Farmer quits after 25 years in business

A FARMER beset by the many crises facing his industry has reluctantly decided to call it a day after 25 years in the business.Father-of-two John Mann, 44, of Fiddlers Hall, Rendham, said goodbye to his "excellent" staff of two farmworkers last week, and will shortly begin the job of emptying out his pig unit.

A FARMER beset by the many crises facing his industry has reluctantly decided to call it a day after 25 years in the business.

Father-of-two John Mann, 44, of Fiddlers Hall, Rendham, said goodbye to his "excellent" staff of two farmworkers last week, and will shortly begin the job of emptying out his pig unit.

"The figures just don't stack up," he said. "I'm trying to keep the farm together. If we don't do something, if we just bury our heads in the sand and carry on, it would be so irresponsible."

This year's crop will be his last, and he will rent out the farm which his family has owned for 150 years rather than run it himself. The final wrench will come with a farm sale of machinery in the Autumn.


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His 650 acre farm, now unviable for him to run, has become another depressing statistic in the seemingly unstoppable national decline of agriculture after being hit by the swine fever and the foot-and-mouth crises - despite his livestock being unaffected by the disease.

Added to that, the farm, which also produces wheat, barley and oil seed rape, has faced two of the wettest Autumns on record, combined with unviable low prices for its crops as cheap foreign imports fill the supermarket shelves.

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He admits the past three years have been very difficult.

Crunch time came in January 2000 when the bank manager met the family and spelt out the bleak truth, he recalled.

"We were dreading that meeting," he said. That evening his father had a fall and suffered a massive heart attack. Sadly, despite frantic attempts to revive him, he died that night.

"We struggled on for three years and we needed things to go right, but they didn't," he said.

"I thought, you don't go through three years at agricultural college, spend 20 years on the farm learning the ropes, just to give up."

He decided to fight on, and worked on improving the pig herd, and the crop yields. But the next three years would be "absolute hell". At the same time as he was facing difficulties with the wet weather and with prices, there was inheritance tax following the death of his father. Then the swine fever and the foot-and-mouth crises struck in quick succession.

"It became too much," he said. "You have still got a worry all the time at the back of your head and it just doesn't go away."

He reached desperation point in October of last year, and rang the NFU, who put him in touch with the Rural Stress Helpline, part of the Farm Crisis Network.

"As soon as you think things are going well you have a fall and then you rise above it and you pick yourself up and you go onto the next thing, then something else goes wrong," he explained.

Through his difficulties, he found the Helpline volunteers "extremely helpful", and he still gets called every week to see how things are going. "They were unbelievable," he said.

Mr Mann plans to continue conservation work on the farm, and has been offered various jobs. He also works periodically as a freelance cameraman.

"It's like a massive weight off your shoulders - it's making the decision that's the hardest thing," he said.

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