Uncertainty is the only predictable thing in farming

So, a new year is here and thoughts turn to what 2013 might have in store. After the drought of 2011 and the flood of 2012, the law of averages would suggest that we are due a more normal, less challenging, year.

The thing is, I’ve almost forgotten what “normal” weather looks like. Rather than second-guessing anything, I will probably be taking it one day at a time.

It wasn’t that long ago meteorologists were advising us to anticipate warmer weather on the back of global warming. Weather men could be found planting olive groves in Oxfordshire. Snow, we were reliably told a decade ago, would become very rare in south-east England. Funnily enough, after a run of white winters we don’t hear so much about that any more.

Instead, the terminology seems to have changed. Gone is the phrase “global warming”, with its implication of rising temperatures, to be replaced by “weather weirding”. To my mind, this means the latest prediction is that the weather will become more unpredictable. So, I’m glad we’ve got that sorted.

Then there are future commodity markets. I was lucky enough to listen to a grain market guru the other day predict that prices would remain roughly where they are now “unless weather factors come into play”.

Which to my mind was about as useful as saying that in 2013 the wheat price will both rise and fall but not necessarily in that order and there was no telling by how much.

So when it comes to marketing my grain this year, I think I’ll invest in a blindfold and a pin. Mind you, there is one thing I can predict. You’ll hear far more about the deals I got right than the ones that proved wrong.

And what of the wider picture beyond the farm gate? There are some who are suggesting 2013 will see a triple-dip recession, government bankruptcy, the collapse of the euro and widespread civil unrest. Personally I’ve never been one for such alarmism. Now that I’ve completed the survival training and finished the bunker in the back garden, I’m sure 2013 can be anticipated with a degree of quiet optimism.

If you look at the history books you can always find at any moment in time the prophets of doom predicting a collapse of life as we know it.

The Mayans were quite convinced the end of the world was going to be on 21/12/12. Seeing as I’m writing this some time after that point, I’m assuming the prediction is wrong. If it isn’t, then my guess is Farmers Weekly will probably have cancelled the 4 January edition anyway.

Finally, I will leave you with one prediction for 2013 in which I have every confidence. In terms of days and dates, 2013 will be just like 1985, which also started on a Tuesday and had 365 days. “So what?” I hear you cry. Well here’s the thing – it means old calendars from 1985 are fit for purpose this year. I know this sounds all a bit tight, but I was rummaging round the back office the other day and found an old 1985 Abertay sack calendar. I can’t quite remember why I kept it, but now I’m jolly glad I did. It can hang on my office wall throughout 2013 and bring back happy memories of a time when life seemed a bit more predictable.

Mind you, looking at Miss January’s attire she obviously thinks we might be in for a bit of a freak heatwave.

Guy Smith comes from a mixed family farm on the north-east Essex coast. The farm is officially recognised as the driest spot in the British Isles. Situated on the coast close to Clacton-on-Sea, the business is well diversified with a golf course, shop, fishing lakes and airstrip.

More on this topic

Read more from all our Opinion writers

See more