Farming has ‘great future’ – but it must change, says new farm co-op chair

Andrew Read, chair of Fram Farmers Picture: SOPHIE CLARKE

Andrew Read, chair of Fram Farmers Picture: SOPHIE CLARKE - Credit: Archant

Farming must move with the times, a fourth generation Bury St Edmunds farmer said after he was appointed chair of agricultural co-operative Fram Farmers.

Andrew Read, who farms at Depden, said he believed farming had a "great future" - but one which will be different to what many in the industry have known in the past.

"As the industry loses its traditional subsidy base it will have to change," he said. "Just as the farming sector must change so must it move with the times to ensure that it meets the needs, not of our grandfathers but of our grandchildren."

MORE - Fram Farmers seeks new boss after "influential" leader leavesConsolidation in the farm supply sector meant it would be harder for individual farmers to negotiate good deals, making membership of farmer-owned cooperative, like Framlingham-based Fram Farmers - which supports 1400 businesses - even more important, he said.

"With greater collaboration, individual farming businesses, including my own, will strengthen by further reducing fixed costs and operating more efficiently as an active part of a farmer-owned cooperative.

Mr Read said he believed a key part of his role during his three-year term would be to ensure Fram Farmers continues to adapt and develop.

"Within the board of directors and staff there is a staggering amount of knowledge and expertise gained across a diverse range of industries and backgrounds to help us do that."

Mr Read, who has been vice-chairman for the past year, takes over from Rodney Baker-Bates, a leading City businessman who has chaired since 2015. The appointment follows Fram Farmers' annual general meeting on November 21.

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Mr Read studied agricultural engineering at West Suffolk College and Chadacre Agricultural Institute before joining his family's farming business, M. F. Read & Sons, in 1982.

In 1986, he established a bulk haulage business alongside the arable farm enterprise, and in 1990, diversified into whole farm contracting. He added a further 650 acres in 1998 and two years later established a livery yard to use redundant farm buildings and pasture at Elms Farm. In 2010, the business entered a machinery and labour sharing venture with a neighbouring farmer to further reduce production costs.

M. F. Read & Sons now operates 1500 acres of owned, rented and contract farmed arable land, together with a livery yard for 22 horses.