Farmer’s book documenting a life on the land raises £6,000 for Parkinson’s charity
A respected farm manager whose career spanned thousands of East Anglian acres has raised almost £6,000 for Parkinson’s UK by publishing his memoirs.
Brian Reynolds, 71, worked on farms across the region before becoming a senior director and board member for Albanwise, a major farming company based at Barton Bendish, between Swaffham and Downham Market.
But he was forced to retire after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2006.
He said his book, named A Life in Farming, aimed to raise money for the charity which helped him deal with the illness - as well as creating an accurate record of his career for his family and, hopefully, to inspire younger readers to consider a career in the industry he loved.
"Most importantly, I want to say thank you to anyone who has made a donation, or contributed or bought a book," he said. "I am so grateful. The business I involved myself in for all those years really did take it on board.
"When I started, my family farm was 60 acres - and I ended up managing 20,000 acres as MD of Albanwise.
"It is very important to me that young people know what sort of industry it is. They think it is all sucking on straws and leaning on gates. In some ways it is a tough industry, but you need to be passionate about it.
"I would ask them: What excites you? You will not be in agriculture for the money, but if you are an achiever of results it can be a great job when you can turn a farm around in two years or increase your yield by 30pc.
"I always think of farming as very similar to art. You start with a blank canvas every year and you start painting the picture you want, but if it is a disaster you can always scrub it out with the plough and start over with a fresh canvas.
"Whenever I spoke to my staff a key phrase was that nothing is ever as bad as it seems, or as good as it seems."
The book has sold out, with around 500 copies travelling as far afield as Australia, Canada and Ireland. It combines anecdotes of farming and family life with testimonials from colleagues, detailed explanations of the changing trends Mr Reynolds witnessed in agriculture and the equipment and strategies which delivered spectacular yield increases on his farms.
Mr Reynolds was born into a farming family at Great Ellingham, near Attleborough in 1948 and his career included many years in Suffolk managing the County Demonstration Farm at Otley, and the Rendlesham Estate and Deben Farms near Woodbridge before eventually finding his way back to his home county of Norfolk when a position opened up as estate manager at Barton Bendish in 1987.
"When I first saw Barton Bendish, I would have given my right arm to farm it," he said. "It had everything I wanted. It had the right soil type and the topography was ideal. By my third year we had the average wheat yield up to 10 tonnes per hectare, which in 1990 was not a bad yield."
Mr Reynolds' shock diagnosis with Parkinson's disease in 2006 prompted his retirement in 2008 - although he retained an influence on the industry as consultant and chairman of Home Farm in Nacton, near Ipswich, from March 2014 and September 2017.
Once fully retired, he was keen to find a way to help Parkinson's UK.
"After I was diagnosed in 2006 I got a lot of information from them very quickly, which was useful because as far as I was concerned Parkinson's was an old person's disease and here I was at 56," he said. "It was a huge shock, but I am very fortunate that the wonderful woman I chose as my wife (Frances) and I were able to sit down and work out what to do.
"We had no idea what the implications would be. We took about three weeks of getting of getting our heads around what it actually meant, and I realised working seven days a week for 18 hours a day is not the best recipe to make Parkinson's go slowly. So I had to retire, and my family deserved some of my time here."
Mr Reynolds said he was grateful to industry friends and colleagues who contributed to the production costs, so all proceeds from donations could go directly to the charity.
- To donate, visit Brian Reynolds' JustGiving page.
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