Crisis forces farmers grave decision

1 September 2000

Crisis forces farmers grave decision

By Johann Tasker

A CHESHIRE livestock producer has taken a part-time job as an undertakers assistant to make ends meet.

Godfrey Williams is the third generation of his family to farm at Home Farm, Bradwall, near Sandbach.

But he has found a new vocation polishing hearses and acting as a pallbearer for a local funeral director.

Mr Williams said he sold off his 90-strong dairy herd last year after his milk price dipped to 12p/litre.

After visiting his local job centre, he is now supporting his family by switching into black suit and tie instead of milking twice a day.

Mr Williams said: “There was no point in carrying on with the dairy herd with a hell of a lot of work and getting nothing out of it.

I really like my part time job, but four years ago I could not have even dreamed what I would be doing now to help my income.”

He added: “If I have a funeral in the morning and then another in the afternoon I can be in and out of my suit at least twice a day.

I have never had so many showers in my life.

People think it is a morbid job, but you are able to meet other people unlike working alone on the farm.”

Mr Williams farms with the help of his 27-year-old son Peter and his wife Jean.

The 140-acre holding maintains a 20-strong beef herd as well as wheat and barley.

Mr Williams is one of an increasing number of farmers forced to take part-time jobs to maintain their incomes.

Derek Wilkinson, senior economist with the NFU, said exact statistics were unavailable.

But he added: “The situation in farming has been very dire for a very long time. To stay on the land at all is often only possible because of a secondary income.”

In mid-Wales, almost 100 farmers seeking part-time work last year were brought together with 39 local businesses in a bid to provide labour for other sectors of the economy.

The Farming Families Re-skilling Programme provided off-farm work in sectors such as horticulture and woodworking.

A separate initiative in the Cambridgeshire fens helps farmers earn off-farm income by using the internet.

The Fenweb project creates jobs by training farmers as part-time website designers for local businesses.

Last week by Digby Jones, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), caused an outcry when he branded farmers “unskilled and unemployable”.

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