A poultry farmer who leased land out to cannabis growers has been jailed for 15 months.

Edward James decided he could make more money out of drugs than his normal business of rearing chickens, but was caught with 395 plants in different stages of growth.

James Edward mugshot

Edward James

The 68-year-old was paid rent by two men who set up the growing rooms in a lorry container and a barn and turned an electricity substation into a drying room.

When police raided the farm he told them he had turned to growing cannabis because it made more money than chickens.

See also: Arrests made after hemp crop is mistaken for cannabis

The growers who hired his land have not been traced by police but returned to the farm after it was raided and wrecked James’ car in revenge for the loss of their £109,000 crop.

The farmer will probably have to sell up because his wife will not be able to run the farm on her own while he is in jail.

Mr James, of View Farm, Bratton Fleming, Barnstaple, admitted producing cannabis and was jailed for 15 months by Recorder Timothy Grice at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him: “You gave house room to a substantial commercial operation for the production of drugs and I find it hard to believe you did not know the situation when this started.

“I am perfectly certain if you did not know immediately, you did very shortly afterwards and you did it for profit. You did not particularly need it, but it was going to be useful to you.

Cannabis plants found on poultry farm

“The difficulties caused to society by the production and distribution of drugs are well known and courts have to deal with these activities with custody.”

Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said police executed a drugs warrant at the farm in November 2013 and found 196 plants growing under lights in a container unit and 199 seedlings in a caravan in a barn.

Cannabis plants found on poultry farm

The operation had the potential to produce 10kg of cannabis worth £68,000-£109,000 and £8,520 cash was found in a safe at the James’ farmhouse.

Mr Gareth Evans, defending, said two men had approached Mr James and he had rented them the container and caravan. They set up the operation and his only role was topping up the watering system.

Cannabis plants found on poultry farm

He said: “After the farm was raided these two men turned up and, with a third male, trashed his car by way of retribution because they had lost a substantial potential yield.

“The defendant has health problems, but is currently in remission. The person who will suffer most if he is sent to prison is his wife, who will not be able to run the farm on her own, which means it will probably have to be sold.”