8 May 2000
What farming should be today
Tony Martin should become a cause celèbre.
He is the metaphor for neglect and rejection of farming and the maintenance of village life.
The sub-plot is plain: allow farming to decline to undermine land prices then build on as much of it as you can.
In Cheshire, the rate of building on country land isnt even waiting for the price to fall.
Speculative building, particularly in an area adjacent to Crewe and Nantwich is going ahead with loads of dwellings but little in the way of homes.
This government sees no future in farming, is does not understand farming, it sees produce as something of amount, quotas rather than quality, taste, choice.
The real future that this government contemplates is huge building programmes that stoke up consumer demand in the short term and make them look good.
The really awful part of it all is the way that farmers have caved in to the great conspiracy.
They fell for the security of market that the supermarkets offered, little seeing how soon prices and commodities would be dictated by those outlets.
Then, rather than some enterprising action against these monoliths, they caved in, weakly resorting to the old policy of more subsidy, something that the tax payer is very leery of.
I find this caving-in a sad sight to behold, particularly while farming is still a strong lobby and particularly when they can still use new technology and changed marketing methods to reinstall their ascendant position.
The supermarkets can be bypassed, farmers have more outlets than any supermarket.
Organic food is attractive, offering improved health and taste and more natural commodities.
Farmers can co-operate, amalgamate into estate combines that could be self-supportive, a pooled resource with a shared income.
Such estates would allow for diversification of crops, sharing of hardware, encourage software development for Internet sales and ensure not only a more responsible attitude between farmers (in the joint responsibility) but also be a big move towards overall ethical practices.
Yes, the old manorial estates did have something to offer.
To adopt such a scheme now would offer the prospect of prosperity and self-government.
The bigger the co-operative, the better able it would be to sustain prices and have a market say.
Finally, (you will be pleased to hear) the Somerfield Group of supermarkets or something of a similar nature, would be an excellent vehicle for retail sales and provide an outlet for farm goods without the interference of agents or other middle dealers.
I feel sure that farm direct produce would be a massive success with the public.
I have seen the prospects that such a scheme has to offer with Mr Witters Manor Farm in Sandbach Cheshire.
It has a terrific diversity of home produced foodstuffs that make the offerings of the supermarkets seem bland by comparison.
Malcolm Turner, Alsager, Cheshire