BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
Land of Milk and Honey: Digressions of a Rural Dissident by Jamie Blackett is the sequel to his book Red Rag to a Bull, also published by Quiller Publishing, which our Chief Writer Jamie Foster reviewed back in May 2020.
This is certainly the more nerve-wracking of the two books as it covers Blackett’s financial stresses and strains embracing the new creed of regenerative agriculture during a pandemic and switching his family farm into pasture-based dairying.
On top of these vicissitudes, the country is going through the birthing tremors of Brexit while Scotland is seemingly slipping away from the UK, with Blackett thrust into a political role alongside the most unlikely of partners, George Galloway, as the political party Alliance for Unity is launched in Scotland. There’s an element of ‘backs against the wall’ to some of the book’s content and there are times when you fear turning the next page to witness the inevitable crash. Yet, somehow, due to sheer doggedness and much to his credit, Blackett keeps his farming and political rodeo mostly intact.
This is a fascinating read for those interested in the countryside and the country. It’s a diary of events that perhaps we should all have jotted. Familiar names crop up alongside lesser-known names we may have glanced at on social media. Here we get an inside view on Scottish politics, the mechanics of the SNP and how Unionists like Blackett learned to articulate the sound arguments for a United Kingdom yet were ultimately unsuccessful this time against the deceptions of Scottish Nationalism in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections. In those elections, Galloway stood as the lead Alliance candidate, with Blackett as second, in the South Scotland electoral region. Alas, their party failed to win a single seat.
Aside from the political and farming stresses, there are some light-hearted digressions and exquisite descriptions of country life. On the same page you can find references to nipples as ‘seasonal indicators’ juxtaposed with poetic allusions to Blackett’s new dairy ‘which rises like a temple to a sacred bovine deity’. (Without excusing readers from the angst, the dairy becomes something of a success, hence the book’s title).
Post Brexit trade deals, welcomed by non-farmers, get a farmer’s view dissection by Blackett who eloquently states the upsides but gives personal insight into what a strain the leap of faith to exporting to the ‘vast global population out there of largely carnivorous and increasingly affluent consumers who cannot grow beef, lamb or dairy products in their own countries, many of them members of the Commonwealth’ is. These critiques of Brexit, tinged with a certain optimism, are delivered in an honest fashion, which future Tory leaders and DEFRA apparatchiks should note with diligence. Blackett more than once mentions an excess of red tape for farmers. There is a way through the current maze that leads to, well, a Land of Milk and Honey.
This is a good read. Well worth buying. Copies can be acquired here.
Jamie Blackett was born in 1964 and educated at Ludgrove, Eton, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and later Warwick Business School (MBA). After working in South Africa, he joined the Coldstream Guards, serving in Northern Ireland, the First Gulf War, Hong Kong, the Falkland Islands, Zimbabwe and Germany. He returned to his roots in Galloway where he is now a farmer, forester, bed and breakfast and holiday cottage host, gardener and odd job man and occasional freelance journalist writing on farming and the countryside. He is a Deputy Lieutenant for Dumfriesshire and a member of the Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland Royal Company of Archers. He is married with two children.