I really think if I were a young chap again fresh out of school and considering a farming career, I’d steer towards something else. The future for farming now is very different to when I started out 40 years ago.
I’d prefer the exciting days that lay ahead of me then towards what’s lying ahead of us now.
In the late 1970s farming was all about increasing production, perhaps best summed up by a visit to a college friend’s farm in Essex.
The entire 1,000 acre farm was a picture swaying in mono-culture winter wheat with the heady aroma of Metasystox and Captafol in the early summer air. Ian throws back the MG’s hood and lights a Marlboro with a Bayer-branded lighter to allow me to take it all in. I did. I lapped it up.
An arable margin then wasn’t a weedy five metre strip around the headland as we know it today, but the fact that continuous wheat left the biggest arable profit margin.
Now the old order has changed and it’s all about the environment and decreasing production. The middle ground seems to have passed but I think we’ve had it.
Nowadays, on national TV or the farming media, whether it’s Ear to the Ground or whatever, it’s the same environmental stuff being trotted out all the time.
Yes, I know it’s a huge story and I should really care more but if I’m honest, I’m totally sick of hearing about low carbon meat-free diets, rewilding, rewetting and re-everything else.
I’m too old-school for this sort of thing. I delight in seeing a big herd of continental suckler cows grazing the Burren’s Flaggy Shore. I’d eat red meat every day of the week without a qualm in the world.
I’m buzzed by a newly laid drainage shore spilling water into a free-flowing ditch from land that would quickly revert to rushes if let be. And five tonnes per acre of golden wheat, after a full pesticide programme, piling into the grain tank on an abnormally hot harvest day still excites me.
But it seems these are no longer acceptable values of the countryside and you are almost deemed to be environmentally warped if you seek pleasure in these things.
We have, to my mind, gone totally overboard. The middle ground has been eroded over the last 40 years. It has taken 200 years of fossil fuel burning to speed up global warming.
Are we going to reverse all that now? In my opinion, not a chance. Who do we think we are? We have to live with its consequences now and raise sea defences. Meanwhile, the world’s dirtiest polluters like China and India shamelessly puke out greenhouse gases unabated.
Do we really think by rewetting the peat-based farmland of the midlands and west, which has given a livelihood to thousands of farm families, that we are doing the right thing? I don’t believe it for one minute.
Yes, of course, we should plant more trees ourselves (without Gresham House) and reduce our dependence on pesticides and fertiliser, but not to the point of throttling food production.
And I do agree, naturally, that renewable energy is the future. But those bloody big turbines should be stuck out at sea.
At the present time, I’m much more concerned about the war in Europe than I am about the environment. Because, if this war escalates, the environment is the least of our worries.
We’re like Nero, fiddling with the environment while central Europe burns. In another 40 years’ time it will be a hugely different world. But I won’t see it. I don’t want to.
But just right now, it’s Saturday evening and I’d kill for a Big Mac.