County celebrates 100 years of NFU Suffolk
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
It was a year late due to the pandemic, but Suffolk farmers finally got to celebrate 100 years of the county branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) .
A glittering centenary lunch was held at Trinity Park, Ipswich — including special guest and current NFU president Minette Batters — on Friday, November 19.
Among the 200 guests were around 15 past and present chairmen of the Suffolk branch, including John Holmes, who was county chairman in 1965 and 1966.
Also in the illustrious line-up was former East Anglian Daily Times agricultural editor Peter Hopper, Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore, MPs Therese Coffey and Peter Aldous, the first NFU regional director John Biles, Suffolk Agricultural Association chief executive Phillip Ainsworth and Viv Gillespie, principal of Suffolk New College.
Chairman Glenn Buckingham welcomed guests and past chairman and farming stalwart David Barker looked back over the branch’s rich history.
NFU county adviser Charles Hesketh said they were “delighted” to be joined by the national president at a pivotal moment for the branch.
“It’s a chance to reflect on, and celebrate, everything the NFU has achieved and to look at the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture at the start of our second century,” he said.
NFU Suffolk was founded at the end of 1920, after the East and West Suffolk NFU branches agreed to merge under the chairmanship of farmer David Black.
The celebration lunch was followed by the branch’s centennial annual county meeting.
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Ms Batters congratulated NFU Suffolk on its centenary and said farming’s future would be about one thing — change.
It was crucial for the government to address issues around self sufficiency, which had dropped to 30% in 1947 but had increased to 80% in the 1980s. Now it was down to about 60%, she said.
“There have been some success stories, in sectors such as eggs, but we need more enormous self sufficiency success stories going forward,” she said.
It was an issue the government had to address, she added, as she highlighted issues around trade, labour, food and farming education and agriculture’s journey towards net zero by 2040.
“If we can get the government to work with us collaboratively on these issues I do think there are opportunities there for farming in the years ahead,” she said.
Mr Buckingham took guests on a cropping history — from the days of mangolds, vetch and tare — and an era when there were 40,000 horses working the fields, compared to 10,000 tractors today.
“We can be positive about what we have achieved over the past 100 yeras. There are issues for us to face. We have to take the challenges on in a positive way,” he told members.
Mr Buckingham is due to stand down as chairman in February. He will swap places with his deputy, Andrew Blenkiron, who farms the Euston Estate.