Hill Top Farm
The farmers need to know that they are valued. The story about the sheep being culled and low prices for crops is likely to pass many by and yet it is an indication that things are not right.I am very fond of my food and interested in where it comes from, add to that a passion about fibre and sheep, living in the countryside and I am at a loss to grasp what is going on and how we can help the situation.
A lot of DH's friends have tried to make a living as farmers and a large proportion have either retrained in other trades ( plumbers) or their marriages have broken up due to financial pressures. Statistically too, I understand that the suicide rate amongst farmers is higher than average.
I grew up in a city, with a lot of concrete and parks and yet was unaware that milk came from cows. We did have independent shops in which you could purchase food of which you could trace its origin, local food prevailed and there was a pride in farmers. My childhood holidays were spent on a dairy farm in Germany where I loved helping out , sitting on the tractor and learning about what grew where. Over the years we have seen small shops disappear and supermarkets take their place for our convenience.
2 years ago, the WI campaigned to raise awareness of the price difference between the price paid in the shops and the price paid to the farmer. This was followed by a marked exodus of dairy farmers, as I understand mostly those who rented farms and were faced with higher interest payments against lower income. Farmer's wives went out to work to earn extra money and many farmer's families live a poor existence. Others may look rich in land that gets sold off to produce more housing estates. Gradually, the land that produces food and sustains us is changing.
Again, does it matter?
Not if you want to continue shopping in supermarkets, if you want to depend on other countries supplying our resources and not it you are comfortable with what is going on.
Personallly I have found it inconvenient to stop shopping in supermarkets and to search out local suppliers, farmers markets and to change my eating habits to a more local scene and yet, at this harvest time when we are thankful for the harvest and for a variety of reasons, tins of baked beans and tomatoes are brought up as thanksgiving offerings, I shudder somewhere.........
A very sad picture emerges in my mind of hens in cages waiting for their food to be be dropped in, so they can lay an egg in cramped conditions...what is the difference between them and us? How long before we are in small cages, go out to work to earn money to provide our basic foods because they are imported from far away?
At harvest time, go out and seek out a farmer, wave to him when he is on his tractor, buy him a drink in your local pub, make a point of telling him/her that you appreciate what he is doing. Ask questions, find out what is happening in his world. Winter is a long time, a lean time this year for many farmers in isolation, if we cannot change the immediate picture, let us at least reach out and show them we care about them and the work they do.