Charles Wharton: Norfolk farmer and former leader of the Milk Marketing Board

Charles Wharton in 1993

Charles Wharton in 1993 - Credit: Archant

A third generation Broadland farmer, Charles Wharton, died suddenly aged 79 while playing tennis.

He was vice-chairman of the Milk Marketing Board for seven years and also raised the profile of the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust as vice-chairman and then during six years as chairman from November 1985.

As one of the region's largest dairy farmers, Mr Wharton was at one time running about 20 enterprises on the family's 3,500 acre farm.

When he became chairman of Norfolk National Farmers' Union in February 1993, unusually he could speak with authority on crops from asparagus, growing mint for Colman's of Norwich, blackcurrants, broiler chickens and root crops including potatoes and sugar beet.

Widely respected in the agricultural industry, his first love was always dairying and milk production. Then, he had two Holstein Friesian herds with 400 cows, which produced about 400,000 gallons of milk a year. He had resisted the temptation to quit milk production in the 1970s as he revealed on taking office.

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'We are on ideal dairy farming land. It is ideal and the best grass growing land you can find in the whole of East Anglia.' But having handed the reins to his only son, Ed more than a decade ago, he recognised that dairy farming was no longer viable ending more seven decades of cow keeping.

He was a member of the MMB's regional committee for about eight years and chaired Norfolk NFU's milk committee for about 10 years.

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In July 1976, the newly-elected board member went to Brussels to press the case for retaining the MMB with the Common Market's agricultural commissioner, Pierre Lardinois. In that year, farm minister Fred Peart appointed Mr Wharton to the eastern regional panel.

A year later, he became MMB vice-chairman and served until November 1983.

When he left Framlingham College, he read agriculture at Cambridge and then did National Service and was commissioned into the Royal Norfolk Regiment.

Married to Pauline in 1958, they bought Grange Farm, Filby. His father, also Charles, sold him all his 'clapped out machinery' and lent his son £4,000 on which he charged interest!

'We prospered there, so much so that father was to say later that he hadn't charged me enough interest and had under-charged me on the machinery.' It was typical of his dry sense of humour.

In 1966, he moved to his father's home at Winsford Hall, which also had a tennis court laid out by Dorothy Shepherd-Barron, the 1931 ladies' doubles champion at Wimbledon.

Mr Wharton was a member of the Ministry of Agriculture's Terrington experimental husbandry farm, near King's Lynn, which specialised in potato and pig production.

His other interests included membership of drainage boards and on the local committee of the co-operative, Eastern Counties Farmers.

He was also chairman of the Great Yarmouth June Dairy Festival and a director of south Norfolk-based feed compounder, Duffields, and also a local director of the NFU Mutual.

A keen sportsman, he played squash for Norfolk for eight years until 1965 and also represented the county at tennis.

He leaves a widow, Pauline, and daughters, Kathryn, Emma and Vicci and son, Edward, and 12 grandchildren.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, on Wednesday, October 2 at 2pm. An estimated 475 people attended and a reitring collection was held for the RABI

Michael Pollitt

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