Were you one of the cool kids at school? I certainly wasn’t. It is now 20 years since I decided to leave school and become a farmer. The teachers, the careers adviser and most of my friends laughed at my decision. Farming was a very unfashionable career choice back then.
For this reason I denied that I was farmer for many years. At dinner parties in the 1990s, if anyone asked what I did for a living the word “farmer” would stick in my throat like a fishbone. I would try to dodge the issue with, “Commercial Director in FMCG”.
“Fast Moving Consumer Goods.”
At this point, I would panic and change the subject.
“Errrr, this lemon meringue pie’s good. Is that the Keane CD playing?” (These were very bourgeois dinner parties, I should point out.)
As I’ve got older, I’ve grown to accept that farming is a big part of who I am. I started out by revealing to a few close friends that I was a farmer. Reaction varied from “I don’t care what you produce in the privacy of your own field so long as you don’t ram it down my throat” to “We always knew deep down – you’ve always worn a lot of corduroy for a young man”. Most people were fine with the situation when I gave them the chance to be.
Thankfully, attitudes to farming have changed. Nowadays, it’s completely acceptable to call yourself a farmer. I can finally be proud of my work and the choices that I made.
In these credit-crunchy times, many people are demoralised by their work. It would be great if everyone in the UK were able to feel the pride and satisfaction that now comes naturally to farmers. Luckily, then, I think I’ve devised a scheme to help.
I’m a big fan of those surnames which are derived from a job or skill. Names like Baker, Miller or Shepherd demonstrate a clear contribution to the nation’s health and well-being.
I think we should reintroduce this system for choosing family names now. How would people feel about themselves if they carried a name like Wayne Auditor, Doreen Trafficwarden or Karen Telesales? How would society judge them? What sort of service would they get if they booked a table in a restaurant?
The people who make modern life frustrating and complicated are usually impractical, unquestioning and dispassionate. Is there a sadder phrase than “my job doesn’t define me” or “my job just pays the bills”? Globalisation has created giant companies where individual responsibility is taken away from people. Procedures, protocols and corporate social responsibility have replaced common sense, trust and benevolent employment in modern-day business.
If we could stigmatise rather than ennoble crummy jobs, we might encourage people into work where they could exert positivity, enthusiasm and conviction. We farmers are privileged to do something as simple and fundamental as growing food. We have responsibility and control over an entire process. We are the emperors and empresses of our own little kingdoms.
It has taken 20 years, but I’m finally starting to see what this farming lark is really all about. Hoorah for all those who spoke up for us in the dark days of our unpopularity. Their work has paid off. Now we can enjoy being fashionable again. Farm Pride: Save me a seat at the front of the bandwagon.
More from Matthew online…
- I’m starting to realise what a dramatic impact the banking problems will have on UK food production. Farmers have to spend a whole season’s budget on crop inputs before they see any money back, this is why many farmers need an overdraft. This year’s disastrous harvest will leave quite a few farmers with a cash shortage. The rising input costs mean that they need to find more money next year to grow the same amount. I’m not sure that banks will be particularly willing to, and probably not even capable of, providing the money.
- Read Matthew Naylor’s blog