November 2006

View from the Hill                                                     30th October  2006

Following on from last month’s broadcast, we have just 25 acres of this autumn’s campaign left to sow; you will not be surprised to know that it has been far too wet for the last week and a half to do anything on the land, just as well during half term I reckon.  Let’s hope for a few more dry days now so we can finish the job.  Most of the wheat and barley we have sown in the last six weeks has now emerged, the earliest sown is very forward, almost too proud to be going into winter, some farmers might be tempted to run the sheep over it for a quick bite, however we will wait to see what winter brings before going that far.

Our first load of Golden Promise barley left for Timothy Taylor’s brewery in Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago, destined for their Landlord bitter, via Fawcett’s maltings at Castleford, we have yet to hear what they made of it, but usually in these cases no news is good news.  We sent out nine loads of beans to Southampton, at the beginning of the month, where they went onto a ship bound for Egypt, they were of good enough quality this year to go for human consumption, the Egyptians grind them up, mix them with oil and then cook them. I have yet to find out exactly how they end up, and if anyone could shed any more light on this, please let me know.  We still have a few beans left, for cattle feed, but if someone has a recipe it would be good to see what they taste like Egyptian style.

Last week we had a visit from the mobile Mill and Mix contractor, we provide barley and beans, he provides molasses and some minerals and turns it all into feed for the calves we are rearing indoors.  This is cheaper than bought in feed, saves on haulage, and we like to know what our animals are eating, which should be said for all of us.

Who can honestly say where most of the food they eat comes from in the world, and how it is produced?  The supermarkets, to which our society has become utterly addicted, have conspired to homogenise and anonymise food, to the extent that no one has a clue where much of  their food comes from, how many food miles were generated in getting it to the shelf, who produced it, how, and for how much money.

It was a sad day on October 17th, the day of the sale of the closest Durweston had to its own herd of dairy cows.  The sale at Manor France Farm was a result of another dairy farmer giving up the unequal struggle between ridiculously low prices for their milk, and trying to stay in business.  17 pence per litre of milk does not enable the books to balance. I am told (not being a dairy farmer) that it costs at least 20 pence to produce a litre of milk, and the difference between this and the 60 pence or so that you pay in the shops is what the milk processors and supermarkets take.  Since the Milk Marketing Board (which all farmers once had to sell their milk to) was dismantled by the Government nearly ten years ago, the dairy industry has fragmented, ruthless buyers have exploited this to the full, farmers have not been able to work together to provide enough strength in the market, for fear of contravening market manipulation rules, which is what did for the MMB in the first place.  Some would say that this is great; survival of the fittest is not a problem, so what if we have to import our milk when everyone has given up producing it in Britain?  Is that what we want, for all our milk to be shipped in by tanker, from who knows where?  The West Country grows some of the best grass for milk production anywhere in Europe, most efficiently.  Many other EC countries still have farmer co-operatives which give the farmers some clout over milk price negotiation, why not here?

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