90-year-old Suffolk farmer looks back over a lifetime in industry in new book

Retired Suffolk farmer David Black, 90, of Bacton, near Stowmarket

David Black, aged 90, has written his autobiography entitled Born to Farm - Credit: Black family

A Suffolk farmer has penned his autobiography as he celebrates his 90th birthday.

David Black’s life story, Born to Farm, charts his memories of the successful farming business he grew up in after the family moved down to Suffolk from Scotland.

In it, the Bacton farmer, whose family runs a  pig and arable farming enterprise near Stowmarket, offers insights and anecdotes about his many years in the industry and the changes in agricultural practices over nine decades. 

It details his early memories of the 1930s, his school days and his experiences growing up in the countryside and on a farm. 

Among the themes of the book are lifelong learning and the opportunities to travel offered by the Young Farmers’ Club – including a description of what farming was like in both the UK and the US during the 1950s.

He also describes the everyday challenges he faced at Red House Farm as he progressed “from dogsbody to decision-maker”.

Problem-solving is one of the themes, and shows how gradually the farm changed from growing a huge variety of crops to a more streamlined approach.

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He explains how horse were harnessed and land drained, and some of the crops grown – including virus-free strawberry plants and fields of tulips and peonies and forage plants cocksfoot and fescue.

He looks at the rearing of pigs – an important aspect of the family business – and the evolution of suitable feed mixes, pig housing, breeding and outdoor rearing.

David charts his experience of cereal production and milling on the farm, changes to field sizes and to farm buildings and how housing was provided for farmworkers.

The book includes a foreword by family friend Lord Framlingham. He served as Conservative MP for Central Suffolk then Central Suffolk and North Ipswich between 1983 and 2010 and was deputy speaker of the House of Commons from 1997. The peer describes Born to Farm as “an apt title” for a “fascinating” tale.

“From 1898, when Grandfather Black brought the family down from Scotland to farm in Suffolk, to the present day, they have always managed to combine the most up-to-date farming methods with the ability to look ahead, plan carefully and experiment. They have tried almost everything from wheat to cut flowers, from pigs to rhubarb,” he said.

“I found it particularly absorbing not just because my wife and I have been friends of the Black family for many years, but also because I have had a lifelong interest in farming, its history, and its challenges.

Born to Farm is available in hardback priced £21.99 and paperback priced £9.99. It can be purchased at Blackwells, Waterstones, Jarrolds, Amazon and independent bookstores. David plans to make a donation to Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute (RABI) on direct book sales.