Fourth generation farmer keeps up family tradition as new NFU chair

Business / Tue 5th Mar 2024 at 09:27am

FOURTH-generation farmer Robert Padfield is following in a proud family tradition as he takes up the role of National Farming Union (NFU) Essex County Chair.

He is the fourth member of his family to serve as county chair, after his grandfather Robert, father James and mother Rosemary.

“Someone has to fight the corner for agriculture and I’m pleased to be playing my part. I also saw what they got out of it through their NFU work and what that brought back to the business,” he said.

“Member engagement will be a priority for me. I want to hear from members about their issues and, in an election year, I’ll also be encouraging them to invite their MPs out on farm.

“We need the politicians to understand about food security, unfairness in the supply chain and the other challenges that we are facing.”

Robert farms 1,500 acres in a family business at Magdalen Laver with wife Zoe and his mother Rosemary.

They grow arable crops alongside several farm diversifications. Former farm buildings are let to a diverse range of businesses, including the UK’s largest breeders of locusts and snakes.

“Farming in Essex is changing. Many businesses have diversified, taking advantage of the opportunities offered by a growing population. We’ve been lucky to be able to diversify as not every farm can do that, which is why farmers must be able to make a profit from producing food,” he said.

Three years ago he went on a Worshipful Company of Farmers three-week residential course at Cirencester, which encouraged him to take a fresh look at the business.

“It was good to be with like-minded people from around the country who you wouldn’t normally come across. The course encouraged me to evaluate the business even more than we’ve done before,” he said.
One of the changes was introducing a 4.5 day working week, with slightly longer weekday hours so Friday afternoons can be taken off by employees.

Alongside lobbying ahead of the election, he says key issues will include rural crime and the upcoming review of Red Tractor and other farm assurance schemes.

“I’d like to thank outgoing County Chair Christy Willett for her work over the past four years, especially for keeping everyone in touch during the pandemic,” he said.

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