Farming Matters: The highs and lows of a career

Virginia Stollery
Virginia Stollery

A couple of weeks ago a letter arived at home with sad news. Virginia Stollery, branch secretary of Aylesbury National Farmers Union announced her intention to retire in the autumn.

When I visited Virginia this week she reminded me that I was the first person to interview her when she arrived in 1986 to take up her post in the NFU offices situated at that time in Temple Square. Since then the office has moved to Cambridge Street, then Ardenham Lane and finally Gatehouse.

It’s not the only change Virginia has seen in her 28 years in the Vale.

She said: “Coldharbour Farm, Watermead, Berryfields and Buckingham Park, they’ve all been built during my time here.”

Virginia spends at least three days a week visiting farmers, helping them with insurance reviews and claims, planning issues and form filling.

She said: “They are an amazing collection of different characters, and always interesting. They often make me laugh. They are good at being realistic about themselves, their lives are so varied and there is always a jolly story somewhere. I will miss the people and being involved in their families.”

The worst time in her career here was in 2001 during the Foot and Mouth crisis.

Although Vale farmers were clear of the disease, it still affected their businesses as livestock couldn’t be moved and it created huge problems.

But a highlight was the countryside march in London a year later, when Virginia enjoyed the feeling of great togetherness generated by the rural community as they marched peacefully to highlight rural issues.