Wow what a busy few weeks we have had and sorry that the blog has been put on the back burner! The farm is wet and the farm needs to be planted with crops ready for another year’s work. The weather has not been kind and so it has been all hands to the pump when it clears up, which has meant that my office has been run from my iPhone recently, inside four glass panels, bouncing along a field.
About a year ago, I was invited to speak at the Rotary International District 1240 conference in Northamptonshire. This came about after I had done a couple of talks for different Rotary clubs and hosted Colchester Rotary club for a farm tour about 18 months ago. Even being booked 12 months in advance, the weekend soon came round and I quickly found myself tweaking my PowerPoint presentation so that it would flow for the full half an hour that I had been allocated. Now, thirty minutes to sum up what we do on the farm with food production and wildlife management is rather difficult and I find myself talking very quickly. However, I got it all sent off to the Conference organiser in advance and everything seemed ok.
My girlfriend, Aimee, and I headed up to the hotel as we had been invited to attend the dinner dance on the Saturday night. We did have a minor ‘D’ tour due to our TomTom not knowing that the M1 at Milton Keynes had been altered but we got there in good time.
We were greeted and made to feel so welcome by all the Colchester Club members who were attending the Conference and supporting The District Governor, Ian McMeekan, who is a Colchester member.
The dinner dance was a lovely occasion with the great company and the added element of an after dinner game I brought along called ‘Corx’. There was a bit of table envy as people were interested in what all the noise and commotion was about and I think a few ‘Corx’ sets have been added to Christmas present lists.
My conference slot was Sunday morning and, after a good hotel breakfast, I was ready to get going. I was announced on to the stage and, as I started, hit the button and the film that introduces the farm failed! The tech guy got busy sorting it, leaving me with a ‘rabbit in headlight moment’ but we were soon under way again and the talk flowed like I had hoped. I closed my talk bang on time and I was really happy how it went.
Ian came on stage, to do what I thought was going to be just a vote of thanks, but he asked me to stay up on stage. As I did, Ian produced a piece of paper from his folder and started to read it. It was a letter that Colchester Rotary had written to the International Rotary Committee. The letter read as follows;
Early last year we had a talk at Rotary by Brian Barker. He spoke about how he and his cousin, Patrick, ran the Lodge Farm at Westhorpe, Stowmarket.
Brian explained how he and his cousin worked together on their family farm with the aim of running a modern commercial farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity.
Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer.
The mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that their fathers and grandfather did to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength, being recognised at a national level. It won the coveted National Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009. Brian and Patrick were named Countryside Farmers of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.
Following the talk by Brian, a number of Rotarians were invited to visit the farm at Westhorpe and were very impressed to see at first hand the magnificent work that was taking place, not only in farming but in conservation. Following the visit I suggested to Rtn. Pat Driver (President at the time), that we should consider both for a PHF. As you know Brian will be speaking at the District Conference this year.
Honours Committee will you kindly consider my proposal that Brian and Patrick be presented with PHFs at the District Conference.
Ian then produced two leather bound certificates and lapel pins from behind the stage and presented me with a ‘Paul Harris Fellows’ Award and one for Patrick as well. At this point I was totally stunned and speechless. I did not know much about the Rotary Club and Ian explained that a ‘Paul Harris Fellow’ Award was given to Rotary Club members for (quote from the certificate) ‘appreciation of tangible and significant assistance for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.’
Ian then explained that these awards can be requested and given to non-Rotarians if the club members feel that a person or persons deserve recognition for whatever service they offer the wider world. I was truly honoured to receive mine and Patrick’s, on behalf of him.
We have been lucky enough to be recognised within the farming world for our approach to farming but this award is I think rather more special as it comes from outside of farming. People who have done and seen so much of different industries felt that our approach to our business of farming and conservation, functioning hand in hand, was working so well. I am truly grateful to Colchester Rotary Club for nominating and presenting us with this very unexpected award. The more and more I research and learn about the award, I feel even more honoured.
|The Colchester Crew|
So a huge thanks from Patrick and me to the Colchester Rotary Club and a special thank you to all ‘Colchester Crew’ who made Aimee and me so welcome over the weekend in Daventry. We look forward for the return farm tour next June when the lapel pin will be polished and worn with pride. BWB