18 January 2002

How Club chair sees new role

Chris Older is the new chairman of The

Farmers Club. Tim Relf meets him

"ITS a great honour for an ordinary sort of farmer like me to become chairman of such an organisation," says Chris.

He joined the club in the early 1960s – but was already long-since familiar with it. His father had been a member "since the year dot" and Chris, then a student, saw joining as an ideal way of meeting like-minded people.

For some time, Chris has been keen to "put something back" into the club but becoming chairman hasnt, he insists, been a long-standing ambition. "It just happened," he says, then adds self-deprecatingly: "They say sediment percolates to the top!"

&#42 Meet and mix

Now, nearly 40 years after joining, he still thinks one of the main benefits is the interaction with other members. Its a great place to meet – and mix – with people, both for business and socially. "Its an extremely good base for people to – to put it in modern terms – network," says Chris. "You can rub shoulders with the leaders of the industry."

Its also a great base in London, with meeting rooms, bedrooms and a restaurant. And others obviously agree, with more than 30% of the clubs 5800 members using the facilities last year.

Improvements were also made in 2001, with five new bedrooms opened and the kitchen facilities overhauled at a cost of £500,000.

&#42 Busy year

"Weve just had an extremely busy year at the club – a year of consolidation is now required," says Chris. "I hope to be able to consolidate the club in the next year and continue it as a well-respected, responsible organisation within agriculture and the rural scene."

Itll be a year when presenting a positive message to the farming industry and trying to help point the way to recovery are crucial. Getting more young members is another aim. "We want to get more of the younger people in the industry joining the under-30s section."

The cost of joining is not, he reckons, preclusive to young people. Its more an issue of time. "Students will always plead poverty – I know I did! More and more people are choosing other careers and those in the industry have not got time to devote to matters that take them away from the farm. Every person now working on a farm is crucial."

Chriss own farming business is a 664ha (1640-acre) arable unit in the Ashford area of east Kent and on Romney Marsh. Though he lives with his wife, Judy, at nearby Aldington, Chriss nephew looks after the day-to-day running of the place.

"Farmings what I always wanted to do," says Chris. "It was either farming or the Army – and having grown up on a farm, I was never really in a lot of doubt."

&#42 Other posts

Hes also chairman of Wye Rural Museum at Brook and, as a trustee of the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust, is involved in organising the International Conference in France in June 2002. "I did a scholarship in 1989. I always wanted to do it."

But its not just through his farming that Chris has become so familiar with – and fond of – the Kent countryside. He enjoys walking and sailing around the north Kent coast. "Ive got a small trimaran – it goes like hell."

And as for travelling up to London more often on Farmers Club business, well, hes got mixed feelings about that. "I dont so much mind being in London – its the journey that puts me off. Its being at the behest of Railtrack that worries me!"