Frank Read | Stalham Farmers' Club | Leading speakers from the agricultural industry.

Frank Read - 1933 to 2018.

One of the longest serving secretaries to the country’s oldest farmers’ club, Frank Read, has died aged 84.

He also managed a progressive east Norfolk farmers’ co-operative for more than a quarter of a century.

Born into a Dereham family nursery business, which was founded more than a century ago in Cucumber Lane , Brundall, he was popular and respected by the farming community.

Francis George Read, who was born on November 15, 1933, was the middle child.

He went to Hamond’s Grammar School, Swaffham, travelling by steam train. After contracting polio aged 14, he spent months at Dereham Isolation Hospitalin bed with an “iron lung” to keep him breathing. His cousin, Peter Witton, in the adjoining bed, was not so lucky and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

He studied at Writtle, then the Essex Institute of Agriculture before joining Lowestoft-based Birds Eye as a fieldsman or adviser to east Norfolk growers.

In the 1950s, peas were carted to central vining stations, for example, at Upton , near Acle. Then in the early 1960s the first self-propelled harvesters transformed the industry as peas were picked and sent for freezing within two hours.

When independent growers formed a pea co-operative in the late 1960s, he was the natural choice to run what became Blofield Farmers. Under the leadership of Woodbastwick farmer Pat Hood, he won contracts to grow new field vegetable crops including brocolli (calabrese).

As Blofield’s manager, he masterminded expansion into contracting services and investing in specialist machinery – for lifting beet, spraying, straw baling and even hedge cutting.

A keen sportsman, he played for Norwich Rugby Club as a hooker; and cricket with Dereham and also hockey too.

In 1987, he became secretary to Stalham Farmers’ Club, retiring in 2011. When Roger Beck retired as treasurer, and was elected president in 2000, he took on both roles. But the Beck-Read combination was a formidable double act.

In 2012, he was the first to be awarded the EH Wenn President’s Cup for 24 years’  outstanding contribution to the club and was elected an honorary life vice-president.

He leaves a widow, Audrey, and daughter Catherine; an older son, Andrew, predeceased. He is survived by a younger sister, Judy.

A private family funeral will be held followed by a service of thanksgiving at St Andrew and St Peter’s Church, Blofield, on Thursday, April 5, 1pm.

Donations for farming’s charity, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.

Michael Pollitt.