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Farming: Farmers care about today and tomorrow

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: July 28, 2014

Richard Spencer farming columnist

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WHAT am I doing here? It all began at Cubley village fete. I love village fetes; so traditionally "English" and a great opportunity to catch up with friends and so harmless – or so I thought until I caught up with Rory and his wife Kate. Apparently they had both suggested with some considerable zeal that yours truly would write an "Agriculture" column for the Stunner.

Who needs enemies...

I am, for my sins, a fourth-generation farmer at this address, my grandfather's uncle Owen moving here in the 1880s.

His family had been at the same farm since the 1630s! Grandfather took over the tenancy in 1914. This year, we celebrate 100 years in direct line.

Rosemary and I have two children – our daughter Katrina in New Zealand and our son Simon living next door with his wife Alison and two boys Oliver and Edward.

Brilliant when we need help on the farm but equally brilliant when they need a babysitter.

Simon is very involved with the NFU and is determined to keep the farm in the family. With Oliver already proving himself very confident with sheep it looks like six generations is on the cards. We will see.

As I sit in the office writing this, I look over the field where this year's lamb crop are grazing and looking very uneasy – they have just been weaned and are voicing their disapproval of the situation – suffice to say, no-one in the village will need an alarm clock in the morning.

No doubt, 100 years ago my grandfather would have looked over a similar scene, as would my father in his turn, and, like me, would be already making decisions regarding the breeding of next year's lamb crop.

Farming is a tradition; we adopt new ideas as technology moves forward and consumer demand changes; it is a way of life; it is – to the surprise of many – a business, trying to make a profit.

It is also a balancing act: I sincerely believe that the majority of we yeoman farmers – and I use that term not in a derogatory manner, but as a term to identify those of us who have for generations worked with the land, and cared for that land because we were brought up to "live as if you'll die tomorrow, farm as if you'll live forever".

We wish to pass the farm on to succeeding generations in better condition than we took it on.

We care; it may be conscious, it may be sub-conscious but we care.

You have only to drive out of Ashbourne and look at the landscape-trees, hedges, stone walls, fields tended and looking smart.

And at the same time we produce food. In the 1970s, approximately 27% of average disposable income was spent on food. It fell to about 9% and has now risen to the dizzy heights of 13-14%. Food is cheap! It is available in quantity and we have choice. Appreciate that fact.

Working with the land and with Mother Nature we are also very much aware of our place in the order of things.

It teaches us respect – a value so sadly lacking in society today.

So when you sit down to your next meal, remember that it was produced by someone who enjoys his work, cares for his livestock and most important of all cares for the lovely countryside in which he works while keeping it attractive for us all to appreciate.

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