More than 250 Warwickshire farmers and growers toasted 100 years of the county’s central NFU branch at a special centenary dinner. Lord Henry Plumb and his wife Lady Marjorie were in the members’ pavilion, at Stoneleigh Park, on Saturday (June 19) alongside Defra Minister Caroline Spelman to mark the landmark birthday with NFU members. More than £4,500 was raised for farming charity ARC Addington at the event, in Stareton Hall, following an auction and guests enjoyed a variety of regional food and drink to celebrate the occasion.
A century after its formation the Central Warwickshire NFU branch is still going strong and the industry has endured thanks to the work of the NFU and the resilience and hard work of county farmers and growers producing great produce to exceptionally high standards. Tom Bradley, branch chairman, who has been an NFU member for more than 60 years said he was honoured to be in the post for such a special occasion and able to celebrate it with other farmers and growers.
Mr Bradley, who farms at Hatton, said: “We had a tremendous turnout and I am very proud it has come around as it is a once in a lifetime event. “I’m pleased so many farmers were able to take the chance and celebrate it. “We have seen many advances over the decades including improved technology and advances in agriculture but we need to ensure the industry remains strong for the next 100 years. “Now we need to see the new Government come out and support farming and help turn it into a profitable industry as we can not rely on subsidies as the profitable part of farming. “If the Government helps to put the profit back this will help to stop food shortages because farmers will produce more and we will also be able to draw more young people into the industry. “One change will reap many significant achievements and encouraging young people to enter farming is vital as they are the next 100 years.”
Some of the descendants of the branch’s founding fathers were at the dinner and there was a display of Warwickshire farming memorabilia, NFU branch pictures and other agricultural items on show.
Defra Minister Caroline Spelman, Meriden MP, spoke during the dinner after she was introduced by Lord Plumb. She said: “Defra’s number one priority is to represent British food and farming and it is quite right that this should be our number one priority. “When our business plan is published you will see that there.”
Mrs Spelman said farming had faired better in the current economic climate than many others and she said this was testament to the industry’s strength. She said: “The coalition is keen to ensure that all food procured in the public sector is produced to assured British standards and we could save £400 million a year if all of the NHS Trusts did just that. “That is something we should be actively promoting across the NHS, it makes sense and is a great opportunity for British agriculture. “I think it is important to promote what we produce and the high standards to which you produce it. “We also aim to save farmers money by lifting the burden of red tape and will have the review but this needs to be industry led.”
Mrs Spelman also spoke about other issues including CAP reform, the Campaign for the Farmed Environment and plans for rural broadband.
Roger Campion, NFU Central Warwickshire group secretary, thanked Lord and Lady Plumb, the Secretary of State and farmers for supporting the event. He said: “This is a great celebration of Warwickshire farming and I am delighted you were able to come along. “It is my pleasure and privilege to thank the speakers and thank the members for their support of the branch’s 100th anniversary.”
Regional produce provided for the meal included turkey from Adlington Ltd, at Balsall Common; pork from Elvidge Farms Ltd, at Gilmorton, near Lutterworth; vegetables from DE and DM Drinkwater & Sons, at Chipping Camden and strawberries from Haygrove Ltd, at Redbank, Ledbury.
The highest bid during the auction was £850 for a visit to the Palace of Westminster with Lord Plumb.
Mr Bradley said he wanted to thank everyone who donated auction lots, all those who dug so generously for the charity and everyone else who contributed to the successful event.