The Founder and Honorary President of The Farming Community Network (FCN) charity, Christopher Jones MBE (pictured), is celebrating his 80th birthday on Thursday 15 July.

Born during the Second World War, Christopher gained a First at Oxford in Agriculture and with his wife Ita served as Church Mission Society missionaries in southern Nigeria and Kenya for a number of years. Returning to England, they revived their family farm in West Haddon, Northamptonshire (arable, beef and sheep) in the 1970s, which continues to operate today.

Christopher founded FCN in 1995, as a joint venture between the Agricultural Christian Fellowship (ACF) and Germinate: The Arthur Rank Centre. The charity was founded under the name The Farm Crisis Network.

In 2001, farms in England and Wales were hit with 2,000 cases of Foot-and-Mouth disease. Over 10 million animals were slaughtered and thousands of businesses and jobs lost as a result.

FCN became a key player in supporting farmers during the outbreak, with some volunteers working 18 hour days. More people became aware of the work of FCN, leading to an increase in recruitment within the charity, which has continued to grow since. In later years FCN’s head office has been based at Christopher’s farm in West Haddon.

In 2013, The Farm Crisis Network changed its name to The Farming Community Network. FCN’s Patron is HRH The Prince of Wales and in 2020 the charity celebrated its 25th anniversary, today supporting over 6,000 farmers and farming families each year with a variety of issues – including animal disease, family disputes and mental ill-health.

Christopher was awarded his MBE in 2011 and has been married to his wife, Ita, for over 57 years. Christopher has two children, Catherine and Annabel.

Jude McCann, FCN’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Christopher’s strong vision for the charity and his hard work and dedication over the years has helped thousands of families. Under his guidance FCN has grown into a well-known charity supporting farmers, with volunteers based in England and Wales. On his 80th birthday, we wish Christopher and his family good health and many more years of happiness.”

Christopher said: “Being 80 is a surprise, but FCN was a bigger one. Origins matter: they determine the method and the mindset, which form the tradition, so they need to be remembered! FCN’s origins were remarkable: the vision and the method came from Germany and Gloucestershire; the goading to ”get organized before something happens” came from the US; the first real finance arose from the efforts of a Dutch member of the European Parliament; and the final Divine touch was the emergence of a group of remarkable volunteers with global attitudes and perspectives.

“I am proud to have founded such an important charity that continues to support many farming families to this day. We owe much to the many friends who helped create and develop FCN over the years, and our volunteers across England and Wales who continue to dedicate their time in support of FCN’s mission.”

If you would like to send Christopher a message on his birthday, please email help@fcn.org.uk.

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