14 November 1997

Your unused farm tackle could help out

ON MY last visit to Kaliningrad, Russia to present training seminars to the regions veterinary service, I was taken to a small privately owned farm where Sergie Zayetz the owner had established an orphanage for deprived children.

Without any state assistance he was supporting, in addition to his own family, a team of helpers and 12-15 children aged 10-15 years in conditions that you and I would find appalling, even on a sunny day. Yet to these children it was a safe haven, in conditions that were an improvement on those in an official institution or in their natural homes.

The farm is quite capable of supporting these children, given a little bit of assistance. At present they are milking 15 cows, making cheese with surplus milk. About six sows are housed in outdoor wooden sties and chickens run the yards. Cereals are being grown on about 40ha (100 acres), with potatoes as a break crop. Drying and storage facilities are basic but adequate.

The house is a typical large Prussian building that had been seriously neglected over the years but now has a good roof and dry feet. The rooms are damp, plaster is off the walls, decoration nil, carpets minimal.

The children assist on the farm for most of their free time according to the season. Bale humping was the chore of the day when I was there and there was no mechanical help.

Sergie Zayetz, the owner, has invested in what machinery and stock is available according to his purse and is trying to improve the house as remaining profits allow.

I have seen better and safer farm machinery, livestock equipment and tools lying redundant in UK farmyards and at the back of British barns that, in all honesty, will never be used again.

As our visit was being recorded for a national TV news programme, I challenged the Russian administration.

"You provide and pay for the transport and we (British farmers) will fill a lorry with machinery and other goods to improve the working and living conditions of this orphanage."

Farmers can assist

They accepted the challenge – please help me now to fulfil our obligation.

This is one way in which we as farmers can assist. Think of what livestock or arable equipment you could offer from your own farm. Does your local farm machinery dealer have any machinery or livestock equipment in his yard that is now outdated but able to be safely used? This is not an appeal for scrap. Just good, usable, safe, equipment to secure these childrens future and improve their chances of even getting on to the bottom of the farming ladder.

Details: (tel/fax 01452-830435).