The founder of Farmers Guide magazine, Guild member Doug Potts, died at the beginning of April aged 85 years.
His vision for a regional farming magazine, which initially was available to farmers in East Anglia, began when he was working for the Eastern Daily Press. He was allowed to research the possibility but when EDP chose not to back the idea, he pursued it himself.
The first issue of East Anglian Farmers Guide was dispatched in September 1979 and to Doug’s immense pride it made a profit from the outset. The focus was largely on machinery, with particular emphasis on the people who supplied, serviced and used it to give it a local feel.
Although Farmers Guide is now distributed nationally under the ownership of Doug’s daughters Julie and Guild member Jane, that successful formula continues to this day – a number of the magazine’s pages are dedicated to photos of dealers, manufacturer representatives and farmers, rather than just the nuts and bolts of machinery, to underscore the importance of people and business relationships.
Many people in the industry will have memories of Doug Potts visiting shows and open days – always with his camera bag and notebook, and sometimes riding a bike to get around a showground more quickly – while his journalist colleagues will remember him for his good company on overseas press trips with tractor and machinery manufacturers.
Of course there was much to Doug’s life before Farmers Guide. He was born in Wolverhampton, and became a good shot with an air rifle – he could hit a bull’s eye at 50 yards from quite an early age.
He became a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade where he was in the choir and played a drum in the band, and later he joined the Air Training Corps (ATC) where he developed his love of aircraft and flew in a Stirling bomber while on a special training visit to an airfield in Shropshire. The aircraft caught fire but was brought down safely!
From his earliest days, Doug recalled wanting to work on a newspaper. He left school at 14, got a job at the Express & Star and attended night school three evenings a week to improve his English, shorthand and typing, while eagerly learning from his colleagues during his apprenticeship.
Following national service in the Middle East with the RAF, Doug continued his career at the Express & Star, where he met and married Florence, who passed away eight years ago.
He carved out a successful career at the newspaper and having progressed through most departments rose to the position of deputy advertising manager.
Doug moved to the Ipswich-based East Anglian Daily Times in 1969, then its sister newspaper the Eastern Daily Press in Norwich over the course of 10 years, before establishing the monthly magazine that remains a tribute to his energy and enthusiasm for publishing in the agricultural industry.
Guild members with personal recollections of Doug can email their tributes to Peter Hill.
Andy Collings: Ever cheerful and with always a word or two of encouragement, Doug Potts was a man to admire both for his achievements in establishing Farmers Guide – a very successful and respected farming journal – and for the kindness and consideration he had for his colleagues. I have fond memories of Doug when we met on numerous press trips – his humour, his camaraderie, his ability to ask all the right questions – but most of all I will remember Doug as the man who made a major contribution to UK agricultural journalism.
Mike Williams: I was sad to hear about the death of Doug Potts at the beginning of April. I had known him for many years, mainly through meeting him at various press events when I was working for rival publications and, as we lived in the same area, we sometimes travelled together. He was always interesting company, not least because he had a great deal of experience in the publishing industry and a shrewd understanding of what would attract readers. Some of his success with Farmers Guide was down to Doug’s infectious enthusiasm plus a generous measure of hard work, but I believe there is another important ingredient in his recipe for success. Doug was essentially a ‘people’ person, he was sociable and he liked people, and right from the start he made sure that farming people and people in the supply industry had a prominent place on the pages of his magazine. It was Doug’s idea and it worked, and as well as the news, facts and figures, Farmers Guide still has space for people.
Doug Potts (standing fourth from right) at a retirement lunch for Massey Ferguson press and PR manager and former Guild member John Briscoe, seated on tractor, with (from left, front row) Andrew Faulkner, David Millar, Mick Roberts, Howard Walsh, Jane Carley, Jane Potts and Dominic Kilburn. Back row: Anthony Collier, Dylan Winter, Michael Bird, Peter Hill, Steve Mitchell, Andy Collings, Jonathan Theobald, Peter Grimshaw, Geoff Ashcroft, Michael Williams and Norman Lucas.
Going back a few years earlier (when ‘taches were in vogue among young machinery reporters, it seems), Doug is pictured centre during a press visit to the Deutz-Fahr tractor factory in Cologne. Alongside a company representative are (from left) the late Hugh Tilley, Peter Hill, Tony Edwards of importer Watveare, Murray Sandeman, Michael Williams, Doug Potts, David Cousins, Chris Banbury of Watveare, Andy Collings, Malcolm Sharpe of Watveare and (in dark blazer) Peter Grimshaw.