BY JIM WEBSTER I’ve worked with sheep, but I’d never call myself a shepherd. I’ve not got that level of expertise. But one of the things about shepherds is that they tend not to be centre stage. Historically they were always looked down upon. Even more so than the rest of us involved in agriculture, shepherds were shunned. (Even now ‘peasant’ is an insult in … Continue reading Shepherds Forgotten Again
BY JIM WEBSTER Sri Lanka has been the victim of a government organised experiment. In April 2021, the government imposed a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides and ordered the country’s two million farmers to go organic. It may well be that this wasn’t so much ideological as a desperate attempt to keep money in the country. It backfired. … Continue reading Let’s Not Be Sri Lanka
BY JIM WEBSTER It all started innocently enough. Suddenly I could not download my emails. Now you might wonder why I should want to. Simple, rubbish broadband. If I use a client like Outlook I can still read my emails when I have no broadband, (like now, when we have a power cut so of course the router doesn’t work.) Not only that but if … Continue reading The Joys of Rubbish Rural Broadband
BY JIM WEBSTER Apparently it was Machiavelli who said (almost certainly in Italian): “Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.” Churchill followed him by saying: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Obviously their wise advice is being followed. So, the government has unveiled a new food strategy ‘and told farmers to produce more fruit and vegetables in the wake of record … Continue reading Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste
BY JIM WEBSTER The thing about farming is that yields fluctuate. You can plant the same acreage in two successive years. Sow the same variety, put on the same sprays and inputs, and see what happens. One year, because the rain came at the wrong time, the sun just scorched what was left. Next year everything fell just right. So, one year you didn’t even … Continue reading Windfalls, No Cider
BY JIM WEBSTER Don’t you know there is a war on? What does it take to get people to take things seriously? Do we need Chief Warden Hodges from Dad’s Army storming round Brussels shouting ‘Put that Light Out’? There is a problem with people. They will continue to believe things even when they’re obviously not true. As an example of this, YouGov do a … Continue reading The EU Has Lost its Marbles
BY JIM WEBSTER During first lockdown, behind the scenes, major retailers performed logistical miracles. As a farmer I’m not somebody who is prone to praise them, but in spite of ridiculous levels of panic buying (there are people out there who won’t need to buy toilet paper for another couple of years) the retailers managed to keep the show on the road. During lockdown I … Continue reading Too Little Wheat, Too Much Makeup
BY JIM WEBSTER On the agricultural front, so far nothing has really been said in the West, although I’ve noticed a couple of the papers starting to run stories about possible food shortages. Apparently the Chinese government, which seems to think about these things rather more than our governments do, has stockpiled 70% of world maize stocks, 51% of world wheat stocks and “enormous quantities … Continue reading Ukraine Effects: A Farmer’s Thoughts
BY JIM WEBSTER Russia and the Ukraine have been vying for the position of the world’s largest grain exporters for some time. This is the Moscow times from 2019: “Russia has been the global grain exporter top dog for the last three years, but as the agricultural marketing year ended on June 30, it looks like Ukraine has snatched the title back from its rival.” … Continue reading Environment Comes Second to Food Security
BY JIM WEBSTER Now we live at the actual point within our postcode area that the postcode refers to. This can happen with you in a rural area. Rural postcodes here in the UK can be quite big. So from any given point in the post code you cannot see all the houses in it. But in our case, the point your satnav will bring … Continue reading The Rural Delivery Nightmare
BY JIM WEBSTER One job I have, every year, is cutting next year’s firewood. This winter I’ve been tidying up corners of the yard from time to time, mainly with an axe and chainsaw. Out here (a mile from a gas terminal) we don’t have gas, and one of our main sources of heat is the open fire. One side effect is that I’ve been … Continue reading Preparing for War
BY JIM WEBSTER The whole system of farm payments is up in the air. To be brutally frank, this isn’t surprising. On a general, first world level, governments have blown so much money on the pandemic they are scrabbling behind the sofa for loose change. I would be surprised if, in five years’ time, any country hasn’t cut its agricultural support, or moved the money … Continue reading Spending the Money Thrice
BY JIM WEBSTER You load sixteen tons, what do you get Another day older and deeper in debt Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go I owe my soul to the company store It’s a funny old world. You really have to be careful what you read. As it was I picked up a book on the Dark Ages and medieval agriculture … Continue reading Whose Serfdom?
BY JIM WEBSTER The thing about farming and agriculture is that it isn’t just an industry, it isn’t just a way of life, it’s a world. All sorts of people come into this world and they might pass through, going about their lawful occasions. They might enter it and flee gibbering unable to cope with the proclivities of the natives. Some will arrive, breathe deeply … Continue reading Going Native
BY JIM WEBSTER I went down to London the other day. First time for a couple of years, so I was quite intrigued to see what things were like down there. On the train and at the stations, masks were optional. Pretty much the same proportion of people were wearing them as wear them round here. Once in the big city it did feel quiet. … Continue reading What Shall the Future Bring Us?
BY JIM WEBSTER I don’t often apologise to the government of the People’s Republic of China but I confess I have been somewhat sceptical about their sincerity when it comes to cutting carbon emissions. But apparently they are trying. The government laid down strict limits on the amount of energy that could be used in various provinces. But when lockdown ended, there were a lot … Continue reading The Law of Unintended Consequences
BY JIM WEBSTER I’ve spent a lot of time with milk cows. Milking them isn’t a cheap hobby. A lot of dairy farms have a business model which resembles a hosepipe. You get in quite a lot of money from the milk cheque but then it moves down the hosepipe at speed, and sprays the money out to your suppliers and the bank. Hopefully enough … Continue reading Milking It
BY JIM WEBSTER Why would anybody be a lorry driver? The pay dropped because companies employed cheap labour from abroad. To an extent that is still happening with delivery drivers. We’ve had a charming Bulgarian man come into our yard looking for somebody else (we’re just the postcode). His only sentence in English was ‘I am from Bulgaria and don’t speak English’. To show us … Continue reading Keep on Trucking?
BY JIM WEBSTER I used to boast at one time that in our dairy herd we had every colour of cow, other than green. Green would be far too difficult to spot when out at grass. (Actually Black and White cows, in the early morning, can be damned difficult to spot when they’re standing against a hedge line. They’re woodland animals wearing woodland camo). But … Continue reading Cowman
BY JIM WEBSTER Well, are food prices going to rise? After all, governments have successfully held prices down for decades. Milk is cheaper in the shops in cash terms than it was back in the 1990s. Is the tide turning? One advantage of living on the side of Morecambe Bay is that you get used to the tides. I once spent some time in Scarborough … Continue reading Food Prices on the Rise?