First Newsletter

A new Parish magazine is starting and they want some copy from all the organisations in the village! "Can you write something?" they said. Well, at this time of year there is not a lot to say because we only meet during the winter months. A report of our last meeting would not be very exciting as it was our AGM and like all AGM's attendance was poor because nobody wants to risk getting a job. Perhaps a better prospect is a review of the history of the society.

As you can see, the society is older than most people in the village, being established in 1929, a period of depression, when farming and rural life were very different to what they are today. Power on the farm came in two forms man and horse. Farms were much smaller and employed more labour. In fact, village life revolved around agriculture. At the time farming was going through a rough patch and it was a desire to learn of better ways of doing the job that led to the formation of the society. The membership for this first year was 48 and they paid 1/6 each. The first chairman was Mr.George Coleman who farmed at Garlands farm. For the first three years the meetings were held in the Moot Hall and then we moved to the Lecture Hall at the Congregational Chapel where we have been ever since.

Mr Coleman continued in the chair until Mr.W.R.Suckling took over in 1956, and he was succeeded by his son John in 1972 who remains chairman to this day. I must regrettably add that John died (while still chairman) in December 1999. This was a great loss to our society.

Looking at the programmes over the years it is quite clear that the topics for meetings have not changed much, but I am sure the things that are said about these topics have changed a great deal. The only obvious trend is an increase in talks about financial matters and a reduction in livestock talks. Common topics through the years have been :- Crop diseases, Growing crops, Weed control, Farm machinery, Farm buildings, and Farming in other countries. There was a period when it was occasionally a true debating society with chosen members taking different sides of an argument. The move away from livestock is well demonstrated by two debates in 1930 " That livestock are not necessary for arable farming in North Essex." and " That grass farming is not a practical alternative to arable farming in North Essex."

Currently we have 63 members. Membership has fluctuated over the years, the highest I can find recorded is 93 in 1952 and 113 in 1984. The Society has had periods of high and low activity. During the war years no meetings were held because the War-Ag took over the role of educating the farmers and organised regular meetings all over the region. No doubt, at these meetings farmers were told how it had GOT TO BE DONE to produce maximum yields, and talks about topics of interest did not exist. Also in 1968 two meetings were missed because of the Foot & Mouth epidemic. There were times of greater activity when trips abroad were organised, and 1933-39 and 1946-47 could be described as hyperactive with the organisation of ploughing matches. This was a time of great strides forward in the mechanisation of agriculture with the introduction of tractors and other machinery from America. The ploughing matches grew quickly with local Agricultural Engineers using them to demonstrate their new machines. By 1947 it was more like a county show with stands and demonstrations, but it had grown too big needing 250 acres of land and so they came to an end, a victim of their own success.

Looking forward to the new season we hope to have talks on:- New cereal varieties, post-harvest cultivations with special reference to the plough, a talk from a farmer and a talk on management of set-aside land. That last topic demonstrates how things change but everything stays the same. In the war years we were taken over by the War-Ag and told we MUST produce as much as possible and now we are dictated to by Brussels and told to take land out of production. The common factor is that we are always being told what we must do!

Stephen Graves (Secretary)

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