Jack Frater: How much has changed since 1957?

Farmers of a certain age have a tendency to hold on to things that really should have been binned years before, whether that’s batteries that haven’t held a charge since 1995 or even that member of staff who is more of a hindrance than a help.

My father’s hoarding has mostly involved keeping old Young Farmers programmes and Power Farming magazine, but in my parents’ loft we discovered a Farmers Weekly from November 1957 – the week Massey Ferguson launched the 35 tractor at Smithfield Show for the grand price of £624 for the top-spec model.

See also: Jack Frater – Morę farming reality on tv and fewer alpacas

About the author

Jack Frater
Jack Frater is an agricultural consultant based in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. He graduated from the Royal Agricultural University with a degree in agricultural management in 2013, having grown up on a family farm near Alnwick.
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Flicking through the issue I had to raise a smile at the adverts, which included a 3-cylinder Nuffield tractor for £555, a Welger baler for £455 and a farm for sale near Cirencester for £70/acre. 

But what stood out were a handful of articles and letters that made me question whether agriculture is in a better state 67 years later.

The first came with the headline “Higher costs offset progress” and talked about the delicate state of the economy, and how inflationary pressures meant that farms were less profitable and, as a result, unable to reinvest – a statement that could easily apply today.

The second was about a large area of arable land in Northumberland and the Borders being put into grass as result of two wet harvests and poor ground conditions – again something that could well be relevant today. 

The similarities extended to the lack of good farm vets and issues around safety, particularly concerning children on farms.

Thankfully, one reader had a solution, insisting no child should be allowed to operate a tractor until they could reach the peddles!

Clearly, agriculture has progressed significantly since 1957. Advancements in science and technology mean the industry is more efficient than ever, but we still face the same underlying issues.

Thankfully, the advances mean the test of your farming skill is no longer based on your ability to carry a 16st bag of grain up the granary steps, even if you are unlikely to get much more than a set of overalls and some spare parts from Massey Ferguson for £624.