Matthew Naylor: Suspended from LEAF Marque

Can you remember the time that I told you what I would like to do to my nemesis, the heron? I should have kept quiet – we’ve just been suspended from LEAF Marque.

“What, for threatening to kick a heron up the bum?” I hear you cry.

No, it’s nothing to do with being bad to wildlife – in fact I’ve still not managed to get it. The explanation is actually quite mundane.

We always do a little something wrong in our Assured Produce audit to resist the tide of technical inflation and to check that our assessor is paying attention. This year we were chastised for not having a first-aider. Our qualified member of staff left us and we have not retrained anyone yet. Unfortunately the rules are black and white; you have 28 days, then the paperwork has got to be there or you are expelled from AP and LEAF Marque until it’s sorted.

I can’t help it just yet, we are working day and night harvesting daffodil bulbs in treacherously dry conditions. The bulbs yields aren’t impressive in themselves but the bumper crop of clods we have grown is record- (and harvester-) breaking. Until the job is complete I don’t want to be starting something else.

As soon as the potatoes are harvested I’ll be there snogging that 1970s resucitation doll and I’m responsible for whatever happens in the meantime. I just hope that none of the corn buntings need mouth-to-mouth before the end of September.

We know that farming can be a dangerous business and we all fear the one day in your life when things go wrong. I accept that we should all have to go on a course to show you the way to go about basic first aid but another part of me resents getting yet another job title to add to the others. In our small way, these extra jobs fall to me and I feel like a prototype, built to test the strength of one man, which is being slowly worked to destruction.

I guess I’m moody because several botherations have come together this week. Have you received your new, incorrect Rural Land Register maps yet? You are not alone. Our old, perfectly accurate maps have been replaced by some new ones where the fields have been randomly scrambled and encrypted by the DEFRA computer.

We still haven’t been paid our 2008 SFP by them of course. Remind me, who is it running that place now, the ghost of Jeremy Beadle? You can’t win with them.

I thought the “P” stood for payment, not paperwork. Instead of tackling one thing at a time, they don’t stop until you’ve enough problems to make an accurate claim impossible. It makes you want to scream at them down the phone. Thankfully I won’t have time until October by which time I’ll be calm again.

All I ask is that they leave me alone until my crops are harvested. Years ago this was understood; schoolchildren were even given long holidays to help with the harvest. These days we get disrupted by seasonless bureaucracy.

Can you feel it’s getting on top of me? I just hope it doesn’t give me a heart attack – I don’t know how to lift myself into the recovery position yet.

More from Matthew online. Read Matthew Naylor’s blog

See more