Opinion: A lot of hot air and some bumper yields

If you were compiling of list of significant places to have a major revelation, the Winchester Holiday Inn would be pretty near the bottom.

It’s not a venue of great religious significance, it’s not on a dusty road to Damascus, it’s not a centre for mind-expanding drug use (as far as I know); it’s a pleasant, if functional, hotel built just next to the site of a former scrapyard and knacker’s yard on the east side of Winchester.

What do you think about this subject? Have your say on our website forums

Not long ago I was sitting in its conference suite listening to the NFU deputy president, the lovely Ms Batters, talking us through her vision of farming’s future.

Because she’s a great speaker, we children in the back row had abandoned playing buzzword bingo, even though I can’t have been far off 30 “going forwards” and a couple of “JRs” (that means judicial review, apparently, rather than a character in the 1980s drama Dallas). In fact, we were listening attentively.

The outlook wasn’t brilliant. As hard as we try to be food producers, the anti-food-producing lobby (the BBC, the veggie urbanista chatteratti) are trying even harder to make us irrelevant.

What no one mentioned is the primary reason for this state of affairs. There’s too much farm produce about. There have been good harvests almost everywhere.

Even at Flindt Towers we’ve had a couple of eyebrow-raising summers. The hedgerows of Hampshire were crammed with berries this year. My neighbour Robert was amazed at the yield from his awkward corner vineyards. He wouldn’t say exactly how amazed – he just kept cryptically quoting Pope’s ninth Beatitude.

And what is also not mentioned is why there is so much stuff about. It’s all down to carbon dioxide. This naturally occurring gas is reviled by many as the very embodiment of evil. We farmers know it as plant food. And when there’s a surfeit of plant food, the plants grow fat – just as when there’s a surfeit of Flindt food at Christmas, one or two Flindts grow fat. Especially this one.

So, as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed the landmark/tipping-point/moment-of-doom that is 400ppm, we all waited for the Arctic ice to melt, but it instead got bigger.

We waited for the Maldives to vanish underwater, but instead they kept on building low-lying airports. We waited for the models used to forecast catastrophic temperature rises to agree with the actual records, but they continued to diverge somewhat embarrassingly. The “pause” in temperature rise is now old enough to vote.

What we did get was fat plants and bumper harvests, and the inevitable crash in prices. Worse that the drop in prices is the re-emergence of the “food is plentiful, farming doesn’t matter” lobby, noisily demanding the “rewilding” of the British countryside.

Hence my revelation: Something must be done. Which is why I have decided to join the campaign to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Next time you see a selection of protesters abseiling up (or is it down?) a coal-fired power station, look out for the fat one only just fitting into his harness. I’ll be taking my propane-heated plastic tent to camp outside a proposed fracking site. 

If I’d got on to the bandwagon earlier, the Peruvian authorities might have found a size-10 well-worn wellington boot print among the footmarks of the Greenpeace activists who that trashed the priceless Nazca lines.

There’s certainly a lot of irony-laden fossil-fuelled travel in this protesting lark. I’m desperately sad to have missed a couple of weeks in exotic Peru, and the next climate protest jolly they’re planning in only in Paris. Still, shouldn’t complain. That’s better than the old knacker’s on the outskirts of Winchester.

Charlie Flindt

Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha at Hinton Ampner, Hampshire.

See more