With the 100th anniversary of the Armistice approaching, the NFU has paid tribute to the farmers who fought for the country and those who produced the nation’s food during the Great War of 1914-18.
A specially produced video explains how dependent the country was on imports from around the world and how this left the population vulnerable as supplies became cut off.
See also: Take part in our poll – “Could Britain repeat its WWI agriculture push?”
The loss of more than 170,000 farmers and farmworkers to the trenches, coupled with a dreadful harvest in 1916, left the country dangerously short of food.
But that also paved the way for women to step up and get involved in food production with the creation of the Women’s Land Army, whose role included breaking down anti-feminine bias and recruiting women to agriculture. Almost 100,000 new workers took to the land.
Towards the end of the war, some 66,000 soldiers were also recalled from the front line, while the loss of horses triggered a push for mechanisation in agriculture.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “As the nation remembers those who fought and died on the front line, we pay tribute to the people who gave so much during a time of bitter conflict.
“The sacrifices made during the Great War are still felt around the world today, and we join everyone in remembering the people who fought for our country both on and off the front line.”
Farming and the First World War: The blind farmer
The NFU collection of insights into the First World War also includes the story of Sam Taylor.
Sam was already a trained pork butcher, but he enlisted on 30 April 1917 aged 18. He was wounded on 27 April 1918 and spent a time at the 2nd London General Hospital where he was visited by Sir Arthur Pearson, the founder of St Dunstan’s, (now Blind Veterans UK).
After a period at St Dunstan’s where he was rehabilitated and taught new skills – such as basket-weaving, playing the cello and how to read and write in braille – Sam chose to train as a farmer and went to St Dunstan’s poultry farm at King’s Langley on 28 April 1919.
Sam got his first 20ha tenancy farm at Morley Farm in Leicestershire with the support of St Dustan’s. He kept a mixed farm with 28 dairy cattle until he bought Ingleberry Farm next door… where the family still farm today.
The Taylors are now in their fourth generation of farming and currently have more than 2,000ha acres of arable land and a number of combines for contracting work.