As usual, I spent two hours in the morning chatting to farmers and buyers and having been inundated with suggestions for this month’s article, herewith I recount a few.
Our local district council, in common with all others, has bought at great expense an array of different coloured bins and containers to encourage each household to contribute to recycling. This of course is common sense. However, this particular council has now decreed that the small square container with a detachable lid should be modified by discarding the lid and using a brick to stop the papers within from blowing away. I just can’t imagine how much time, if any, this will save the waste operatives and how many bricks it will make available to the hooligan element. Shares in the London Brick Company may well rise!
One client posed the thought of how big a mess Scotland would be in if they had won the referendum on independence. With their revenue from oil at an unprecedented and unexpected low level, what size of begging bowl would the SNP be now presenting to Westminster? Nicola Sturgeon has already made it quite plain that she intends to be an absolute pain in the butt.
A local farmer with only a few acres whom I have known for years was bursting to tell me of his recent experience with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). He was phoned at 6.30pm on a Friday evening to be informed that the agency was arriving at 1.30pm on the next day to check his sheep. Never mind that he had set aside the day for family matters and to watch the rugby, he had to accept the intrusion.
This rather smacks to me of Big Brother not trusting anybody and treating the farming community like scum. Anybody would think that it was the RPA’s own money they were condescending to pass on. Incidentally, when is anyone in a high place going to convince their own staff and ultimately the consumer that subsidies and other payments to producers have the effect of keeping food on the plate and keeping the price of it down.
Another farmer bemoaned the fact that all supermarkets go out of their way to sell our products at half price. This has two effects. The first is to reduce the abattoirs and processing plants to running on fumes and the second to further decrease the number of independent retail butchers who are able to compete and ultimately survive. If you have a local butcher, for your own sake please use him.
Management and I do not buy meat products from any supermarket – apart from bacon when we are caught short. However, I must report that having recently eaten some home produced dry cured back bacon from a local farm shop, it was mouth watering and bore no resemblance to the slimy product with 10% added water sold by supermarkets and which shrivels up to nothing when cooked.
One particular sheep farmer who sends his ewes away in winter reported that his keeper in Lincolnshire was in danger of being prosecuted because there was no water trough in a field of lush grass. Now I have been accused by many, including several UKIPers of knowing nothing. That may well be true, but even I am aware that sheep are genetically a desert animal and provided they are eating green grass can thrive with no water at all, except when they have lambs at foot. I have sheep of my own in fields without troughs and can confirm that they are skipping about like MPs on their way to collecting their parliamentary expenses – sorry, fiddles!
Finally, another sheep producer at Ashford Market – a part time postman and part time farmer – offered the opinion that “it is the people with brains that get us into trouble and it is the people with shovels who get us out.” This may be a bit too left wing for me, but I admire his sentiment.
I finish with a poem given to me by a well known local friend and client which I think will help us remember all our absent friends in the farming community.
The Old Bull
Alone in the field you see the old bull, on a patch he’s worn to soil,
And though aged, his body exudes a strength that comes from a life of toil.
His wise old eyes of knowing, shine like the sun at dawn,
And his cracked old feet have walked this land since the day that he was born.
Youthful days of dreamy frolicking have long since come and gone
But in his mind he hasn’t changed much since those times when he was young.
He did it all and saw it all, and won every prize they offer
And if he had his time again that much would never differ.
Good times and the sad times too he’s seen them come and go
Like blossoms in the garden that vanish with the snow,
And although his prime is over, with his life he’s satisfied
Because he’s left his mark on this world, that much cannot be denied.
And then one day the bull was gone, his field left stark and bare,
But look where once that old bull stood and you’ll see his footprints there.