New Chairman of CLA Sussex branch: ‘Never before has it been so important that the voice of farmers is heard’

Annie Brown takes on one of the most important rural roles in the county, representing hundreds of farmers, landowners and businesses
Annie Brown, CLA Sussex branch chairman - landscape
Annie Brown.

Never before has it been so important that the voice of farmers and land managers is heard in the halls of power, the new Chairman of the Sussex branch of the CLA has said.

Annie Brown replaced Francis Hampden at a committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), in one of the most important rural roles in the county. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is a membership organisation representing farmers, landowners and rural businesses of all sizes and types.

Mrs Brown is a third generation family farmer, running a 1,500-acre mixed farm on the South Downs just north of Brighton. She took over the running of the business with her sister after the death of their father in 2007, and has a traditional mix of rotational arable, a suckler herd of 100 cows, a small herd of Bagot goats for conservation grazing, and keep sheep.

The family aims to produce food while making space for nature, so that the farm is in good health for the next generation. They have also dipped their toes into diversification, with a small bespoke glamping site, Foot of the Downs, and are planning to open workshop spaces and a learning facility to boost engagement with the public.

Mrs Brown is an active member of the farming community in Sussex, from helping to set up a local farm cluster group to being appointed a member of the South Downs National Park in 2019.

She said she is looking forward to taking on the chairmanship of the CLA’s Sussex branch at such an important time for the agricultural industry, and paid tribute to her predecessor.

Mrs Brown said: “I would like to say a huge thanks to Francis for doing an excellent job in holding the tiller of the CLA’s Sussex committee steady over the past three years, navigating some tricky debates, and through the truly difficult times of Covid.

“Farmers and land managers are facing some big challenges as we navigate the agricultural transition process post-Brexit. How many acronyms can a brain take? I think everyone understands that environmentally sustainable agriculture is the way forward, and it’s certainly a balancing act – balancing food production and environmental delivery; balancing environmental delivery with public access; balancing the books.

“I would also encourage CLA members to use the services of the CLA at local level, as the more you put in the more you can get out, and help blow our trumpet at national level. Never before has it been so important that the voice of farmers and land managers is heard in the halls of power.”

'Tremendous work, ideas and enthusiasm'

As Sussex branch Chairman, Mrs Brown will be representing hundreds of farmers, landowners and rural businesses across the county.

CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “We wish to place on record our sincere thanks to Francis Hampden for his tremendous work, ideas and enthusiasm over the course of his chairmanship.

“We are delighted to welcome Annie Brown into the role and look forward to working closely with her.”

Outgoing Chairman Mr Hampden said: “It feels that we are in times of changes: ash dieback, restarting the economy, the new agricultural landscape, housing, to name but a few. It was a pleasure to see ‘under the hood’ and be a small part of the CLA's superb work on influencing the government and helping its members steer through these changes.”