Opinion: Trying to be a ‘Friend of Farming’

With my new hat I feel all set for winter at the farm. It’s fleece-lined, waterproof, has earflaps and a peak.

The fact that when wearing it I look like Elmer Fudd’s sister is neither here nor there. My head will be dry, my ears will be warm and the rain will be kept out of my eyes. 

See also: Opinion – the recruiting rules are changing for farmers 

About the author

Joy Bowes
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Joy Bowes, a former solicitor, divides her time between Suffolk and her partner’s  223ha Lake District hill farm. It is home to a herd of Galloway cattle. Higher Level Stewardship conservation work has been carried out, with plans for more trees under Countryside Stewardship.
Read more articles by Joy Bowes

Best of all, there is no danger that I will be mistaken for a hiker or a tourist in it, especially partnered with my farm gear of waterproofs and wellies in that fetching shade of green known in fashion circles as merde d’oie and strategically embellished with merde de Beltie.

All I need is a length of alkathene piping and I really look the part – the part being “capable farmhand”.

Sadly, the effect seldom survives encounters with actual farming.

No-one watching me flounder across a muddy field, brandishing the blue piping and yelling “hup hup!” with escalating desperation is ever going to mistake me for any sort of farmhand, let alone a capable one.

The cattle head in any direction but the one I would like them to.

To be fair, there are a couple of farm activities at which I am moderately competent. One is “writing things down”, such as PD results, while the real farmer wrangles the cattle through the crush.

The other is “standing”, as in: “Stand here, keep out of sight, and close the gate when the cattle have gone through,” or “Stand there, and don’t let the bullocks turn down the road.”

It’s touch and go whether I achieve the bit that comes after “stand”, but I do “standing” pretty well.

I also try to be helpful to agriculture in the comments sections of the online newspaper to which I subscribe, although I hesitate before chipping in because I’m only too aware that there is plenty I don’t know.

Natural inclination and my training as a lawyer make me very careful about facts. For example, I won’t join an online argument about dairy farming, because I have no direct experience of it.

But if I’m confident I know enough to demolish a myth, or supply useful information, then I will.

Often it will be something to do with subsidies. A lot of folk out there seem to think that farmers still receive large amounts of public money, which they put towards buying a new Range Rover every couple of years.

Others have got the idea that everything is fine and dandy with these environmental schemes they keep hearing about, and the countryside will soon be bursting with flowers and trees.

It is an effort to avoid prolixity when trying to explain the ins and outs of the proposals for Sustainable Farming Incentive and Environmental Land Management schemes, but I do my best to shed light in dark places.

However, the niggling feeling persists that I am entitled neither to prance around waving a blue stick, nor make online comments about farming, because I’m not a farmer.

Perhaps my contribution could be recognised by a different designation – Friend of Farming? Farmy Army? There could be a polyester shirt for me to wear, like a football supporter. Or better still – how about a special hat?

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