The better half actually runs the farm

If there was ever a bunch of people who are sometimes out of touch with their emotions, it is farmers.

When it comes to praise, the best anyone can usually hope for is a nod and perhaps a pat on the back.

You don’t see many farmers engaging in public displays of affection with a loved one, and I have hardly ever seen a farmer putting out some moves on the dancefloor when the last song comes on. It is fair to say that farmers and feelings aren’t often on the same page.

I have learnt recently, though, that if you get farmers on to the subject of getting married, you could fill a whole coffee morning talking about it.

I have just got married myself, and it has been hilarious listening to farmers and their pearls of wisdom on married life. I have had the expected leg-pulling (“I’ll not see you next year for the shearing then, your lass will never stand for this when you’re wed, you know”) and all manner of permutations on the joke surrounding the similarity in colour of wedding dresses and domestic appliances. One old farmer even pulled me to one side and mentioned something about “consummating the marriage” but I had no idea what he was talking about.

Leg-pulling aside, get them onto talking about their wife and it transpires that a lot of farmers are the soppiest, slushiest bunch of fellas you could ever wish to meet.

I have had farmers go all misty eyed and talk about marriage being the best decision of their life, and here’s the reason why: most farmers would be completely lost without their wives.

I could never quite believe that whenever the partner of my sheep farming Uncle went abroad for a fortnight, he was left with 14 meals in Tupperware in the freezer fully labelled. Another good farmer friend of mine seems to be incapable of actually cooking at all, and his idea of a hearty culinary breakfast experience when his wife isn’t around is a cup of tea and a pop tart.

On to more serious matters, I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with farmers where, at the point we get on to the important matters of record keeping, book work and anything to do with a computer I am swiftly passed on to the better half. At this point you can start to see how it has taken my new non-agricultural wife some adjustment to get her head around some of the old fashioned ways that appear normal to us, but pretty weird to anyone else.

I hadn’t thought too much about this until I went along to a farming discussion group to which only men were allowed. Obviously my view was that this was fine, and it was a perfect excuse for us all to be very agricultural and manly without the interference of women. She saw it differently; an affront to women and we nearly had Germaine Greer on the doorstep.

I could see where she was coming from, and so had the wives of the aforementioned discussion group who rather than moan about it set up their own farming discussion group, to which only women were allowed where they could be very agricultural and womanly without the interference of men.

Thus the old proverb about what’s behind every great man most certainly applies to farming. I think, judging by the farmers who have been speaking to me recently, there aren’t many of us who would disagree.

Adam Bedford completed an MSc in Rural Development at Newcastle University and now works for the NFU as a policy adviser..

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