26 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 12:27 26 April 2016
Farming charity the Addington Fund, which has its roots in Suffolk, celebrated the 15th anniversary of its national roll-out at a service at Bury St Edmunds cathedral on Sunday.
It all began with a phone call in 2000 between two members of the Suffolk clergy.
An outbreak of swine fever was having a devastating effect on the county’s pig farmers.
They didn’t know where to turn, and needed practical help on the ground, urgently and without lots of hurdles to jump.
West Suffolk clergywoman Canon Sally Fogden, who lives near the Euston estate in west Suffolk, was farm chaplain for the diocese and took a call from a fellow country clergyman.
“The reason it’s called the Addington Fund was Richard Addington, who was a very sick dying clergyman who had retired because of it, phoned me up and asked: ‘Is there going to be a fund?’” she explained.
It was an issue close to Sally’s heart: her son, Chris, was and is a pig farmer operating on the Euston Estate.
It was agreed that Richard would seek the support of the bishop, while Sally would gather a small group of business people involved in the industry who were willing to support an effort to help stricken pig farmers.
Soon, James Aldous from north Suffolk, Edmund Vestey of Great Thurlow and Stowmarket farmer David Barker were on board.
“These people all thought we should do it,” she said, and so the charity was born.
Pig farmers in certain areas couldn’t move their pigs as a result of the restrictions in place and couldn’t sell them on. It caused a big headache for farmers, as pigs became log-jammed in the system, eating up valuable and diminishing supplies of feed. “It was beginning to become a problem for people to pay for feed,” she said.
There were very good farming charities out there, but their charters and rules meant they couldn’t just hand out money to pay for feed, she explained. As a result, the group, with the bishop’s blessing, decided to launch the Addington Fund to provide direct support to affected farmers.
Sally chose the name, without Richard’s knowledge, and on the spur of the moment as she raced against time to get the fund up and running. “It was the only thing I could think of at the time,” she explained. After all, he was the inspiration behind it, and had served in different parts of Suffolk as a country priest before he had to retire because of his illness, she reasoned.
Luckily, the bank was very helpful, and among the original donors, which also included the farmers who helped launch it, was the Prince of Wales, who was to remain a stalwart supporter. “He was absolutely brilliant,” said Sally.
Others followed, including the Duke of Westminster, and Claas UK, the company Sally’s husband, Tim, worked for. There were also much smaller donations from individuals who were keen to help the stricken farmers as word spread of the group’s campaign. Sally was everywhere, receiving cheques for the fund and keeping the momentum going.
Their focus was on getting help to farmers quickly, and they aimed to get cash to them within a couple of days if possible. Most of the money went directly to the feed firms rather than the farmers themselves, but it was in this way that the businesses were able to keep going.
“They are very proud people, farmers,” said Sally as she recalled a call from one farmer needing help with his feed costs. “I said: ‘It might not arrive until the day after tomorrow,’ and he burst into tears because it was so quick,” she said. “This was an emergency fund and it was an emergency. We knew them all really. Some of them later paid it all back. I thought that was amazing.”
The fund paid out about £100,000 for around 100 farmers across Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk, which were affected by swine fever.
Things in the countryside were just starting to return to normal when foot-and-mouth struck. This time, it was a national crisis. The Arthur Rank centre in Warwickshire volunteered to take over the Addington Fund and scale it up.
“That seemed a very much better plan. I spoke to Richard Addington and we sent the money over. He probably hung on for another eight or nine months, but he knew it had gone national,” said Sally.
This time, movement restrictions meant sheep farmers couldn’t move their flocks, but many businesses were saved. A muddy lamb (pictured) became its harrowing symbol.
Richard “sowed the seed for it, so I think it’s right it was called the Addington Fund”, said Sally.