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Importance of Livery companies in the City focus of guest lecture by Master of the Worshipful Company of Farmers

Posted 13 May

 Karen Mercer, Master of the Worshipful Company of Farmers, with Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan.

Karen Mercer, Master of the Worshipful Company of Farmers, with Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan.

The role of the Worshipful Company of Farmers in the City of London and the relevance of Livery Companies today was outlined during a guest lecture at Harper Adams University by Karen Mercer, Master of the Worshipful Company of Farmers.

During her lecture, to an audience of invited guests in the University’s Food Academy, Mrs Mercer stressed how important the work the City of London and its Livery companies are to the economic health of the country.

She told attendees: “The City of London generates 10% of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product with its world-renowned expertise in finance, deal making and legal work.”

Outlining the role that the Lord Mayor and the Livery Companies play in the work of the City, she spoke of the history of trade guilds, the earlier ones being able to trace their origins back to the 12th century and are still in existence.  

Over time these guilds developed into the Livery companies that we know today – and she explained why, despite being one of the oldest trades, the Worshipful Company of Farmers is a modern Livery company.

Looking back at the Second World War, she discussed how – with German U-Boats patrolling the waters around Britain and blockading ports, farmers rose to the challenge of feeding the country – ploughing thousands of acres to keep food on the nation’s tables.

Following the war, a Farmers’ Company was formed and Livery status was applied for in 1947. While a Grant of Arms was bestowed the following year, it took until June 1952 for the granting of Livery, and until 1955 for a Royal Charter.

However, since then the Worshipful Company has moved forward at pace – with Harper Adams Chancellor, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, becoming an Honorary Liveryman of the Company in 1976 and Master in 2001.  The Company gained its own Hall, along with the Fletcher’s Company in 1987, after a twenty-year search.

Now, the Company has 400 members, 350 Liverymen and 50 Freemen.

Mrs Mercer added: “The majority of our members are actively involved in farming and food production, and strongly aligned with industry and issues it faces. Our key purpose is inspiring, encouraging and developing excellence in the management and leadership of UK agriculture.

“This we do through our extensive education programme. We are particularly proud of our two flagship courses, The Advanced Course in Agricultural Business Management and the Challenge of Rural Leadership.”  

She spoke of how the Company involves itself in both education and awards for the next generation of farmers – and how students and staff at Harper Adams could get involved with the company.

As the 70th Master of the Company – and the fifth Lady Master – Mrs  Mercer spoke of the honour of serving the Company, and outlined her theme for the year, being The future of the family farm.

She added: “How privileged I am to have such an opportunity - lucky me! I intend to make the most of very moment and fulfil the role of Master, to the best of my ability.

Speaking after the lecture, Rebecca Payne – Head of the Food, Land and Agri-Business Department at Harper Adams – said: “Mrs Mercer’s visit was an opportunity for business lecturers and students alike to appreciate the positive impact of both the Worshipful Company and The Farmers Club on agribusiness. 

“A great example of this is their support for AgriLeadershipWeek this week - where they are making positive steps to support leadership training for the next generation of students.”

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