Meet the 2015 Aylsham Show President

Just Regional
Jul 24, 2015 5 mins read

This year’s Aylsham Show president is Tony Bambridge – potato specialist, contract farmer, Norfolk boy and advocate of bringing food and farming education to young people.
He spoke to Ed Foss.

Educating the youth of today in the whys and wherefores of food production and its relationship with the agricultural industry is a subject close to Tony Bambridge’s heart.

That tractor holding you up on the A140? It’s part of a multi-million pound industry which helps to feed both you and the world, explains Tony. It’s being driven by a multi-skilled operator with expertise in IT, communications, meteorology, mechanics, chemistry and logistics. And if you think this is minimum wage work, think again. This tractor driver will be earning a lot more than you think – and earning every penny.

To the outside eye, farming 21st century style might look similar to farming as it’s always been, but that’s simply not the case, says Tony.

“We’re in a world now where the economics of agriculture mean that, as in the majority of other industries, you have to be professional and consistently competent to be a survivor.

“It’s a highly competitive world in which as a contract farmer you are only as good as your last job. If you want to survive you have to achieve results.”

Tony wasn’t born into farming. It was a path he chose. From Reepham originally (well Whitwell actually, just outside the town), Tony went to Easton College, now Easton and Otley, to study agriculture.

He was initially looking at a career in dairy farming.

“I found the breeding and nutrition of dairy cattle very interesting. If you get those aspects right in detail, you are very much rewarded.

“But I discovered women and nightclubs, which I’m afraid were incompatible with the daily early rises associated with milking.”

So Tony went down an arable route instead.

And then a series of events led to him tackling an academic challenge he could never have predicted.

His work in the Young Farmers Club locally, at county level and at regional level had been seen and noted by the industry, including by the then director of the Royal Norfolk Show, John Stimpson.

“John asked me if there was anything I had ever regretted in my time with the young farmers. And I said ‘yes, I never applied for an international exchange’.

“He recommended the Nuffield Scholarship, which provides funding to allow people in the industry to travel and expand their knowledge and understanding.

“So I applied and was successful. I travelled to Holland to study the European potato industry. At the end of the scholarship I made the decision to start my own business growing potatoes and seed potatoes.”

Tony went into business with former employer David Crane and in 1988 started with 250 acres.

That small start now sees Tony farming 3,000 acres for a number of clients, 700-plus acres of which are potatoes, out of which 400 are for seed potatoes. Other crops are wheat, sugar beet, peas, oilseed rape and horseradish.

There is also a suckler herd of Lincoln Red cattle.

“We’re involved in growing beef, potatoes, malting barley for beer and horseradish. If you combine those four, I reckon that’s pretty much job done!”

He employs 19 people, and has a keen interest in making sure young people secure work and experience with his business, B&C Farming, which sells itself as ‘farmers, contractors, seed producers’.

Tony has a CV to impress. He is a non-executive director of Produce Investments PLC, the holding company of Greenvale AP Ltd, a member of the Research and Knowledge Transfer Committee at the Potato Council, NFU Council delegate representing Norfolk, vice chair of CUPGRA, the winner of the 2011 British Potato Industry Award and finalist for the 2012 Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year.

“I can’t think of anything better to be doing with my life, but then it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, so I suppose that’s the way I should feel.”

Tony’s relationship with the Aylsham Show dates back many years. But it was secured when in 1990 he took the tenancy of Park Farm, Blickling, an easy stroll from the site of the August Bank Holiday show on Blickling Park.
“The show needed some straw bales for people to sit on and it was suggested that as I was so close it would be a good job for me to be given.

“I’ve been health and safety officer in the past, and we assist with the clearance operation once the show has finished.

“To be asked to be president is an honour. The Aylsham Show is about us as a farming and rural community coming together to stage an event to promote farming, the countryside and rural life.

“We also assist local business and charities in promoting themselves and we manage to raise not insignificant sums to hand out to wonderful causes.

“Put August 31 in your diary, it will be wonderful.”

Find out more at www.theaylshamshow.co.uk Tickets are on sale now.

2014 FH part 2 (7)s

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