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AGM News Update

The AGM was held this year at The Rheged Centre, Penrith on Wednesday 15th February 2023.

L-R Chris Harrison, Retiring Chair; Jonathan Hodgson, Chair; Peter Lee, President; Jeff Burrow, Treasurer; Geoff Walker, Vice Chairman; Richard Webber, Shearwell CEO.

The usual AGM protocol was observed where the principal characters were either replaced or stood on. Jeff Burrow, Thursgill was re-elected as Treasurer and Peter Lee begins his 2nd year in his 3 year Presidential reign. Nemsa Chair, Chris Harrison, stood down after three years to relinquish his role to Jonathan Hodgson, High Borrans Farm, Windermere. It was another Lake District farmer which took the office of Vice Chairman, namely Geoff Walker from Beechcroft Farm near Cockermouth.

This year the AGM also provided the perfect place for our main Sponsor, Richard Webber, CEO and founder of Shearwell Data, to pop up and share the night with us. Richard was able to handover the sponsorship cheque and draw the ‘Shearwell Prize draw’ which gives a £250 voucher to a member from all nine branches.

One of the items on the Agenda was to increase the membership subscription from £10 to £20 for a full member and from £5 to £10 for an Associate Member. This would be first increase since the Society’s creation in 1980 and was unanimously agreed. Members with online banking should alter their standing order accordingly with the next Annual Subscription due in January 2024. All New members this year will be paying the new rate.

The Rheged centre was the perfect venue to show the video that Secretary, Linda Allan had been working on. The hour long presentation showed the showing and sale highlights from 14 of the auction centres across the north of England. It was Adam Lawson from Ingleton, however, who stole the show with a phone video clip doing a very good impersonation of Raymond Lund, Hawes Auctioneer and Breeder Andrew Brown, Asby Hall.

The New Chairman, Jonathan Hodgson, ‘Boo’ to his friends is married to Cathy and have three grown up children, Bertie. Rory and Eliza. They farm 1250 Swaledale ewes. 300 are kept pure and the rest are crossed with the Blue Faced Leicester to produce the NE Mule. His annual production of gimmer lambs are sold at the J36 sale in September and the wethers follow at an October Store sale.

The farm, rising to 1500 feet and extending to 1020 acres, is in an HLS environmental Stewardship which includes the Dubbs Beck and Kent Tributary SSSI. Jonathan is in partnership with his brothers Christopher and Jimmy, who farm at Rydal Farm and Hartsop Hall respectively. They try to have a closed flock of Swaledale sheep on all their farms with the two hill farms supplying the draft ewes for High Borrans and Fellside Farm, our other lower land farm.

More info about Jonathan and his family can be found in the following article by the Farmers Weekly: Mule breeder builds flock health to keep market share - Farmers Weekly (

Jonathan tells us a bit more about himself: “I have been producing North of England Mules all my working life, first selling at Ambleside Fair where we walked the lambs to auction through streets that are now thronged with tourists. After the end of this tradition the sale moved to Kendal Auction and then subsequently to NWA J36 where I am currently a director. Out of farming I am a keen Rugby fan, having played at Windermere Rugby Club and regularly attend the matches to watch Bertie and Shane (my future son in law) play. I am supremely honoured to be Chairman of NEMSA the greatest Sheep Breed in the World and intend to do the job to the best of my ability. Thank you for this opportunity and your support.”

Where Rugby has always been the family passion for Jonathan, we follow in the football footstep with our new Vice Chairman. The black and white stripes of the retired Chairman’s favourite club, Newcastle United, have been replaced by the Reds and iconic Liver Bird. Geoff Walker farms with his wife Janet and daughter Jessica,16 and son Freddie,15. Jessica is training to be dental nurse and Freddie is in his last year of school. They have 840 mainly Swaledale sheep of which 50 are Texel x mules. They keep about 250 Swaledales pure and the rest are crossed with a Blue Faced Leicester to produce the 400 gimmer lambs which are sold annually through Cockermouth auction Mart. Geoff’s son Freddie, has his own flock of 50 Herdwick ewes.

Pictured above L-R Jessica, Freddie, Janet and Geoff Walker (Nemsa Vice Chairman)

Many will know Geoff from Cockermouth Auction where he works as a field officer and part time auctioneer. Geoff says, “I've been brought up breeding mules it's an honour to be asked to be Vice Chairman” and asked why the mules have endured so long ?

Geoff replied “It’s because of their great mothering ability, they are

hard wearing and are great converters from grass to milk.”

Chris Harrison has had to endure quite a bit of upheaval during his tenure , he has had to put up the Covid Outbreak and guide the society through the transition of Secretaries. As he stands down the Society feels very privileged to have had this gentleman at its helm and wishes him all the very best for the future. Jonathan Hodgson presented Chris with a Newcastle United Football Shirt emblazoned with Nemsa No1 on the back as a thank you for his hard work as Chairman.

Pictured right : Chris Harrison with the Newcastle Shirt presented by Jonathan Hodgson.

Many thanks to all the Members who made it to the AGM and a special thankyou to our local sponsors Eden Farm Supplies who were represented by Carol Tunstall and Donna. NFU Northwest kindly donated the refreshments for the evening. Many thanks to the Nemsa Branch Chairmen, Branch Secretaries and council members who do a great job of representing the membership. Any Queries, problems or otherwise please get in touch with your local branch or other Nemsa officials. Linda Allan (0789 699 2598)

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