I AM MOST grateful to Nev Barns of Helpringham near Sleaford in Lincs for sending me a copy of a sale catalogue announcing and listing live and deadstock to be auctioned on the farm at Easton Lodge on Apr 1, 1920.

The sale was by direction of the executors of George Ward, who farmed in several locations in Lincs and, according to Mr Barns, may have hailed originally from Holbeach Marsh.

Seemingly, Mr Ward died a bachelor leaving his estate to his two nephews, but not his 1916 five-seater Buick motorcar, which according to the catalogue was “in first rate order, equal to new”.

Also in the sale were a number of Lincoln Longwool and half-bred sheep, Short Horn cattle and 14 carthorses and colts for field and road use.

Interestingly, just 10 years later on Mar 20, 1930, when Messrs G and L Glew held a similar auction on the farm, the same breeds and numbers were going under the auctioneer”s hammer once again.

Some of the terminology had changed, however. Back in 1920 cattle were described as beasts and head of poultry were listed as couples of fowls.

STEP BACK IN TIME

Thumbing through the pages of the catalogue is like stepping back in time, reading the lots for sale; stone grinding mill, cake breaker, root pulper, turnip cutter, chaff cutter, and guano bags – one can only guess at the hard grinding work of the farmer and workers of the day.

The lists of machinery manufacturers stir some distant memories, too. It includes: Blackstone, Bamford, Bamlett, Edlington, Massey Harris, Coultas to name but a few. Most are but a memory and have been replaced by unpronounceable names from all over the EU and not too many from these islands any more.

Perhaps this is also becoming true of our food from home resources. I was at a discussion club meeting last month which had been stimulated by a speaker from the Agricultural Industries Confederation. The debate moved round from assurance schemes and more specifically to meat.

UK producers have had to, one way or another, embrace these schemes to market their lamb, beef and pork, which although no bad thing, has cost producers dear for no added return.

The retailers, on the other hand, who claim that this is market led, continue to source foreign meat from suppliers who would be closed down if they attempted similar production practices in the UK. So why does this hypocrisy continue and why are retailers and consumers allowed to pull the wool over the government”s eyes?

The answer surely must be to insist that all produce entering the food chain in Britain attains the same standards as that produced at home or, alternatively, assurance schemes should be scrapped and we allow the free market to prevail.

At Easton Lodge we spend hours on paperwork and days on maintenance and repairs alone to comply with the plethora of regulations. Animal welfare, health and safety, good environment practice – the list goes on. These are taken as read, but not so in the global economy.

The Brazilians, for example, who stand to gain from the review of the EU”s sugar regime, will merely slash and burn more rainforest and increase their armies of near slave labour to supply the sugar needs of the multinational food and confectionary manufacturers. What will become of the quality assured traceable production then? What of the Everything But Arms Agreement hammered out by Pascal Lamy to protect the poorest producers in the world? It will be sold down the river by both the UK and EU policy makers without turning a hair.

At a recent address to the Farmers Club, the opposition leader Michael Howard said: “The first rule of farming is to feed the nation.” Presumably he meant this nation and our farmers, which sounds good enough for me; perhaps we could give him a chance to put this into practice at the next General Election?

Sorry to be political, but we have been left in no doubt as to how the present administration views farming and the countryside and I for one don”t like it.

BEET LIFTING

Off my high horse and back down to earth with a bump. We have been busy lifting 17ha (42 acres) of sugar beet with the help of contractor Richard Sneath from Spalding in Lincs. Closely followed by the plough and press and combination power harrow drill. Encouraged by good germination results on some home-saved Malacca seed, we decided to have it cleaned and dressed by a mobile using Beret Gold and Evict dressing to protect against wheat bulb fly larva and have sown at 450 seeds/sq m to be finished by Nov 29.

This just leaves our last lift of sugar beet some time before Christmas on 8ha (20 acres) at Sacrewell Lodge. This we hope to be able to clamp under cover to reduce the risk of freezing temperatures and the fag of covering and uncovering over the holiday period.