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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher

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October 2021

October 2021

18 Oct 2021

“Public money for public good?”

There are some days that don’t go so well.  Yesterday was one of them.  I lost the keys to the tractor and trailer for the school visit. The spare ones were in Connor’s pocket and he was in Ashford Hill. I changed a light bulb in the Cart shed and the lights all then kept fusing so I had to call an electrician.  And I paid a bill on line to the wrong insurance company, forgetting that we had changed the provider.  Maybe it was just confusion over this farming year? How could haymaking, normally completed in June, be delayed until September, while fine weather for harvesting wheat, barley and oats finally came good as the children return to school? Yields have been OK, although quality is poor, and prices have risen by 25% because world supplies of grain are tight. And there is plenty of grass for grazing cattle and sheep.

But farmers eyes are really fixed on what happens in 2 years’ time, when basic payments from the government change substantially. At present each farmer in the UK receives an average of £27,000 per year.  The government’s intention is to “create cleaner, greener landscapes and reverse species decline and so improve biodiversity significantly. They want to help food producers stay competitive, producing high-quality food, but also enhance the environment on which a sustainable, productive future depends.”  The message that was clear a few years ago “public money for public good” is even more relevant today.

We know that farming doesn’t fare too well in terms of putting carbon into the atmosphere, whether that is through tractors and machinery, fertilisers, sprays or belching cows. The process of converting cereals into dairy, meat and eggs using intensive methods might be a thing of the past. While grass based “regenerative farming” will find government support, we are all going to be encouraged to eat less meat.  And with any luck our world ranking in the bottom 12 out of 232 nations for retaining biodiversity might improve if we plant more trees, create wetlands and wildflower meadows, and even go for rewilding on a much larger scale.

It is probably time to be better stewards of the land. Rushall Farm has been organic for 21 years. It is always a challenge to farm in this way but Steve has at least got some track record for the difficult years ahead.

John Bishop