The world divides

quichefarmerMany years ago a friend expounded to me his theory to explain the difficulties of human relationships. On so many matters the world divides in two. For example after a bath or shower he always had to scrupulously dry every inch of his body while others were quite happy with a quick rub down with a damp towel. Yes, I thought, and between those who can light a fire and those who cannot … and between those who can navigate and those who cannot. The list is endless and never will you pass from one camp to the other.
About the same time I read an amusing article in a farming publication that divided the farming world in two. On one side were the quiche farmers, on the other the real farmers (I think quiche must have been the hipster food of the time). The quiche farmers, of course, wore green wellies and tweed while the real farmers would most often be found in boilersuits and baseball hats. The most credible evidence the writer had seen of a real farmer, was a Range Rover parked in Earls Court while the Smithfield show was on. This expensive show-off vehicle was covered in mud and the smashed back window had a fertiliser bag taped over it.
Perhaps I can stretch the analogy to say that the real farmer believes in modern technology as the way forward, while the quiche farmer looks to more traditional ways, perhaps even organic farming, as the future. On our farm we incline to the former. I was impressed this week when Steve told me he was weaning an average of 13 and a half pigs a litter from 14 sows. 20 years ago this figure would have been 9. The sows were in good condition and healthy. Yields of cereals have increased in a similar way with modern plant breeding and, using modern machinery and GPS, we can produce more food from the same energy input.
“But what about the environment and wildlife?” I hear the quiche farmer in you say. By producing more from the most productive land, we are happy to set aside other areas of land specifically for wildlife such as beetle banks and pollen and nectar strips under stewardship schemes. The single farm payment that farmers receive under the much-maligned CAP, is dependent on us fulfilling certain environmental requirements such as grass field margins alongside hedges. Since 1990 there has been an increase in plant species richness and in birds and other wildlife on farmland.
Since my argument has been that the world divides in two I cannot sit on the fence so I must end here and leave the quiche argument to another. How handy.

Mike Hartley

August – September 2017