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John Brewer calls it a day after 50 years


In March this year, one of Cornwall Farmers most distinguished employees will make his last official sales call when he retires from active service as Animal Health Specialist at the ripe old age of 72. John Brewer has been a highly-respected stalwart of the North Devon and Cornwall agricultural scene for over 50 years. His retirement will sadly bring to a close his day-to-day involvement with many of the farmers and suppliers who have come to know and benefit from Johns wisdom over the years. We expect and hope though, that John will remain in circulation with the many friends he has made over the years, among which we are proud to consider ourselves.

Before he goes, John took time to look back on his career, not just with Cornwall Farmers, but with the many organisations with whom he has been associated over the years.

I left school in 1954 and was accepted for Bicton Agricultural College to start in September (the usual compulsory 12 months working on a farm as a condition of acceptance was waived as Id been brought up on a farm).  After leaving Bicton I started my first job on a farm near Tiverton, a big intensive farm with 100,000 layers and 100 breeding sows. After Id been there a little while the boss decided to set up a dairy unit and somehow I became the herdsman. In 1960 I saw a trainee reps job advertised with Vitamins Ltd who manufactured protein concentrates. I applied for the job and I was appointed on a 600 a year salary plus an Austin A35 company car. To begin with I was a relief Rep in different areas and spent a lot of time in West Cornwall. Eventually I was offered a permanent position in North Devon when the Rep moved on and I stayed with Vitamins Ltd until 1966 when I was head-hunted by MSD Agvet now Merial Animal Health Ltd.  After two meetings with the regional manager in Winkleigh transport caf he sold me the idea of his company.  After formal interviews, I was appointed to the post and spent the next six happy years running an area which was basically half of Devon and a small part of North Cornwall. It was the smallest area in the country but with the highest turnover, which was understandable as most of our products were for sheep and the northern part of my area consisted mainly of Exmoor with a dense sheep population.

In 1972 I was approached by one of my better trade outlets, who were looking to expand. I listened to what they had to say and decided to give it a try and a chance of a directorship after twelve months. I spent the next 21 years at South West Vet Supplies selling animal health products in North Devon.

In 1993 the recession hit fairly hard and South West Vet Supplies was wound-up. When people knew I was a free agent again I was approached on the same day by 2 farmer co-operatives. Both offered me positions but as West Devon & North Cornwall Farmers Ltd offered me a job in my home town of Bideford, I didnt spend too long making my decision after Id had a few discussions on salaries and so forth.

I spent the next ten years with West Devon & North Cornwall Farmers Ltd, building up their business in the North Devon area, which was a relatively new one for them. During that time they changed their name to Countrywest Trading and changed Chief Executives at which time I relinquished the shop managers job and went back on the road again.

In 2003 I took a job heading the animal health sales for Countrywest Trading and of course three years later Countrywest became a part of Cornwall Farmers, for whom I have done the same job right up to the present time, working with the sales team under Nigel Weaver, the Group Sales Manager.

There have been ups and down of course, but I couldnt have had a more understanding company to work for in the last few years. Ive seen some changes over the years: units have got much bigger and the smaller ones have gone by the wayside, especially in the dairy industry. Luckily, Ive got to know many people and Ive been able to keep up with the changes. Ive always mixed in with the farming community. Ive been on the Market Committee at Bideford, and Chairman of the Fat Stock show for nearly 15 years and Ive tried to join in with anything going on with agriculture in the area. People then identify you with being part of their lives.

And what of all Johns accumulated wisdom? There are two lovely young ladies taking over from me, Hannah Storey and Tracey Peat and Ill be around to help them as much as I can.  People ask me what Im going to do with myself and I dont really know,  Ive got a lot of decorating to do in the next twelve months, then who knows I might even take up golf, bowls or even fishing! Perhaps Ill write a book about all my experiences Ive said that enough times so maybe Ill see if I can discipline myself to get started.

We wish John a long and happy retirement and look forward to meeting up with him often, not least in his new role as President of this years Holsworthy and Stratton Winter Fair.


Cornwall Farmers is a farmer owned agricultural supply co-operative registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act. The company commenced trading in 1920.

The key co-operative functions of the business are;

    To secure reliable supply of agricultural inputs for the West Country.
    To achieve optimal buying prices for our members.
    To optimise the cost of storage, distribution and administration.
    To provide added value to our members through timely and relevant advice.

The co-operative supports livestock, arable and horticultural businesses together with smallholders and the wider rural community. Its principle trading divisions include;

    Feed & Forage feed (compounds, blends straights) and forage (fertiliser, seed, additives)
    Arable crop protection advice and chemicals, seed, fertiliser
    Machinery whole goods (tractors etc), parts, service, hire, professional groundscare (golf courses etc) and domestic (lawnmowers, strimmers etc)
    Retail animal health, clothing, equestrianism, fencing, farm and garden hardware

The company employs 340 full and part-time staff

More information can be found on

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