Diary Of Becoming A Farmer. Falling At The First Hurdle
The latest installment of this occasional series.
The story of a young mans efforts to become a farmer without the aid of inheritance.
So what are we going to do now. Having had the calling that agriculture is what I enjoy and care about. We've decided that we want a different direction in life. What is important is family and raising the children to understand life and where their food comes from. But where do we go from here? How do we take it forward? We can't afford to buy a farm. We can't let somewhere either. We've no years of experience and most lets require 3 or 5 years experience. So what next?
I started to look for some courses to learn a few skills. I'm a firm believer that if you have the basic skills as a foundation anything is possible. I've never been a good blagger. (Some may say blogger too)! I'm worried that I'll get found out and look a right twerp. I am confident in my own skills though once I have some knowledge. I had been to Cereals 2005 at Rectory Farm, Guilden Morden. I had a great day. Although I was supposed to be working. I managed as little work as possible and spent as much time as I could on the field talking to people, trying to learn a bit. I asked the agricultural colleges that were there if they were doing any distance learning courses. One said they might be starting one shortly. So that was a no then. I enjoyed that day so much that I also looked for some books to try and learn a some more.
So how do you teach yourself agriculture. With difficulties! It would be easier if we had our own place. Nothing teach's you faster than experience or learning the hard way.
I was so frustrated at not being able to do what I wanted, not being able to learn. I also started reading Farmers Weekly. Unfortunately at the time FW was quite negative I felt, with farmers bemoaning their plight. Still realing from Foot & Mouth in 2001 and the disasterous introduction of the Single Farm Payment. In the September Farmers Weekly relaunched and I found it a really encouraging read. I could learn from the articles. More importantly when I read some of the articles I found that the figures that where being quoted were what I had expected from my own research. Farmers Weekly is now far more proactive in encouraging British Farmers and Farming. Farmers Weekly, I think, is a good read with the monitor farms and farmers, sharing information and best practice, showing that there is money to be made in farming. This is further underlined with the Farmers Weekly Awards. More importantly though, I felt it encouraged.
I read a book called "Organic Farming and Growing" which went into the structures of soils quite well and improving the soils using Organic methods, obviously. Letting nature do the hard work as long as you assist nature with the crop rotations.
I'm not a full Organic convert yet, but I do believe in learning the principals and keeping an open mind. A mix of both systems might just solve a problem more cheaply when margins are tight as they are at the moment. But if you don't understand the principals how is it going to trigger the thoughts in the first place.
I needed some of those basic principals tough. I work shifts that are long, cover 7 days a week and are unpredictable, in terms of which day I work in the week and what time of day I work. So how was I supposed to learn. Booking onto a course was risky because they aren't cheap and there was a big danger that I'd have to miss a couple of lessons or even the whole course if I had to work abroad or something.
In 2006 though we decided to move house. I had been reading the FW like most males do with the newspapers. Starting at the back. Dreaming of the machinery and property that was for sale. I started doing business plans and projections as to how we could buy the farms and pay back the money we would have to borrow. It would be difficult. It would either have be somewhere with a house and a few acres or quite a few acres and a mobile home. I could cope with that, but I'm not sure the children should have to cope with it.
Some acres came up for sale in Essex. (100 plus). I enquired of the agent and got the details. It looked good. Quite expensive overall and it would have to be the caravan or a local rented house. However whilst talking to the agent about my plans he more or less told me I was an idiot for not just buying the land putting it into arable. I wanted to do some arable and livestock. It is true, I didn't know then what I know today but that was no excuse for being treated as I was, (like a lifestyle buyer with too much spare cash)! As a result of that, I questioned what I wanted to do and found it hard to pursade "The Better Side Of The Fence" that we wouldn't loose everything and I could make us a new life in the country. Land prices were still reasonable at the time, but whilst I was umming and aaghing half the land was sold and the price went up for the second half. It would be sometime later before I realised exactly what I had let slip through my fingers!
If your new to this blog catch up with previous installments below.
"The Best Man’s Speech"
"A New Beginning"
"The New Millenium"
"The Early Years"