Suffolk Farming 20 in 20

Strawberries at Lodge farm, Lindsey during Open Farm Sunday

Farmers in Suffolk are marking 100 years of NFU history with a unique photographic record of agriculture in the county today.

The NFU has worked with photographer Warren Page to capture 20 images that depict a year-in-the-life of Suffolk farming. The project forms part of centenary celebrations for the NFU’s county branch.

The aim is to reflect Suffolk agriculture as it is in 2020, featuring different farming sectors and farm diversifications and with a strong focus on the people who work within our vital food and farming industry.

NFU Suffolk County Chairman Glenn Buckingham said: “The centenary is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on everything that farmers have achieved over the past 100 years but it’s not all about our history.

“We also want to celebrate Suffolk agriculture as it is today – and these 20 striking images will provide a lasting legacy of food and farming in our centenary year.”

The exhibition was due to be unveiled at Suffolk Show 2020 but we are putting the photos online instead so they can still be enjoyed despite the show’s cancellation.

About the photographer

Warren Page is a professional photographer based on the Essex/Suffolk border with more than 25 years working for newspapers, magazines, businesses and organisations. More information about Warren is available here.

A picture of Warren Page_73506

NFU Suffolk centenary: A year in pictures

Click on an image below to open the photo gallery. You'll also find behind the scenes notes from the photographer, Warren Page, under each image:

<h4>Suffolk Show</h4> <p>Suffolk pig farmer Peter Mortimer of the Metfield Pig Herd chalks up another award at Suffolk Show in 2019. This was Peter’s 50th year of exhibiting and fellow exhibitors presented him with a painting of himself commentating at the show to mark the landmark occasion. Photo: Nikon D4s + 24mm F1.8 1/250 @ F10 ISO 250</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>I think that the public don’t often realise that the Suffolk Show is an agricultural show. Behind the main ring glitz, trade stands and horse-jumping there’s a vibrant competition between farmers to decide who has the best livestock. It was interesting to watch the judging and the friendly rivalry within the small rings. Mr Mortimer looks like a proud winner to me.</em></p>
<h4>Open Farm Sunday - Strawberries at Lodge Farm, Lindsey</h4> <p>Matthew Walker and his two friends Alex and William exploring the lanes between the strawberry plants at Lindsey Lodge Farm, near Hadleigh on Open Farm Sunday 2019. The farm grows strawberries, raspberries, runner beans and flowers and all produce is sold locally. Photo: Nikon D4s + 80-200mm F2.8 135mm 1/2000 @ F4 ISO 320</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>Open Farm Sunday seems like an age ago now. A nice day on a farm with loads of visitors exploring and not a two metre distancing sign in sight.</em></p>
<h4>Environmental stewardship at Lodge Farm, Westhorpe</h4><p>Farmer Brian Barker standing between the crop and the flower and grass margins at Lodge Farm, Westhorpe. Brian runs the farm with his cousin Patrick and they have introduced measures for wildlife and the environment while maintaining a modern, intensive arable enterprise. Photo: Nikon D4 + 300mm F2.8 1/2000 @ F5 ISO 160</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>This shot was taken from a fair distance away with a long lens. The idea was to clearly show the defining line between the margin and the crop.</em></p>
<h4>Outdoor pigs at Great Saxham near Bury St Edmunds</h4><p>George Gittus pictured with his daughter Hetty and son Freddie with a sow and piglets near Brandon. His family has farmed in west Suffolk for more than 150 years. As well as the outdoor pig enterprise, the farm includes arable crops, a business park and an anaerobic digestion plant. Photo: Nikon D4 + 80-200mm F2.8 130mm 1/2500 @ F5 ISO 400</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>This shoot was pretty quiet until I suggested that George hold a piglet for an alternative shot to this one. The piglet squealed, the sow moved towards us and then the piglet decided to make a mess all down George’s nice clean shirt.</em></p>
<h4>Harvesting beside Orwell Bridge</h4><p>A combine harvester in action in late July 2019, harvesting the field next to Suffolk Food Hall, overlooking the River Orwell and in the shadow of Orwell Bridge. Photo: Nikon D4 + 80-200mm F2.8 92mm 1/800 @ F8 ISO 250</p><p>Warren’s comments: </em>This shot was done at just 15 minutes notice, just as I was meeting my Mum for coffee elsewhere in Ipswich. We both jumped in my car and charged over to Wherstead to get the images.</em></p>
<h4>Harvesting at East Bergholt</h4><p>Harvest continues at Richardsons Farm, East Bergholt, close to the Essex border in late August 2019. Photo: Nikon D4s + 80-200mm F2.8 175mm 1/1600 @ F8 ISO 200</p><p>Warren’s comments: </em>This was taken very close to home, I had been waiting for weeks for the harvest to be done in the fields where I walk my dogs. That morning I went out on another job and cursed that the work had started just when I couldn’t be around. I rushed home to find the harvest still going ahead. I just stood and watched for a while, observing the way the light came through the dust clouds being thrown up by the combine.</em></p>
<h4>Red Poll cattle on the Euston Estate</h4><p>A close up of Red Poll cattle on the Euston Estate. Red Poll form one part of the Suffolk Trinity, which also includes the Suffolk Punch horse and the Suffolk Sheep with its distinctive black face. They graze conservation grasslands and other environmentally important areas of the estate. Photo: Nikon D4 + 300mm F2.8 1/1000 @ F3.5 ISO 250</p><p>Warren’s comments: </em>One of my favourite shots - purely by chance. I liked the idea of the backlighting on the red skin of the young cow. What really makes the shot, though, is the fly making its way towards the cow’s eye.</em></p>
<h4>Bringing in the onions at Covehithe</h4><p>Father and son Roger and Chris Middleditch during the harvest of onions on their fields close to the cliffs at Covehithe. Photo: Nikon D4s + 80-200mm F2.8 135mm 1/500 @ F11 ISO 250</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>Farming is about people and this shot features father and son Roger and Chris Middleditch. The aim was to show all the activity going on in the background without distracting from them.</em></p>
<h4>Cattle grazing near Framlingham Castle</h4><p>Cattle being grazed on meadows next to Framlingham Mere and the famous castle. Photo: Nikon D4 + 24mm F2.8 1/800 @ F4.5 ISO 320</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>When thinking of iconic Suffolk places to try to feature in images with farming involved Framlingham Castle was a challenge. It sits on a hill but is well surrounded by trees on three sides so no fields really overlook it. I was very lucky to find that there were cattle allowed to graze on the land beside the Mere but they were never in the right place for the shots. I went back for a third try, this time later in the day and there they were, just where I needed them.</em></p>
<h4>Suffolk lambs</h4><p>Chris Partridge feeding hungry expectant ewes at Kersey Tye. The flock includes Suffolk Sheep, part of the Suffolk Trinity that also includes the Suffolk Punch and Red Poll cattle. Photo: Nikon D4 + 24mm F1.8 1/400 @ F5 ISO 1000</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>Lambing - not exactly a precise science I was to discover. I went over to Kersey Tye and spent the afternoon in the farmyard waiting for a birth. No newborn lambs were forthcoming unfortunately, so I took shots of the activity in the pens. Sadly, I never got to go back and try again because of the Covid-19 lockdown.</em></p>
<h4>Mowing turf at Sutton Hoo</h4> <p>Turf being mowed on fields next to the Sutton Hoo burial site near Woodbridge. Sovereign Turf has been producing grass commercially for more than 30 years. Photo: Nikon D4 + 24mm F2.8 1/2000 @ F5 ISO 500</p> <p>Warren’s comments: <em>The aim of this shot was to get the flying grass cuttings. This meant lying down on the pristine new turf with a wide-angle lens, while the driver passed as close to me as he dared.</em></p>
<h4>Great wall of straw at Eyke</h4> <p>Stacking straw bales at the end of harvest at Eyke in east Suffolk, in early September. Farmers grow cereal crops on about 136,000 hectares of land in Suffolk. Photo: Nikon D4 + 24mm F2.8 1/1600 @ F6.3 ISO 500</p> <p>Warren’s comments: </em>I spotted four enormous Toblerone-shaped stacks of straw, each about 200 metres long on my way home from the turf shoot. I made my way down a tiny lane and found workers still adding to the huge stacks. Apparently, it had been a bumper year with over 7000 rolls of straw being produced, over double the usual number. It was difficult to show the scale of how much straw was being stacked.</em></p>
<h4>An anaerobic digestion plant on the Euston Estate</h4><p>Euston Biogas Ltd’s anaerobic digestion Plant photographed at sunset. The plant produces enough gas to power 6,000 homes. Photo: Nikon D4s + 80-200mm F2.8 (100mm) 1/250 @ F2.8 ISO 800</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>This image was originally taken in daylight but it needed the lighting to be a bit more dramatic. So this version was taken at twilight a few weeks later.</em></p>
<h4>Harvesting grapes near Stowmarket</h4> <p>Grape harvesting on the Scarff family farm at Combs near Stowmarket, late September 2019. Photo: Nikon D4 + 24mm F2.8 1/250 @ F8 ISO 160</p> <p>Warren’s comments: <em>We wanted to illustrate the diversity and innovation within Suffolk farming. I had heard that vines were being planted in the county but was really pleased to hear that there was an actual harvest of a crop on such young vines.</em></p>
<h4>Farmer Peter West at Brome</h4> <p>Long-standing NFU member Peter West pictured on the family farm at Brome in October 2019. Photo: Nikon D4 + 85mm F1.8 1/250 @ F4.5 ISO 400</p> <p>Warren’s comments: <em>We were looking for Suffolk’s oldest working farmer. We came up with 90 year old Peter West, who still gets involved in running his farm.</em></p>
<h4>Harvesting sugar beet at Risby</h4> <p>Harvesting sugar beet at Risby, with British Sugar’s Bury St Edmunds factory processing beet in the background. Around one in every seven bags of British sugar is produced in Suffolk. Photo: Nikon D4s + 80-200mm F2.8 (200mm) 1/1600 @ F9 ISO 400</p> <p>Warren’s comments: <em>The brief was to get a beet harvesting shot with the factory in the background - sounds simple you might think. I spent a whole afternoon trying to find the best vantage points. While going along the A14 I noticed a field with good prospects. However, finding the farmer who owned and worked said field was more difficult than anticipated. Eventually my journalistic training took over. I decided to contact the parish council clerk. If anyone would know it would be them. Within 24 hours I had a name and a contact number. Even then, when I was told at short notice that the harvest was under way, I only had a window of one hour between booked jobs to get the shot.
<h4>Cheese making at Fen Farm Dairy</h4> <p>Ema of Fen Farm Dairy pouring whey during the cheese-making process. The farm, near Bungay, is run by Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore, who diversified the original dairy farm with the addition of a pioneering cheese and butter making business. Photo: Nikon D4 + 24mm F2.8 1/200 @ F4 ISO 1250</p> <p>Warren’s comments: <em>Another diversification shot - challenging lighting and backdrop as food production can be very clinical in some aspects but I came away happy with this different angle on the Baron Bigod cheese being produced.</em></p>
<h4>Ploughing at Shotley</h4><p>Farmer Andrew Packard ploughing land overlooking the Port of Felixstowe in March 2020. Photo: Nikon D4 + 80-200 F2.8 (105mm) 1/800 @ F8 ISO 160</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>I wanted a shot featuring the Port of Felixstowe and had scouted out the best view on GoogleEarth before heading down to Shotley. Once I’d found the right field, I went looking around farmyards for somebody to ask and luckily got landowner Andrew Packard first time around. Unfortunately, the chosen field was waterlogged for the next three months but my patience paid off in the end.</em></p>
<h4>Bees among oilseed rape at Hillfarm Oils, Heveningham</h4><p>Beekeeper Arlen Mulder tends to the bees used as pollinators on the oilseed rape crop at Hillfarm Oils, Heveningham near Halesworth in May 2020. Photo: Nikon D4 + 300mm F2.8 1/1600 @ F8 ISO 250</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>Speaking to Sam Fairs at Hillfarm Oils, I was wary of producing the stereotypical deep blue sky, deep yellow rape seed flower image. I jumped at the chance to visit the farm when the beekeeper was there maintaining the hives - it gave me something different to work with. I also found out how protective the bees can be with their hives. After being continually bumped by tenacious bees for the fifth time, I called it a day and retreated to my car.</em></p>
<h4>Free range chickens with farmer Toby Rush</h4><p>Free range chickens with farmer Tony Rush at Barnham, taken in May 2020. The farm produces around 10 million free range eggs every year. Photo: Nikon D4 + 24mm F1.8 1/320 @ F10 ISO 125</p><p>Warren’s comments: <em>I wanted to shoot some images of farmer Toby Rush before my planned shot - the free-range hens silhouetted against the setting sun. The hens were just so inquisitive of the camera. The sunset shots were nice but the beady gaze of the hen in this shot just caught everyone’s eye.

A brief history of the NFU in Suffolk

Farmers in Suffolk are celebrating the past and looking to the future as they mark the centenary of the NFU county branch.

Although the centenary falls in 2020, the NFU’s involvement in the county goes back further, to before the First World War.

Records show a county branch was first formed in March 1913 with E.J. Rolph as county chairman, but that only covered West Suffolk.

In the east there were NFU branches at Saxmundham and Beccles but it wasn’t until the end of 1918 that David Black called a meeting of prominent east Suffolk farmers to discuss establishing a county branch. 

East Suffolk held its first general meeting in March 1919, when Mr Black, whose family continues to farm at Bacton, near Stowmarket, was elected chairman.

During 1920, meetings were held between the two county branches and on 30 November 1920 a motion to merge the two was carried unanimously, with Mr Black becoming chairman of the new joint branch. The first county branch office was opened on 7 March 1921 at 24 Princes Street, Ipswich.

Since then the NFU has been working hard on behalf of the county’s farmers, promoting food and farming, lobbying the politicians of the day and tackling both national issues and more local concerns.

David Black, _73517

Above: David Black, the first chairman of NFU Suffolk

Letter about farm work after the war_73518

Above: A call to maximise food production after the Second World War

NFU East Anglia Regional Director Rachel Carrington said:

“NFU Suffolk’s centenary year is an opportunity to reflect on everything that farmers have achieved over the past 100 years and to look towards the next 100 years.

“We’re facing difficult times during the coronavirus outbreak but it’s reassuring to know our county’s agriculture is resilient and Suffolk farmers will rise to the challenge – however great that challenge appears to be.”

Many of the issues tackled by NFU Suffolk over the past 100 years are still relevant today.

Minutes from May 1921, for example, show members discussed agricultural wages, the Agriculture Act, their opposition to the Summer Time Bill and the lack of weekend postal facilities, which was impacting on rural businesses.

In 1947, it was the impact of severe weather on crops, with the secretary writing in the 1948 year book: “A dreadfully hard winter delayed the spring work to such an extent that at one time there was a serious possibility of many crops not being planted.

“As it was, thousands of acres were flooded and thousands more had to be fallowed. Then followed the long drought and one of the shortest and lightest harvests on record, relieved only by further disaster in the shape of another devastating ice storm.”

In 1952, Chairman David Alston highlighted the impact that rising costs were having, including animal feed up five times on pre-war prices and labour costs up 3.5 times.

“Let me hasten to add farmers do not grudge their men a fair wage but they must have the means to pay for it,” he said.

And in 1965, members agreed ‘the British farmer’ could produce more food for the home market “providing he produced what the consumer required, at a price comparable to overseas prices, under fair competitive trading conditions”.

Fred Peart opens Ipswich Cattle Market in 1965_73519

Above: Fred Peart opens Ipswich Cattle Market in 1965 (Photo: EADT)

In June of the same year, the NFU organised a boycott when Minister for Agriculture Fred Peart came to open the new Ipswich livestock market.

County Secretary Peter Shearer reported:

“The decision to boycott this event – taken only after a very keen debate in the executive committee – was completely successful….This action led to the minister announcing that he would be pleased to meet Suffolk farmers at any time and this we took up.”

USA trade negotiations are in the headlines today but they were also an issue in the mid-1980s, when US ambassador Charles H. Price dropped in on County Vice-Chairman James Stamper’s farm at Barnham in west Suffolk while out on a tour of American airbases.

He found himself aboard a farm trailer while his security detail “showed the quick thinking that marks them for such special duties and stayed in the comfort of their Rover”, according to a news report.

Mr Price wanted to see US farmers getting unfettered access to markets over here, but Mr Stamper was having none of it, putting the case for UK and European farmers to protect their industry.

James Stamper with the USA Ambassador_73520

Above: James Stamper with the USA Ambassador

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the county branch played a leading role as the NFU moved from a county-based to a regional structure.

Long standing member David Barker, a former county chairman, recalled how Nick Fiske and other Suffolk delegates to headquarters led discussions on how to streamline the organisation.

Mr Barker said: “The reality was that, as farmers became fewer and holdings grew larger, the NFU could not justify a county structure that had a vast property portfolio as well as a county secretary, deputy secretary, treasurer and office staff across the board. The costs were becoming just too high.

“Nick had advocated a regional office in the Newmarket area for some time, so NFU Suffolk took the bull by the horns and I was asked to propose a motion at the 1986 national AGM asking for a report into making the NFU more efficient and cost-effective.”

The report’s findings were accepted and regionalisation became a reality.

Agriculture House in Foundation Street, Ipswich was sold and all the proceeds went towards providing a new regional centre on the outskirts of Newmarket.

The new regional office was officially opened by NFU President Sir David Naish in October 1994 and remains home to the regional team today.

NFU East Anglia regional headquarters_9818

Above: Agriculture House in Newmarket

Fighting for farming during the Tithe War

The early years of NFU Suffolk were dominated by the Tithe War, a long-running dispute that embittered relations between landowners and the Church of England, and which came to a head during the 1930s and 1940s.

The Church of England depended on tithes to maintain its clergy and sought court orders to seize property when tithes were unpaid.

The system was bitterly resented by farmers and landowners, who had seen agricultural prices plummet during the Depression after the First World War and faced a constant struggle to survive financially in the 1930s.

In Suffolk, the NFU was one of the organisations that opposed the tithe, setting up a committee in 1931, and in 1933 the National Tithe Committee was formed.

Those outside the NFU also banded together and a Suffolk Tithe Payers’ Association was founded in 1931, under the chairmanship of a farmer and local councillor, A G Mobbs of Oulton, one of the great anti-tithe campaigners. He also served as NFU county chairman from 1936 to 1938.

Other notable campaigners in Suffolk were Roland Rash, another NFU county chairman who farmed at Wortham, and his wife, the novelist Doreen Wallace. They had their stock seized – 15 bullocks and 134 fat pigs – after bailiffs descended. Seizures of property and the resultant sales often saw farmers and their supporters in hostile confrontations with bailiffs, auctioneers and police.

The tithe memorial_73529

Pictured above: The Tithe memorial

NFU Suffolk - Roland Rash plaque_73528

Pictured above: A plaque presented to Roland Rash for his long NFU service

By 1934 it was estimated that 11,000 farmers and landowners had pledged to fight for the abolition of tithe. The 1936 Tithe Act tried to solve the problem by giving tithe owners government stock in place of tithe.

It was a bitter dispute, and feelings ran high. A memorial stone was even put up opposite the gates of Elmsett parish church in 1935 as a permanent reminder of the goods and livestock seized from Elmsett Hall in lieu of tithe payments.

Former County Chaiman David Barker, who is due to talk about the NFU’s history at the centenary lunch, said the Tithe War was a significant factor in the growth of NFU Suffolk’s membership.

He said: “The county branch had a network of parish representatives in order to keep in touch with the farming community but it was the battle against tithes that galvanised the NFU, to fight what many regarded as a serious injustice.”

(With thanks to Suffolk Record Office for its help with this article).

All aboard the NFU Protest Suffolk Special

A former NFU Suffolk county chairman has recalled how farmers headed to London on a specially chartered train to lobby against the Government’s 1965 price review.

John Holmes from Frostenden near Southwold was among around 200 NFU members from the county who boarded the NFU Protest Suffolk Special train to travel to Westminster.

NFU Suffolk protest 1965_73538

Pictured above: John Holmes with others leading a protest to London (Photo: EADT)?

Former NFU Suffolk County Chairman John Holmes_73530

Pictured above: Former NFU Suffolk County Chairman John Holmes

Mr Holmes, chairman in 1965 and 1966, said: “Suffolk farmers were more vociferous than most about the price review and we raised the third highest amount of money for a fighting fund.

“We felt the price had been reduced by too much. We had been done down and we were keen to make our views known.

“We were the only county that took a train to London and we filled two committee rooms at the Houses of Parliament.

“I remember we banned drinking on the train on the way to London as we had a journalist with us and didn’t want any photographs of boozing farmers appearing in the papers!”

Protests also included a boycott when Agriculture Minister Fred Peart came to open the new cattle market in Ipswich, also in 1965.

NFU survey puts Suffolk countryside on the map

NFU Suffolk launch of the Stanton Survey_73531

Pictured above: The launch of the Stanton survey

In early 1984 the Daily Telegraph featured a photograph of a large, featureless field at Ixworth and suggested that it was typical of the Suffolk landscape.
Local farmers were incensed and in response the NFU’s Stanton branch decided to set the record straight.
The result was an in-depth report - The Countryside - Farmers Care Too – which was launched in February 1985 and was based on the findings of more than 120 farmers in 28 parishes.
David Barker, who was NFU County Chairman at the time, said the survey covered an area of 50 square miles and told the true story of farmers’ care for the countryside.
Among the findings were:

  • 2 square miles of woodland
  • almost 3 square miles of grassland, together with a total of
  • 73,852 trees planted by farmers in the previous five years and, more significantly,
  • 372.60 miles of hedgerow, equalling 7.78 miles of hedge for each square mile of farmland.

On top of that, the survey confirmed 433 ponds, 12 moats and 6 lakes and a long catalogue of the Special Habitats in the area was also listed.
The survey was launched by Suffolk peer Lord Belstead as a MAFF minister, supported by incoming NFU President Simon Gourlay and involved the members of the branch taking a large group of journalists on a guided coach tour of the area.
David Barker said: “Mike Hollingsworth, the NFU’s regional public relations officer, said it achieved the largest publicity for the NFU he ever recorded.”

NFU Suffolk roll of honour banner_73514

NFU Suffolk infographic_73513

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