Complete EDIARY so far
On the eve of war, farming may seem irrelevant, but I see a familiar trend in our fields paralleled in the global situation. We live in fear. Anonymous forces with motives we don’t understand can take over our lives and destroy us. There seems to be nothing we can do or say to alter this situation.
Visited Pat Innocent, whose sheep were under threat during the Foot and Mouth tragedy. Pat lives in the Forest of Dean, where the feral sheep were thought to be infected. Although her own sheep had no contact with the forest sheep, they were about to be culled, when Pat, her solicitor and the Forest Action Group opposed the official policy. Pat stood out for the right to have a blood test and, after withstanding a lot of pressure, eventually won. She has lived in fear of Defra ever since. Since the passing of the Animal Health Act, Defra now have the power to come in and kill Pat’s animals at any time and, with the pressure to reduce the national flock, she is convinced that they will target her again. Once, this might have seemed like paranoia, but since Foot and Mouth such fears are all too rational.
OAKDENE FARM, OAKSEY, CIRENCESTER, GLOS.
www.oakdene.co.uk (website not working at the moment.)
The fear here, I imagine, would be losing the family farm and they are coping with it in the best way possible.
Really free-range poultry all over the place. They sell chickens, both the eggs and the meat, but mainly they sell pork, beef and lamb. Their beef calves are reared free-range on retired dairy cows and graze in groups, swapping mothers. Pigs are also out in the fields and only interfered with if they are ill. Sheep lamb indoors, which they are doing at the moment – mostly strong triplets. They go out as soon as they are ready to play. They grow and mill their own animal feed. The on site butcher, Warren Hanratty runs the shop, cures the bacon, makes the sausages and operates a meat box scheme. Visitors to the farm are welcome, but please ring Warren first on 021666 577207.
FULMAYS. WOEFULDENE FARM, MINCHINHAMPTON. GLOS.
Gloucester Old Spot piglets ran to meet me, then assaulted their mothers. Fulmays is primarily a dairy farm. They are council tenants and required to run the intensive dairy unit, but it only pays the rent. The fear must be not surviving. In spite of the absence of profit, the cows have mats to sleep on indoors, go out when the weather permits and seem comfortable and content. For money to live on, they have free range pigs and Old Gloucester cattle for beef. They grow some cereals too, using the pigs as part of the rotation. At the moment, their free-range meat is sold at farmers’ markets. An on site shop will come next, giving the public a chance to see how the animals are reared. They have nothing to hide.
EASTBROOK FARM, BISHOPSTONE, SWINDON. WILTS
Helen Browning is impressively good at public relations, but she’s good at farming too. There is an efficient farm trail, up the Wiltshire downs, along the Ridgeway and down the dry valley. You can learn a lot about organic farming along the way. Helen’s first priority is to give her animals a good life. She started selling her own branded bacon to supermarkets when she realized she could give more pigs a good life by expanding her sales. With the same motive, Helen also rears and sells veal. I saw the luxurious veal house. The calves also go out with their foster mothers – retired cows from Eastbrook’s two dairy herds. They produce pink veal at about 6 months. This is the only chance of a life for male calves from the dairy herds.
Helen is interesting about every detail of her animals’ lives. She’s also capable of dealing with supermarkets and marketing on a large scale. She has dealt with fear by meeting it head-on.
ODESSA FARM, TEWKESBURY, GLOS.
David Goddard deals with fear by getting angry, which is a good way. He has coped with the idiocies of bureaucracy and the criminal greed of big business by exposing them on the internet and keeping on persistently being an excellent dairy farmer. He is in a good position to see what’s happening to farming in this country. Dairy farmers are being squeezed to give more and more milk for less and less profit; other countries in the European Union have an unfair advantage; farming is seen exclusively in industrial terms. It’s not worth going on. That’s enough to make anyone angry. On top of that, David’s farm, which is owned by the council, is between a motorway and a new estate. It doesn’t have a long-term future.
From my cheery little bulletins from farms that do have a future, you might think that I don’t live in the same world as David Goddard. In fact, I know only too well that he is right. That’s why I’m on this journey. Industrial farming is going to have a painful death before things get better.
Similarly, the world is about to plunge into a hideous war. We’re in it already and it’s getting worse, but the worse it gets, the more obvious it becomes that we could live at peace, in harmony with the land and with each other.
It’s the same with farming.
HAYLES FRUIT FARM, WINCHCOMBE, GLOS.
Beautiful site on the edge of the Cotswolds, with cafi, shop, glorious walks, with a farm trail, PYO. They press their own apple juice and make their own cider. You could happily spend a day there, or a week, as they have a camp-site.
WANBOROUGH FARMERS MARKET, WILTS
A village affair, in the village hall. Very local meat, vegetables, cream, cakes, plants.