Suffolk NFU looks back on 100 years

Past and present NFU Suffolk staff and officeholders at the Euston Estate

Past and present NFU Suffolk staff and officeholders gather at Euston for a group photo - Credit: Pagepix

Suffolk farmers have gathered to celebrate 100 years of one of the linchpins of the county’s agricultural sector.

Members of the county branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) finally got to meet outside for a farm walk to mark the organisation’s centenary at the Euston Estate in west Suffolk on Friday, June 25.

It was a year late — but farmers enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and used the celebrations to pay tribute to health workers who have been at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

It also provided some welcome respite after 15 months of Covid restrictions. For the branch the pandemic is the latest of many national crises the branch has endured — including World War 2.

Suffolk NFU has a rich history spanning major spats and upsets with government, huge upheaval, economic despair, the Tithe War between the landowning Church of England and farm tenants, bankruptcies, the rise and fall of the price of wheat — and giant technological strides and advances.

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Back in 1920 when it was formed, Suffolk’s heavy horse breed — commonly known as the Suffolk Punch — was king of the fields. The price of farmland in the 1920s was around £30 an acre compared to about £8k today and the farm workforce was vastly greater in number.

Today Suffolk farmers continue to play a major role in feeding the nation — but with the help of computer technology and highly complex farm machinery — and there are far fewer of them.

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They still face huge challenges from tackling climate change to access to labour, the loss of direct farm subsidies and the potential effects of post-Brexit trade deal.

Farmers celebrated Suffolk’s farming successes over the last century by getting the inside track on an ancient estate which has moved with the times.

Social distancing was in place throughout the Euston walk and farmers donned masks for a tractor and trailer tour of the farm. 

NFU Suffolk county chairman Glenn Buckingham said: “It’s fantastic that we have finally been able to celebrate our centenary at such a wonderful venue. It was definitely worth the wait.

Suffolk National Farmers' chairman Glenn Buckingham at the Euston Estate

Suffolk NFU county chairman addresses farmers gathered at Euston Estate to celebrate 100 years of the county branch - Credit: Pagepix

“The centenary is an occasion to look back on everything that NFU Suffolk has achieved and to thank past members and staff for all they have done on behalf of Suffolk agriculture.

“It’s also an opportunity to look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead, including climate change, new agricultural policies and the challenge of feeding a growing population while protecting and enhancing the environment.

“Suffolk agriculture has proved its resilience over the past century and we can be confident that, despite these challenges, it faces a positive future in the century to come.”

Farmers wanted to use the event to thank NHS staff for everything they had done during the pandemic.

Left to right NFU Suffolk Vice Chair Andrew Blenkiron, County Adviser Charles Hesketh, County Chair

From left, NFU Suffolk vice chairman Andrew Blenkiron, county adviser Charles Hesketh, county chairman Glenn Buckingham and regional director Gary Ford - Credit: Pagepix

During the farm tour, led by Euston Estate Director Andrew Blenkiron — 10 native oak and beech trees, donated by the Woodland Trust — were planted alongside a plaque thanking NHS staff. Money raised from a raffle and auction will be donated to West Suffolk and Ipswich NHS trusts.

After the tour, farmers enjoyed a hog roast donated by NFU Suffolk member Peter Mortimer and cooked by former country chairman James Stamper. This was washed down with a glass of Farmers Flagon, the NFU Suffolk centenary beer brewed by St Peter’s Brewery. Money donated towards the meal will go to farm charity FCN.

The NFU would like to thank Ensors, Tees, Yara, Bayer, Tuckwell’s. Thurlow Nunn Standen and Walnes Seeds for helping to sponsor the NFU Suffolk centenary celebrations.

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