The Henry Plumb Lectures – how the NFU is leading the future thinking of farming

An image of Henry Plumb in a field of sheep

Every year, the NFU hosts the Henry Plumb Lecture where a high-profile speaker is invited to talk to an audience of industry experts on the latest farming thought of the day. But just who was Henry Plumb, and why are these lectures so important for farmers?

Who is Henry Plumb?

Lord Henry Plumb, a farmer from Warwickshire, had a long career with the NFU, becoming Vice President in 1964 at the age of 38, and serving as President between 1970 - 1978.

Born in 1925, Lord Plumb’s farming career began abruptly when he was called out of class at the age of 15 and told by the headmaster that he must return to the family farm to help with the war effort. His headmaster confidently predicted the war would be over in six months, and young Henry would be free to return to his studies.

As NFU President he was faced with the immediate challenge of the proposed entry of the UK into the EEC (European Economic Community), ensuring the interests of farmers were well represented during the entry negotiations. 

He went on to become President of the European Parliament in 1987 and was introduced to the House of Lords as Lord Plumb of Coleshill in the same year.

“Lord Plumb’s impact on British farming during a career in agriculture and politics that spanned decades cannot be underestimated. His passion, dedication and sheer hard work on behalf of, and for, our industry was an inspiration to me and to many others.”

NFU President, Minette Batters

A lasting legacy

Lord Plumb continued to promote young people in agriculture, through the creation of the Henry Plumb Foundation in 2012. The foundation provides funding, support and mentoring for young people with an interest in a career in the agricultural or food industry.

Following the sad passing of Henry Plumb at the age of 97 in April 2022, this year's lecture will be held in his honour as a memorial lecture, with a service of thanksgiving taking place at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, beforehand, to celebrate the life of the late leader. 

This will be the fifth Henry Plumb Lecture. Previous speakers have included Sir Ivan Rogers, The Lord Price, The Lord Hague, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This year's speaker is The Right Honourable The Baroness Manningham-Buller LG DCB, former Director General of MI5. Her speech centred on the theme of food security in the UK as part of the CNI (Critical National Infrastructure), global challenges - including feeding the world, and a tribute to British farmers, where she reflected on her own time as a shepherdess. 

What is the purpose of the lectures?

The lectures bring together key players from the agriculture sector, to speak on and debate the latest thoughts on farming, and where the industry is headed in the future. 

Guests include industry experts, politicians, representatives from government departments and the media. The event provides an opportunity for us all to acknowledge the role the farming community has to play, and what more can be done to support the industry.

Read what previous speakers had to say on the future of farming:

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