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    Diary Of Becoming A Farmer

    Diary Of Becoming A Farmer. A Very Dry Spell!!!!

    The story of one mans efforts to fulfil his dream to become a farmer, without the aid of inheritance.

    So the dry period continues!  No we have had some rain, ever since the drought was declared I've had to start watching the weather forecast again!!  Not nearly enough rain, but for cattle  farmers like myself it's a start. No the dry period I was referring to was the lack of blogs from me.  I see just yesterday that an APB has been put out among the community looking for "Old MacDonald" who hasn't been seen online for several weeks.  I've had many a private message asking of my whereabouts, whilst I've not been posting, and it is nice to know that people you've never met but have chatted to frequently look out for you.  Hope we here from Old MacDonald soon.

    Writers block?  Maybe. Not enough time?  Definetely. 

    It's a mixture of finding it difficult as to what people may be interested in and not being able to speak about certain things as they are in process and don't really want to upset the apple cart. So to speak.

    Although how I wish I could speak my mind!!!!  Best I don't you understand, don't you?

    So what happened that I can talk about? Well I've been given more responsibility for the cattle that I'm looking after, both day to day and managerially. I was reassuring the boss the other day that we are achieving his goals, it's maybe not as quickly as he thought and that the way consumers purchase their products is changing and we have to change with them.  

    The wet winter, (yes I did say "Wet Winter!" What with the snow and the rains of January and early February we would have been in dought in April otherwise.)  This meant I couldn't get onto my land soon enough to sow a spring cereal crop before the dry spell struck. I made a wise decision not to sow. It's just that seeing the weeds is depressing, which doesn't help.

    On top of that it's cost a small fortune in reports for our planning application which we have now resubmitted. I just have to wait and see what's thrown at us this time!!!  I had the local press on the phone to me yesterday.  I really don't like being intereviewed either for a job or by the press.  It's not that I'm a slow thinker, but a very in depth thinker and want time to try and work out what the subtext is they might be trying to get at!!

    I dare not add up the hours I'm working at the moment. I think it is averaging at least 70 hours a week.  That doesn't include the commute that one of the contracts involves.  Yes, yes, yes, I know that is only half a weeks work for most farmers but I'm juggling that between two contracts then looking after my own farm on top of that and keep some semblence of family life going. 

    I've just taken procession of a iPhone, other Android's are available.  That's not bragging but it has made a huge difference.  I have to say I was not wholly convinced of it's benefits. Being constantly available to the office. Some said I would never be able to switch off.  Never leaving the office!  Which is true, if you let it. That's the secret.  You need to be in control of the technology not the other way around. I can now check my emails when I have a few seconds between weighing one lot of cattle for slaughter and going off to mow a field for hay. I can see if there is anything urgent that needs dealing with straight away.  Whether I'm in the field, the shed or shop.  It is a sort of lifeline of communication. 

    Farmers can feel isolated working on your own all day and only being in the office when everyone one else has long since gone home!  I can keep up with Caroline Stocks on Twitter as she tells me the latest Ag News as it happens. You actually feel connected to the real world.  

    I hope all of the above explains to the accountant why he hasn't quite received this years accounts yet!!!  However if he's reading this then I'm in real trouble, he'll tell me I could have been doing some of the work instead of writing this!  I suppose that sounds like me telling my 7 year old why he should be doing his homework instead of coming haymaking with me, who in turn sounds like his Father telling me to get my homework done instead of playing Britains Farms!  Funny how you wish never to be like your parents but no matter how hard you try something always sneeks through! 

    Better get the accounts done, or mess'rs Revenue & Customs may gate crash the party!!  I'll try to be back soon.  Don't forget if your new to this blog you can catch up with the story so far on my blog with the series, Diary Of Becomming A Farmer 

    Diary Of Becoming A Farmer. Planning A Long Job!

    Story of a young mans efforts to become a farmer without the aid of inheretance.

    Well first things first.  I will soon need to change the sub heading! Having just had another birthday, one more year and I suppose I'll have to drop the word "young".  After this last year I have to say I'm starting to feel my age!  Several of you have been badgering me for the latest installment of my story.  It still amazes me how many of you read my blog.  Thank You.  I've even had people contact me say that they are inspired by my story and have their own ideas and how should they go about it.  I have replied to those people personally and I hope to keep in touch with you.

    I found it extremely frustating recently as the locals had made up their minds before knowing our real plans and decided I'm a menace to society that must be stopped at all costs.  Trouble is the costs have mainly to be born by me.  I'm having to have extra surveys done which is a slow process as I have to earn the money to pay for each one as I go.  So far it's costing me an extra £10k because of the objectors.  I refuse to give up though.  I'm sure the locals would hate my plan B more than what I currently want to do.  The irony is they won't be able to object to my plan B!  Spiteful isn't in my nature unlike some people. 

    So I know exactly how the people behind the Nocton Dairy proposals feel.

    I've yet to receive my single farm payment!  I received a nice Christmas Present from the RPA 3 days before Christmas stating that: My application has yet to be processed.  I can't chase it up and will just have to wait until they can pull their finger out!  Why are we Brit's so good a playing by the rules?  We just roll over and accept things.

    Actually farming the land is proving difficult too.  It seems people have been warned off from helping me by the locals.  A contractor suddenly pulled out from working for me last year siting some excuse.  I seem to be some outsider pushing in on a world I know nothing about.  A little like "Hot Fuzz".  My very near neighbour is proving very helpful though.

    I managed to get my first years accounts submitted recently.  They made grim reading, covered in red!  This year is looking a little better with the cattle contracting work increasing.  I wouldn't mind doing some lambing if anyone needs a some help.  It would keep me upto scratch I quite enjoy it too which is a bonus I suppose.  Especially on nights.  So if your in the South East and you want a few hours break give me a nudge. 

    Well the kids are still enjoying things.  When I come home from checking the cattle my eldest keeps telling me "You smell of cow!"  Strangely I find it quite a comforting smell.  I suppose thats it for now.  I did manage to finish it on the train..  I will try and update things again very soon.  I'm off to be a godparent this weekend so might have chance to relax and catch up with the family. 

    I would put some pics up in the blog but it doesn't seem to be working at the moment.  Keep in touch everyone. 

    Agriculture @ The Science/History Museum

    Well, I was looking at FWi space on my way home from work last Thursday night, (27th Jan)  Some great pics by picture ed of the Science Museum.  It reminded me of going about 18 months ago with the lads.  I've searched back through my blog because I thought I had written about it at the time.  Sadly not, so I started to write but didn't quite finish it and post it.  Just as well really as I might well have stolen Jane King's thunder.  What I had written was very similar.  Only now have I had time to re-write the peice and post it  

    When I went with my family to the Science Museum I was so shocked by what I saw!  The lads, aged 5 and 3 at the time, thought it was great as they recognised all the machinery.  It was very nostalgic, just how I remember farming as a child.  Which is very nice but more of a HIstory lesson than a Science one.!!!

    I discussed with my cousin afterwards and he remembered it exactly the same years before when he had come to London with his Ag college.

    What I don't understand is that manufactures such as Claas invest in students by sponsering college's to train engineers which they can then employ.  Bayer sponser students at the Oxford Farming Conference (thanks to Bayer thats how I managed to go a couple of years ago).  It's called advertising.  Promotion within the industry.  Nothing wrong with that.

    The technology used in farming is quite amazing and I'm someone who loves science.  GPS control, mapping, controlled environments in buildings, just to start with.

    The industry keeps calling for and needs to get more and younger people into the industry.  What I feel some have yet to realise is that as more families have exited farming, selling up and retiring, many of these farms have amalgamated and become larger.  They are now not always run by families but are "business's" employing people who might have originally had no connection to farming.  This demographic is only likely to increase as more families exit Dairy Farming as feed prices increase Pig and Beef margins tighten.  Farming needs to attract people from outside the normal farming catchments into the business.  This needs to be done at the earliest stage before some other shiny science grips their world.

    What we need is an All Industry Approach.  So calling "Claas, New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Lely, Lemken, Vicon, Welgar, John Deere, Amazone, Kvernland, Simba, Cousins, Vaderstad, Rabe, Beeson, Accord, Dowdeswell, McConnel, Krone, Kuhn, Teagle to name just some.  Building Manufacture's should get involved too.  We should be shouting about our High Welfare buildings making farming more efficient.  Promoting not only to the public, but the World and more importantly Prospective New (Young as in Children)  Farmers.  The more companies that join in the less it will cost all.    

    GM Chicken that can resist Bird Flu....

    BBC News are running a report by Pallab Ghosh saying that a GM Chicken has been bred that can resist Bird Flu.

    Bird Flu Resistant Chickens 

    Good Or Bad?

    If good news how can we benefit here in the UK.  The general public here in the UK are quite ferverently against anything GM. 

    But if it was allowed would it be classed as "Noval Food" as clones are?

    Europe as a whole does not allow GM Food Products.  To those of us in the industry it raises more questions than it answers.  Surely as with "Cloned, Noval foods" it will be no doubt freely be allowed to be imported.  Once again UK farmers could be disadvantaged further.

    Another Farming Death! Killed by one of his own bulls.

    The BBC  has reported that a 58 year old farmer from Hampshire has been killed when one of his bulls charged at him.  My thoughts go out to the farmers family at this disasterous time.

    This sadly is the second recent incident where a bull has killed someone.  Earlier this month a walker was killed when using a public footpath through a field which contained a bull and other cattle.  However it is unusual for bulls to charge at the farmer.     

    Another sad day for Agriculture.

    Diary Of Becoming A Farmer. Preparing for the 2012!!

    Story of a young mans efforts to become a farmer without the aid of inheretance.

    So I just looked and can't believe it's 8 months since I last had time to write on here.  I have been reading from time to time though, so here are I have a few updates of my own!  The year has continued in the same vein as it started. Diary Of Becomming A Farmer Happy New Year,  Not enough hours in the day and I'm off to the funeral of a good friend on Wednesday who has died of cancer!! 

    The day job is incredibly busy.  We had a General Election resulting in a new government.  Following the Comprehensive Spending Review a couple of weeks ago, we are now all digesting exactly how that will affect us all.  Now Royalty has announced intended prenuptials next year, so what was looking like a reasonably quiet year in 2011 before a little event in in 2012 known as the Olympics.

    The Cattle from the herd I'm managing went back outside in April and this week we are going to take them back in again ready for the winter.  I was thinking of taking one of the steers to India for the Commonwealth Games.  During the winter he learn't to clear 5 foot hurdles, although at the point he realised he could, they were a little over 4 foot with the muck in the shed.  Trouble was he realised he could!!  He did this at least 3 times over the winter. 

    He was coming up to 30 months last week and we needed to get him to "meat" his maker!!  In the last month he had escaped the coral twice by clearing the whole 5 foot of hurdle both times.  How he didn't break his leg in these attempts I'll never know.  So last Wednesday we had beefed up the coral.  Still he managed to escape twice more!  Wrecking two more hurdles in the process.  

    Well that was it, he had waved a red rag at me and I was not going to be defeated.  So had to get my thinking cap on and outwit him.  Two other cattle were still in the coral.  So I had to think of a cunning way to get him back to his mates.  Half an hour later he was on the edge of the coral thinking about going in again.  Then he was in and as soon as I shut the gate he was looking to get out again.  So I opened the gate to the cattle trailer which had a bucket of feed in the far end.  Sure enough that worked and he was thinking of his belly.  He was not happy when I closed the trailer up behind him and he realised he had been caught

    So off the the slaughter house we went.  Fortunately only 10 miles away but with him kicking and banging all the way.  I hope a good time in the lairage should have calmed him down enough that the meat is still good.

    We also developed some Steak & Kidney pies  to sell through the butchery.  It was a really difficult job having to taste the pies and decide which recipee was best...  But someone had to do it.  We had them ready for Easter and they sold well.  Now with winter time almost upon us it's time to get more made.  Shame, but I will once again have to check quality control.... 

    Was it a Bird? Was it a Plane? Was it a Wolf? Can you Help

    At the risk of starting another "Big Cat Sighting" story I wonder if anyone can help Identify an animal spotted at my farm yesterday.  

    Tony and I was walking up the field boundry when all of a sudden about 8 foot away at the hedge fence we were drawn by the commotion of the unidentified animal was trying to squeeze through the wire fencing.  It tried very hard but with a square mesh of 6 inch it didn't really stand a chance.  There was some dead grass upto the fence which was obviously where this animal had been sun bathing till it was rudely interupted by us.  At that point I thought it a MonkJack deer. 

    It fought desperately for about 5 seconds to get through the fence, then when it realised it wasn't getting anywhere it turned and fled up the field to the coppice.  As it ran it went with a real spring in it's step, almost bouncing up the field.  What seemed strange to me was it's tail.  The tail stood ridgidly upright, about 14inch long with a white "warning sign" underside, like a rabbit does.  The tail didn't go to a point like a dog might, but just seemed too long for a Monkjack although I have seen MonkJack here before.    

    We both turned to each other and said "What the Hell was that?"  Has anyone any ideas?

    Lambing Live. Good Farming PR

    Well done the BBC.!?

    The programme has given a wonderful insight into the work that farmers do to bring the food to our table. It has shown that farmers are not money grabbers sponging off the single farm payment, but that they are caring people who whilst their life, (and business) is about trying to turn in a profit, that isn't at the expense of caring for their stock. We should be proud of our industry and if we don't shout from the rooftops about it nobody else will. Well done and Thank You to the Beavan Family for allowing the cameras onto their farm and presenting such a good view of farming.

    All industries have people who don't agree with the way things are done. Farming is no different.. Maybe it's that caring side that lets us down or makes us feel vulnerable. Last nights show (Tuesday BBC2 8pm) showed Presenter Kate Humble crying at the loss of a lamb. It was the first one she had lost whilst assisting with a birth. It was left to the tougher farming nut and co-presenter Adam Henson to explain that even though he's been farming all his life, things like that still effect him but he has learn't that it sometimes happens and there is nothing you can do about it. I can remember the first lamb I lost more than the first Ewe I assisted successfully. One of triplets similar to last nights programme, probably had the same problem, it's lungs weren't formed properly and didn't inflate upon it being born. I tried desperately to keep the life going but it just ebbed away in your hands.

    But we shouldn't be afraid to show this caring side, it will win us friends. Others do it quite cynically in the media with things that aren't as great as life and death. Be proud of Farming. It's a role that I believe the NFU should be more proactive in. Get the PR machine rolling. There is nothing as good as some fluffy animals to give some positive PR to Farming.

    From Field to Fork, Farming Matters and other PR phrases, lets keep Positive Farming stories in the Mainstream press. It's the best way to keep us in the minds of our Customers.

    Diary Of Becomming a Farmer. Happy New Year!!!

    So first of all, Happy New Year. Xx

    Yes, I know it's February and I'm wishing you a Happy New Year, better late than never.

    I was stirred by a couple of messages recently, (thanks Matty et al,) (see your comments are read and taken note on here...)

    Although I haven't a clue where time goes these days. Now having 2 jobs, my own farm to run and 3 kids does seem to push the blog down the list of priorities a little. Doesn't mean I think of you any less, just means I haven't the time to put finger to keyboard! So let's catch up and maybe the following will go some way to explain.

    So I started my contract as trainee herdsman and manager. Which soaked up all my spare time. Not that I had much in the first place. First job with our “Little Black Angus” was to top the pasture in the vain hope that any rain could produce a fresh flush of grass. However down in the South East we now know that the rain didn't come till winter time and then it hasn't stopped since.  As I type this I'm looking at standing water in the fields with more rain forecast!!!

    So topping. We had been given a topper that was being thrown out. We soon found out why. After ten acres the one weld (out of 4) that was still attaching the gearbox to the body of the topper couldn't take any more and the gearbox twisted on the body meaning the blades were no longer parallel to the ground, snapping the belt to the second blade and bringing the whole job to a halt. It wasn't too serious in the end, as I say we had no useful rain till the cattle where in the sheds and it was to cold for the grass to grow anyway.

    Having fed the silage to the cattle since end of July it was apparent that winter was going to be long, certainly in terms of useful ration for the cattle. To give you some idea how bad things were, 12 acres of silage where cut at the beginning of May yielding 60 bales of good silage. Second cut at the end of September gave just 16 bales, basically topping the field.

    So finishing the cattle was going to be expensive. They were still producing some good bodies though as was borne out by the comments from our customers.

    Next came Christmas. An ideal opportunity to get more customers and the orders came good, although as most farmers who retail their own animals will tell you, the secret is to sell the whole carcass not just the prime cuts. So a retail stand next to the Turkey collection point on Christmas Eve proved very good. SOLD OUT! Words to make every accountant sing carols!!

    Christmas with the kids is always a joy. Innocence and pleasure at opening their presents, pity they don't fall asleep after too much Christmas dinner though!  Although plenty of Turkey and Christmas pudding ensured that I did, so I wasn't really sure what they were up to.  But they had a good time which was the main thing.

    The next thing was New Year. Time to get our farm going on the next stage to Agricultural money spinning.  Or at least the NVZ files up to date!!! 

    The New Year was barely 8 hours old when the shine was taken from proceedings. A phone call that I was anticipating to wish me greetings to 2010 revealed that the last of my Grandparents had just died.  No real surprise in all honesty, she was 92 and very frail but a shock non the less and bad omen for the year to come?.  Life goes on we tell ourselves at times like these, so 4 days later we were selecting the next cattle for slaughter to restock after selling out at Christmas. The phone rings again to tell me that the wife of my new boss had just died. A huge shock. She wasn't as old as my Gran, although sadly she wasn't in the fittest of health it was still a huge shock.  I had been sat in her kitchen chatting and laughing with her over Turkey Sandwiches and Christmas cake on Christmas Eve as we took a short break from the Turkey Collections.  A wonderful woman, always with a smile and although I had only known her a short period of time I shall remember her with great fondness.

    So it would seem that the world was conspiring against us.

    The Day job had been making things hard for me too.  Spending 4 weeks in Bristol in two months, the wrong end of the country as far as I was concerned, meant I seem to be on the back foot chasing the accounts, which is frustrating me greatly.  The winter seemed to be winter.  Dollops and dollops of snow.  Did a load of good for while but I have to say I'm a little bored with it now.  Mixed with the rain we've also had and it will be at least 3 weeks of no rain before I can put a machine on the land!!

    We've put in for Planning at our farm for some sheds. Time will tell whether the domestic neighbours who were delighted that we “would be farming the land again” when we bought it will put their NIMBY hats on causing a lots of frustration. 

    But with 3 Birthdays since the beginning of the year, mine being one of them and it feels like I've had all 3 birthdays at once!!!   The latest was our George and this was his Birthday Cake. 

    The year has been eventful so far and we aren't out of February yet, time will tell how the other ten months fair. Watch this space.

    Ambiguous "British" Labelling, Products made to look British but only packaged here!

    I'm trying to do some research about food products that "Appear" to be labled as British.  However upon closer inspection they are products of the "EU" or further afield but packaged here.   The products are therefore legitimately allowed to display logo's which, to ordinary members of the buying public, suggest your buying a product that has been reared or grown here in the UK.

    If you have any Examples or any information on this topic please could you leave me comments.

    I shall compile my findings and write further on the subject later.

    Many Thanks in Advance

    Diary Of Becoming A Farmer. The Apprentice!

    Story of a young mans efforts to become a farmer without the aid of inheretance.

    We have the land, but no machinary. mmmmm

    I contact the contractor who had previously worked the land for the previous owner.  He quotes me a price.  Very reasonable.  Not really worth me making the effort to do some of the work myself.  But there is a need to do some work that the contractor wouldn't do.  So tractor and maybe hedgecutter required.  Only a nice cheap one as there wouldn't be much needs doing but would give me chance to have a play.

    However when I asked the contractor for a breakdown of the costs of a stubble to stubble contract so I might be able to cost some of the individual parts of the contract, he starts getting funny.  Says he'll go and have a look at the land and come back to me.  When he does come back he tells me he's not interested in the contract.  Thanks very much!  Yet another example of the cliqueness of farming and no wonder that new entrants find it difficult to get started.

    So that's put me in a foul mood.  I feel bad enough that I don't as yet really know fully what I'm doing, but very keen not look an ***! 

    The day job is very busy at the minute and will continue so for the next two months!  Was flicking through FW looking at the job adverts and dreaming!!!!!!

    One caught my eye, but was not very much money.  It was to train and then become a manager, starting salary poor but good prospects.  Added bonus is that it's not that far from home.  I wouldn't miss the commute one bit.  I think about it for a while.  Then I had a bad day at work and in a fit of peek contacted the advertiser to see if the vacancy was still open.  I put a link to my FWispace blog here and that I'd already been retraining by going to college to do a diploma.

    I got a reply rather quickly!  Could I fill in the attached application form and send a cv asap.  So I sat down that night and tried to coble a cv together.  My last cv was over eight years out of date!

    Finaly at nearly midnight I emailed the form and my cv.  Not expecting much response as when they read the cv it wouldn't have matched up to there expectations.

    It came back at ten am the following morning.  When can you come for interview?  It needs to be soon and can be over the weekend if necessary!!!  OMG  They have read my cv and are still interested.  This sounds good.  We organise a date and then I start getting nervious!

    What do I brush up on?  What will they ask me?  The interviews for the job I have at the moment were very technical and needed detailed answers!!  I think of a few questions that I might be asked.  Why do you want to work for us?  What can you bring to the job?  Basic questions.  Apart from those I'm going to have to busk it and just be me.  50/50 chance, I'll either be suitable or not!  Nothing ventured nothing gained.  I ask a couple of friends for advice.  Both give me some ideas and an insight into the company.  One of which tells me she's jelious!

    The day comes.  Interview is at 08.30 in the morning.  Good job I wake easy.  Here goes in for a penny.   I arrive on time.  Everyone seems friendly.  How many other people have been seen?  Surely they are better qualified than me.  I meet the interviewer.  He doesn't waste any time.  Straight in at the deep end.  He's read my blog and really likes it.  He wants to know more about me, what drives me.  The questions come up I was expecting.  Why do I want the job and what can I bring? 

     So no Bull tell it straight.  I've done some research on the brand in question and what I've been told so far this morning and here is my assessment of what I can bring to the company and how I think I can take it forward.  No good lieing.  You only get found out in the end!  That didn't put them off either.  I'm taken to lunch and we discuss terms! Wow I did it.  Things change slighlty but I turn the job into a contract, which suits me much better and works good for the company too.

    Time Fly's Whether Your Having Fun or Not!

    Well, I'll refrain from asking the question, "Have you missed me?"  It doesn't always reap the result you hoped for!!!  It's like asking for credit.  "A smack in the mouth often offends!"

    So I've missed you all.  I've been sooooo busy in the last 2 months since I was on here...  Day job.  Contract, (more on that in the next blog which I promise will only be a couple of days away,)  Business and home life.  Home life has suffered a bit, but had a fantastic day a couple of weeks ago,  H's 6th Birthday party.  Last year he wanted a Tractor party and Thanks to Ernest Doe & Sons of Rochford we pulled it off.  You can read more about that here.  This year what did he want.  A Tractor Party!  How was I gonna do that this year!  Fortunately we now have our own tractor so they even got to follow it to the party as I drove it there!  Wonder if they'll be same when they get older, being happy to be stuck behind a tractor! lovl.

    The kids thought it fab once again, highlight of the party to have their photo taken sitting in the tractor.  Now the soon to be 4 year old wants me to take it to his party in Feb!  Think I might have started something here.  It will be soon Christmas!!!!!  We will have been in posession of our land for nearly six months now and a meeting in a couple of days may well lead to the next step of the grand plan.  Fingers crossed.

    I see nobody has nominated me for the Sexiest Farmer.  (Not sure how I can write the next bit without some terrible puns!  Here goes.)  But having looked at the pics so far there is some Pretty, Stiff competition  I think it will be Hard for me to win now!  (There not too Bad!!!!)  Anyway watch out, you may be scarred later!!!  You have been warned!!

    By the way, I've just realised it's two years since I joined FwiSpace.  Time Flying unlike the pigs!

     

    HELP!! The Divide Between Countryside and Townie To Be Driven Wider!

    Professor Hugh Pennington is advocating that under 5's should not come into contact with animals at petting farms amid fears of contracting E.Coli. according to BBC News.

    Professor Pennington's comments came as news that a fourth petting farm has been forced to close.  World of Country Life, in Exmouth, voluntarily closed its petting areas and deer train ride following infections in three children who visited the farm last month - although the farm has not been confirmed as the source.

    These petting farms are a huge source of enjoyment to mainly the under 5's where they can learn about farms, animals and the countryside.  Just to see the excitement on my childrens faces when we visit some of these places means that they are paying attention and absorbing information given to them. 

    They are a vital tool in connecting the countryside to townies.  The industry ( LEAF, NFU, Countryside Alliance, Et Al) needs to get together to draw awareness of the issue's with petting farms.  They need to produce a code of conduct that these farms can put in place to reassure the public and be very specific about the risks, educate the visitors to the importance of hygiene.

    We MUST NOT let these type off attractions close down for good.  They are a vital tool to link Town to Country, Farm to Food.

    Godstone Farm's Sister Horton Park closes amid Hygiene Fears from HPA

    The London Evening Standard is reporting tonight that Horton Park, Godstone Farm's sister petting farm in Epsom Surrey has been advised to close by the Health Protection Agency following fears that "hygiene standards were unsatisfactory."   The HPA said it was unaware of any E.Coli infections linked to Horton Park at this time.

     

    This is a further blow to the reputation of British Agriculture and could quite easily be picked up by the press and made into a big issue.  Somebody within the "Farm Education" part of our community who is sure of their own standards needs to come forward and defend "Petting Farms" before those with negative attitudes damage the good work that has been made, to get people back in touch with the British Agriculture.  We need to allay the publics fears and help them understand reality, instead of watching reality on TV all the time!

    E Coli Outbreak closes Godstone Farm in Surrey

    It has been reported on BBC News that 12 Children who visited Godstone Farm in Surrey are in hospital suffering from E Coli.  The Farm, which has a visitors attraction, has been closed to the public as a precaution whilst the source is verified.

    Diary Of Becoming A Farmer. End of Part One

    The Story of a young mans efforts to become a farmer without the aid of inheritance!!

    So in my last blog Oh My Goodness  I was waiting for the solicitors to complete the purchase of the land we had found.  I have been supplied with a mountain of paperwork to read and sign off.  Boundries, access rights, domestic neighbours looking for liberties.  On top of all that I'm nearing the end of college for this year.  Eight assignments in six weeks!  Thanks very much.  It's alright for the kids who only have the pub to go to at the end of each day, but I've got a family, a job and a Farm to buy.  Am I complaining, well a little bit but as I try and get some sympathy from "The Better Side Of The Fence" she replies "You love it really."  And I suppose I do.  At last I might just realise my ambition.  To Become A Farmer.

    It was time for the Royal Show  and I was genuinly looking forward to it.  As you might have read.   We managed to leave the kids with Nana and the "Better Side Of The Fence" and I went off for a day out on our own.  We had a great day.  Some lovely stock to see but not many useful companies or merchants to talk too.  That was a dissapointment.  And as for the Carcase competition, well you can read my disgust here .  Whilst at The Royal news came through from my solicitor.  The money had been transfered.  There was no going back!!

    Those of you who know me, know that when I started writing this diary, we did not have the land in our possession.  This has been, to use a well trodden cliche, "a roller coaster ride" of a story told in chunks to hopefully ammuse you all.  In fact I didn't think anybody would be interested in my story.  It was only when I found "The Better Side Of The Fence" chortling at the computer whilst reading the blog, that I thought it might be worth continuing with my blog. 

    You have read the story as it has developed.  If not do catch up via the links on the left of your screen.  The highs and lows of my struggle to become a farmer.  If it was on the tv it would have been a docusoap a bit like "Jimmy's Farm", A form of DocuBlog.  A couple of weeks behind the days events, but then If I kept you upto date on a daily basis that would be twittering.  Which now I come to mention it, you can now follow me on twitter @  Uponthefence   Only just getting the hang of twitter, thanks to Caroline who told me I was following the wrong people.  Ooops.

    Several people have written comments to the blog, telling me, that their children want to do similar things and this has inspired them.  Another wrote to me just the other day to say that he didn't believe his dream would be possible until he read my blog.  Well now it is true.

    I am a Farmer.  Yippee. 

    I have the RPA paperwork to prove it.  Double Yippee.  The RPA have found me.  Three Cheers to the RPA! 

    I still await the all new digital maps.  That should be fun.  Although the man from the RPA I was talking to in Newcastle the other day told me I shouldn't believe everyting I hear in the media.  Fortunately for him I work in the media and I know where to take my pich of salt.  The Farming press is a media I feel I can trust.  All these people with problems concerning the RPA can't just be grinding axes.  In the interest of fairness I will report the facts as they happen to me.  As the RPA don't know who I am neither side can be accussed of bias.  I'd love the RPA to be efficient as would we all.  It's not about kicking the government.  It's about the British Farmer being efficient in their operation, not having to waste time with beaurocracy and letting them do the job they love.  Feeding people.

    This episode of the diary is called "End Of Part One" because whilst I might be a farmer in title, I now have to become a farmer in name.  The land has to pay for itself.  This is not some extravegent hobby.  This is my pension, my childrens future, I hope.  It must pay it's way.  I have a few ideas and hope you'll follow and support me along the way.

    Thank You All Very Much for reading my blog so far and sharing your comments with me.  I do enjoy reading your comments so do keep them coming.  It's not the end by any means I shall keep on blogging and you'll be able to keep up to date with how we get on in our first year of trading.  A steep learning curve I'm sure.  And as you can imagine I'm going to be just a little bit busier.

    Don't forget to RSS this blog to get all the latest updates and do let me know what you think.

    Rethink Needed for Food? At Last.

     

     

    I watched with interest the Newsnight last night with Hillary Benn followed by a debate by Peter Kendall obviously for this policy and some other bloke Philippe Legrain who was just an advocate of cheap food.  This mans ideas was to buy the cheapest food from the cheapest labour with obviously the lowest animal health and welfare issues Brazil.  Unfortunately Peter Kendall had the right answers to the debate they were supposed to be having but this bloke just rode over Peters comments suggesting Britain should be a large housing estate and we buy all our food in. 

    The point that Philippe Legrain was missing, as Peter failed to point out, was that if we just buy in food there will never be cheap food again in this country and we won't benefit from the price rises.  At least Hillary Benn has finally woken up to the fact that "there is money to be made in them there fields".  However watch out for the support money going abroad.  Hillary Benn was talking a lot about helping other countries develop there agriculture!!

    Farming in the UK has been reasonably recession proof at the minute.  That speaks VERY LOUDLY.

     

    Don't forget to catch up with my blog.  Diary Of Becoming A Farmer for the latest on my story.

    Diary Of Becoming A Farmer. Oh My Goodness....
    The Story of a young mans efforts to become a farmer without the aid of inheritance!!

    So in my last blog Kick In The Epididymis the Bank Manager had gone away to think about my plans.  I was waiting now for the second time to see if they would lend me the money to make my dreams come true. 

    After a few days I received a phone call.  Subject to a few other checks, the answer was YES!  Oh.  What do I do now.  It might actually happen.  I'd better find a solicitor who is good at agricultural law. 

    It's fantastic news, but I can't shout about it too much as after all we've gone through so far, I can't get too excited until it is all completed.  Word gets around college that I've bought some land.  Not true yet of course, but still they keep quizzing me.

    CIMG3661.JPG

    The vendor is quite keen to complete quickly and so am I but the lawyers have got hold of it now and things grind to a slow halt!  Loads to think about.  Access, boundries previous uses of the land.....

    Also now is my chance to deal with the RPA.  So far very efficient, but I am braced for that to change.

    I'd better start thinking about the next crop as it's going to need sowing soon, if the lawyers let us get on with it.

    The Royal Show. Quite Outrageous!

     So, I managed to get my mother-in-law (non farming side) to come home from her holiday early to look after the kids so that myself and the Better Half could go to the last Royal Show.  Having to explain what was so special about the Royal Show worked..  I had never managed to go before and was looking forward to the premier show in the Agricultural Calender.

    So we set off early and arrived just as the gates opened and trotted into the showground full of anticipation.  We found a good stand almost immediately.  Temporary accommodation, which the Better Half was very impressed with.  We may well need some of this for us to live in before long.  The Better Half was very worried about having to live in a caravan but this has allayed her fears.  I was quite impressed too.

    Next I wanted to see some seed merchants, grain processors and the like.  Nothing.  Nobody.  The only thing I found was Slag Fertiliser!!!  Which was useful but not quite what I wanted.

    Next to the Food Hall.  Not many stands, some good samples to try and we bought some beef from the butcher there, Gerald Davey & Family.  Very lovely it was too, just had it for lunch today. 

    However it was then that I understood why it was The Royal Show was closing.  In the corner, tucked away with no signs, little lighting and no explanation, was the carcass competition winners.  Now I understand that the specialist refrigeration display units take careful location.  However there was no notes as to why carcasses had won the prize they had.  No link to other parts of the showground where the general public (non farmers) could learn more, such as the eblex stand.  How can they learn to link farming and food if we don't help them and explain.

    By the way the Eblex stand was excellent in explaining and demonstrating different classes of meat.  All the supermarkets (except Waitrose) just had stands selling products.  Waitrose had a stand in the education area explaining and demonstrating planting herbs and making salad dressing.  Getting interaction with the audience.  To me this endeared me more to waitrose than any of the other supermarkets.

    By the way Justin King, stating that the supermarkets don't need an ombudsman, screams to me that they do.  If they have nothing to hide then they would back an ombudsman.  Enough said.

    The Smallholders area was another of the most interactive areas.  It also had most of the General public there because people where taking the time to explain what was there.

    Another outrage was the pig and sheep sheds tucked out the back end of the showground so nobody was there unless they went looking for it.  By the way well done to Chris Impey in the pig shed.  He had interactive notes on his pig pens.  Simple ideas, cards with a question on them where attached to the pen and if you wanted to learn the answer lift the question and the answer was underneath. Pity hardly anyone would have seen it!

    Finally as Mildred said in his blog, not much machinery.  A real disappointment.

    To me The Royal was neither and education and a good day out for the general public nor something to stimulate the farmer.  I do hope that RASE can make whatever incarnation The Royal takes a better experience for all.

    Guaranteed to make your fortune!

    Now that I've got your attention.  If I'd titled this Safe as Houses or Haystacks, you wouldn't have even clicked the link would you.

    So Let's start again.

    Safe as Houses or Haystacks. 

    If Only!

    I've just spent a horrible two days at the scene of the fire in Camberwell where three adults and two children, including a three week old baby died.  It's not confirmed yet but it is thought a third child also died.  What has also come out today is the horrific detail of the last moments of some of those that died.

     

    I can only begin to imagine what was going through those relatives minds as this tragedy unfolded.

    Having family including three children of my own it really does get to you.  I've been close to tears several times.

    Fire does also get quite close to farmers far too often.  Years ago it was seen as an occupational hazard at haymaking.  Still on the photo galleries of FWi space, pictures of machinery reduced to cinders, often with the lucky escape of the farmer driving it.

    Some may think that the Health and Safety Executives "Make The Promise, Come Home Safe" campaign may seem like yet another "nanny state" initiative, but nothing, especially not your work, is as important as your family.  What is the point of working if it's not to be able to enjoy your life with your family.

    Give your family a hug, tell them you love them and "Make The Promise, Come Home Safe!

    Diary of Becoming a Farmer. Another kick in the Epididymis.

    Story of a young mans efforts to become a farmer without the aid of inheritance.

    In my last blog, "Success at Last??!!"  I had been waiting for the letter from the bank saying they would loan me the money to further my ambition.  Having been made to wait since Christmas, it was now my birthday and the letter had arrived.  I ripped it open, there at the top of the page was the heading.  REJECTED.  Which summed it all up.  It was exactly how I felt.  I was being told that farming was crying out for new blood, the agent had told me it was the best new business plan he had seen for some time.  What was going on?

    I was grumpy, putting it mildly.  The shock possibly caused a bit of depression.  To the “Better Side Of The Fence” I'm SORRY.  It really was a kick in the preverbials.

    I sulked for a few days and was resigning myself to giving up for a while.  I kept stalling the agent, not sure why, in the vain hope that another letter would come saying, “oh sorry we got it wrong, here's the money”.  The agent for the bank had asked me, when I rang to see why I had been turned down for the loan, if he could contact another bank on my behalf and see if they would lend.  But that was the last I heard from him.

    I was ready to throw in the towel when the “Better Side Of The Fence” kicked me, this time up the backside and demanded “was I going to let this opportunity slip away or was I going to fight”.  She was right, (as usual).  So I decided to see if their was banking another way.  I contacted the agricultural account manager and explained my plan and asked them if they were interested.  They were!  So I sent them a copy of my business plan.  After a bit of thought they came back and asked for an interview to discuss the plan and terms.

    When the meeting came I was so fired.  When the account manager told me the terms of the loan, I gave him both barrels of good argument as to why he should offer me more favourable terms if he was serious about supporting agriculture and a new business.  I'm not usually like that and afterwards I surprised even myself.  I thought the meeting went well and now had to wait to see what would happen this time?  Had I demanded too much? 

    Not sure I could take any more punishment.  Holding down a full time job, trying to do a diploma In Agriculture part time at college and starting up a new business.  Am I Mad?  Much more rejection and I soon will be.

    Here we go again.  The waiting game once again.  Only this time I do hope it won't end in the crying game!

    Defra's Wildlife Health Strategy, or Excuse Tactic

    The announcement that defra is to set up a "Wildlife Health Strategy" looks according to the initial report "Defra Unveils Wildlife Strategy" as a way for the government to keep an arms length between them and the problem.  Call me cynical, I know, but the comment from the chief vet Nigel Gibbons just has that feel about it.  We need to see some evidence of assistance on the government side.

    If only Defra and the government could treat the disease issues the way that Sir Don Curry suggested Set-Aside should be reintroduced in a recent 5th June FW Article.  There should be more carrot and less stick. 

     Farmers do not want to kill wildlife.  Most now understand the benefits they can bring with keeping the general public onside.  However suffering of any kind by any animal is not acceptable and farmers just get frustrated that nothing is being done to prevent that suffering to wildlife except kill innocent livestock.!!!!!  

     

    Diary of Becoming A Farmer. Success at Last!!??

    The story of a young mans efforts to become a farmer without the aid of inheritance.

    So we had seen a plot of land for sale. A little distance from where we currently live but not too far. It was about the right size and more importantly about the right price. The hedges were in good condition and it seemed what we where looking for. The trouble was we didn't have all the money and would have to borrow some. I contacted the agent and made an offer.................

    Damn it was accepted without question. A sure sign you've offered too much.

    But I still needed some money. So Where from? The first signs of the recession had been around for twelve months now, Northern Rock was a mere memory, greater problems were starting to rear their head.

    I looked up several lenders and plumped for a well known agricultural mortgage lender. They obviously wanted to have an interview to see how barking mad I was? Never having made a business plan before I put the figures down I had persuaded myself with, as succinctly as possible, and went for the meeting expecting to be laughed out of the office. At least if that's what I was expecting it wouldn't be too much of a shock when it did happen. !

    So what qualities do I have? Errr well I have no experience or qualifications yet! I am at college, I have life experience a loving wife and three kids, the eldest two of which fight me for Farmers Weekly each time it arrives through the post! Oh and passion by the mixer wagon full. But I can't put down that I blog for Fwi to show that passion. Oh well here goes.....

    They were keen!  It's the best plan he has seen by someone wanting to start up for a while.  It was looking hopeful.

    The recession was starting to hit hard and the banking collapse seized the banks up completely.  But then the company I had chosen said in it's literature that it supported farmers and all the press where saying that agriculture was the one market that was bucking the trend.

    The kids were waiting for Santa, so was I.  Only my Santa was a big jolly bank manager with a sack full of cash.  Christmas was coming and the goose was getting fat, whoopee, we'll be farmers by the new year.  But I had to keep my feet on the ground and stick with the day job.  The children kept me distracted.  The postman kept me waiting.   

    Christmas came and went.  A fabulous time was had by all.  Lunch was superb thanks to Mr Paul Kelly....Although personally I think much of the thanks must go to the chef for the preparation of a wonderful feast...Who was the chef?  Me of course.  He He.

    Finally the postman arrived.  The bank must have taken my application to the Christmas party as entertainment for the night. What with all the cutting back on expenditure due to the banking crisis my application must have been a dream to them. In fact the conversation must have gone something like this.

    “Miss Jones”

    “Yes Mr Manager”

    “Cancel the Entertainer for the Christmas party, I've just got a mortgage application from Farmers Weekly Interactives View From The Other Side Of The Fence.”

    Oh Well, it was nearly my Birthday.  What a Birthday present that would be.  I've wanted to become a farmer since leaving school twenty years ago.

    I ripped open the letter just like the kids had done a month ago with their Christmas presents...................

     What did it say?  Well you'll have to keep watching this blog.  RSS to this blog and you'll get the next installment delivered to you as soon as it's posted.

    Have You got a friend?

    Yesterday (Thursday) saw the untimely death of Bob Dearnley.  (See News "Farmer Kills Himself" )

    It seems he had become obsessed in a battle with his landlords, the council, The National Trust and The Environment Agency over is land being flooded.  I didn't know the the man but from what I heard he just wanted to care for his rare breed animals and show them off to the public.

    We all like the David & Golliath story, but It can be difficult to know when Goliath is going to win and when it is just best to give up something that you truely love.  I'm not saying that anybody could or should have done anything different in this case as I don't know all the facts.  On the surface it does appear that Goliath has one this time with some terrible consequences.  It will be interesting to see the outcome of the coroners report.

    What we should do in these difficult times is to keep that spirit that I've always known in farmers, to help each other out.  That may be a difficult one at times because it takes a true friend to spot when someone truely needs help and to find the strength to tell them so.  Even so some people find it difficult to accept help but at least you have tried. 

    Farmers may be bucking the recession trend but there is still plenty who are on the brink.  Keep a look out for each other because farming can be a lonely business these days.   

    Badger TB. Soon There Will Be No Badgers

    Yet again the spread of TB is progressing through the different species, it won't be long before it comes into Human population as Swine Flu is now.  It's only a generation since it was eradicated from humans in this country.

    I was reading last weeks FW (8th May) and the article about the pig herd infected.  Now this weeks has 14 (yes Fourteen) different species infected with TB.  Bovine TB Blog has some good points about the fact that the so called Badger Trust burrying it's head in the sand about this disease.  It is a awful disease.  No farmer would allow an animal to suffer in the way badgers must suffer with TB.

    It is quite simple really, if there is not a cull of badgers soon then within ten years there will be no badgers for the badger trust to protect let alone the damage done to many other species of wildlife.  It's not about cute stripy animals, I don't want to see a widespread cull, but it is too late.  To little has been done for too long.  Mass cull is the only way to control this now otherwise TB will become to badgers what Myxomatosis was to rabbits.

     

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