It’s great fun being a farmer, isn’t it? Public enemy one minute; folk hero the next. Life in farming is sometimes dogged by uniquely awkward and at times annoying realities.
Let’s have a look at some of the contradictions which face the poor farmer.
- And that’s the first one… poor farmer, my eye. You can see the ( not completely unjustified) fury in the face of someone who is truly skint. Land rich; cash poor, it doesn’t wash, does it? The sleepless nights and sweaty-palmed telephone conversations with the bank manager don’t really swing it when you try to explain.
- Those polluting, traffic-slowing tractors and other macho (even if you’re a woman) machines, you drive? Get ‘em off the road. Except when there’s snow, or a flood…or some other natural emergency, where those bad boys are terrifically handy.
- People like taking their kids to a traditional farm. Children, on the whole, enjoy feeding the lambs and playing amongst the straw and tractors. Then many of them get into their teens, become vegan and condemn all farmers as the modern-day evil demons.
- Unless you come from specific cultural groups or are royal, you can generally break away from the parents and homestead when you are a young adult. Another exception is being a farmer. Yep, you’re stuck too.
- Farmers only account for a tiny proportion of the UK population, they tell you. You think about this as you brew tea for…the dairy consultant, the agricultural bank manager, the corn rep, the dairy supplies rep, the foot-trimming man, the RPA person, the milking parlour testing woman…I could go on.
- “Ah but you’re your own boss”, someone says to you. “It must be a grand feeling.” You try to take consolation from this while you are taking your orders from the government, the supermarket, an assortment of pressure groups, the milk buyers and the other dozen people with clipboards and scorecards who call on you on a regular basis.
- At times of the year when the pressure is on, your best friends and the only people who truly understand you – your fellow farmers – become your foes and rivals and watch your progress with a sharp and critical eye.
- The processors and supermarkets get away with blue murder – or at least with horsemeat in lasagnes. You, on the other hand, are judged by much harsher standards and will feel the full force of the law, should you slip up to the slightest degree.
- The world is full of people who think they know how you should be doing your job. When it comes to managing the countryside, there are more opinions and experts than you can shake a cow stick at.
- You have your plans made; for once the work is on schedule and you feel under control. Then nature sends a massive curveball in the form of snow, floods, gales or drought.
- You watch another warm and fuzzy countryside programme on the TV, where all the animals are cute and clean and the drama comes in neat and manageable portions. You try to keep the bitter smile and cynical comments to yourself.
- Whatever the drawbacks, at least your job keeps you fit; until the aches, pains, arthritis, old injuries and dodgy joints come back to torment you.
- Charged with feeding the nation, your nerves are shot almost every time you open a newspaper to read that what you produce is the cause of all ills – one step up from poison, in fact.
- Milk and meat prices are swinging up and down wildly but not to worry – you can be sure that everything else is rising; fodder, utilities, corn…
- Think you have escaped the heavy hand of assessment? Think again. The evidence -based qualification system has entered farming with a vengeance. Hope your folder and certificates are up to date.