“Hello, I’m calling from BBC Look North,” said the friendly girl. “Could we please come to interview you about the drought?”
This was back in March. I shouldn’t have accepted the request; it flew in the face of my two most strongly-held convictions.
1 Complaining about the weather makes you sound simple
2 Appearing on local television makes you look simple
My self-esteem must have been very low that day because I agreed to do the interview. The alternative was to let some other farmer grimly proclaim that Western Civilisation would fall if it didn’t rain in the next 24 hours. I thought I could at least be upbeat and explain the measures that we were taking to combat the effects of the dry weather and to say things are never as good or as bad as they first appear.
The cameraman duly arrived. The sky turned grey as he unpacked his tripod. The first spot of rain fell as he stuffed his hand up my jumper to fit the microphone. A shower started as I commenced my voice-warming exercises and there were puddles on the floor by the time that I said the word “drought” on camera. It then rained continuously for the next 24 hours. We had 50mm.
I sound like a latter-day St Swithun, but when the interview was broadcast on the telly, no one could hear my pronouncements because of the sound of rain drumming on the roof. Who knew that Mother Nature was such a fan of irony? Or that she watches Look North?
How curious the weather is. We all spent the first few months of the year obsessing that we would have devastating yields because of a record dry spell and then we had a record wet spell and then we had devastating yields as a result of it. It is almost poetic.
When I am old and wise, I will tell everyone about the Summer of 2012. Not because of the London Olympics, the Royal Flotilla or the reunion of the Spice Girls. It will be because 2012 was the summer when the sun forgot to shine and, coincidentally, the first summer that our photovoltaic system was operating. At least I assume that it’s just a coincidence. Maybe Mother Nature is just as passionate about the generosity of the Feed-in Tariff payments as she is about regional news.
Despite the terrible conditions and the various challenges that most of us have faced on our own farms, we haven’t yet gone bankrupt and the country hasn’t starved. We will feel the consequences for a little while perhaps, both in soil conditions and product quality. There may be an impact on cashflow and commodity prices in the short term. On the whole, however, farmers respond very well to difficult situations. Through hard work and ingenuity we have mitigated most of the problems without the general population even noticing. That, after all, is our job.
Farming only came about in the first place because we were dissatisfied with what nature does on its own. It is perhaps unsurprising that farmers have a reputation for being weather-obsessed to the point of madness. Our role is to do battle with the elements to make sure that everyone gets fed. Despite the challenges of 2012, judging by the size of shoppers on Holbeach high street, this is a fight that we are still comfortably winning.