Blessing at farmers' centenary celebration
Around 100 farmers and civic dignitaries were at a plough service in Stafford to mark the centenary of Staffordshire National Farmers' Union (NFU).
Soil from across the county, milk churns and a plough were blessed by Father Richard Grigson, Rector of Stafford, at the special service at Saint Mary’s Church.
The service on 12 January was led by Father Richard and prayers by The Revd Elaine Evans, vicar of Saint Bertelin’s, Stafford, and chaplain to the Farming Community Network charity (FCN).
A vintage Massey Ferguson 135 tractor owned by farmer Nigel Simkin, of Essington, near Wolverhampton, and a modern Massey machine, courtesy of KO Machines Ltd, near Coven, stood outside the church.
Volunteers from Rodbaston College spoke with young and old, keen to have their picture taken with the tractors, about the centenary, food and farming.
In his sermon, Father Richard reflected on the pressures facing the farming community and reminded the gathering: “God entrusts care for the environment and good working practices to the whole community.”
He also echoed the words of Staffordshire NFU county adviser Jeremy Lowe, praising the quality and good working practices of Staffordshire farmers and those across the country. Father Richard prayed God’s blessing on the county’s agriculture and horticulture sectors and all others connected with the industry. After the service he spoke from the seat of one of the tractor cabs.
He said: “We were delighted to be able to welcome Staffordshire NFU to Saint Mary’s at the very heart of Staffordshire for the beginning of their centenary year. We wish the NFU and all involved in producing our food and caring for our environment every blessing for the year ahead.”
Richard Bower, in-coming Staffordshire NFU chairman, said: “Although the nature of farming has changed over the centuries, plough services are seen as a way of generally celebrating farming and the work of farmers.For 100 years the NFU has been giving Staffordshire farmers and growers a voice and protecting our way of life.
"The union continues to champion Staffordshire agriculture and horticulture; campaigning for a stable and sustainable future for county farmers. We remain committed to securing the best possible deal for members – something that is particularly important with Brexit looming. Whatever the outcome we can be confident the NFU will continue to be there for us in the future, as it has been for the last 100 years.”
Aston-by-Stone farmer Graham Clay, who is heading up the county NFU’s centenary working group, said the plough service was a great way to start the centenary year and the NFU would also have a significant display area at Staffordshire Show set aside for memorabilia from individual branches, to celebrate and commemorate them.
He said he wanted to thank Father Richard, Margaret Outen, director of music, and the St Mary’s churchwardens for their support. He extended his thanks to The Reverend Elaine Evans and volunteers from the Staffordshire group FCN who helped with the service as well as the other volunteers.
Farmers welcomed Ian Dudson, the Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire; Pippa Gee, High Sheriff of Staffordshire; The Right Reverend Geoff Annas, Bishop of Stafford; the Mayor of Stafford, Councillor Ray Barron and Mayoress Jenny Barron.Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy; Anthea Mcintyre, MEP; FCN chief executive Charles Smith; members of the young farmers; Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society; Staffordshire police representatives; the Women’s Institute and others also attended.
A midsummer night black tie dinner will be held on 21 June at the county showground as the main centenary celebration and a harvest festival, possibly at Lichfield Cathedral, is planned for later in the year.
On 12 April 1919 the Staffordshire Chamber of Agriculture held their general meeting and appointed an organising committee, with a view to winding up the Chamber and joining the NFU, which had been established in 1908.A county secretary, for Staffordshire, was appointed in July 1919 and by September 1919 the affiliation fees had been paid, and Staffordshire formally became part of the union.The committee had its first meeting at the Swan Hotel, in Stafford, on Saturday 10 May, 1919.