UK oxymoron: Young farmer

Love this story about Japanese youngsters taking up farming.

As I’ve pointed out before, the average age of UK farmers is 54. We’re clearly going in the same direction as the Japanese. Our imports-to-homegrown food ratio is in the same ballpark.

So where’s the grassroots movement towards sustainability and home-growing here? I’ll tell you: it’s not happening. Not in commercial agriculture, anyway.

In the UK, you’re either a grain baron farming 1,000 EU-subsidised acres with industrial pesticides and fertilisers. Or a mud-spattered smallholder drowning in red tape and struggling to pay the electricity bill.

And all created, ultimately, by urban morons who are happy to pay £15,000 for a new Astra but won’t pay more than £2.50 for a chicken.

It’s totally INSANE.

9 Responses to “UK oxymoron: Young farmer”

  1. Ruth Says:

    You’re quite right – tagging every single sheep, every single horse/goat/donkey in the country and forcing everyone to fill in forms every day is sheer madness. It’s a cash cow (quite literally) for the government, just like all the other stupid regulations they have brought in. Makes me really mad. Should we be expecting a tax on allotments next?

  2. Soilman Says:

    If you don’t know any farmers, and have no idea what being a farmer in modern Britain is like, I think you’d be astounded to discover quite how much outrageous bureaucracy has been foisted upon farmers by DEFRA and the EU. People talk about the red tape this government has created for business, but it’s dwarfed by the mountain of regulations they’ve heaped on agriculture.

    To get the merest flavour of it, have a read of this DEFRA doc. Believe me, actually implementing these rules and regs – as you say, Ruth – is even worse than reading about them.

    The saddest thing is that the bureaucracy hits smallholdings especially hard; in other words, the person who’d like to keep a pig or two for food, and who isn’t in it to make money. It’s become nightmarish.

  3. Tanya Walton Says:

    I’m with you all the way…I think all the red tape on smallholders is because the government want to take the money out our pockets and put us off being self sufficient…..Evolution and technology hasn’t been the best thing for this planet or its people!!!

  4. simply.belinda Says:

    Aging farms is just as much of a problem here in Australia. It seems that the average age of our farmers would be about 50 with not insignificant sections of the country where that age is over 55.

    There is a small back to the land movement in sections of community. Unfortunately it is still much more focused on “lifestyle” acres rather than farming enterprises. It is so sad to see generational farms end up on the market because they simply can’t find anyone within the family that sees a living in farming. I can’t blame them though as you said we have such a strange disconnect when it comes to our food producers.. most just don’t seem to see that cheap food at the checkout means that the farmer is loosing out, cause you can be sure the supermarket isn’t loosing.

    Kind Regards
    Belinda

  5. Soilman Says:

    The demand for ever-cheaper food is the heart of it, as you say Belinda.

    But the clamour for ever safer food is also a problem. Most UK red tape to do with livestock was introduced for noble reasons to do with safety – ie tagging, animal feed and transportation rules originated in old Foot and Mouth crises, plus Mad Cow Disease etc etc.

    All could easily be justified by a Whitehall desk man as sensible, proportionate and necessary for public health/safety. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Just as the only way to reduce road traffic deaths to zero is to outlaw motor cars, the only way to make all our food 100% safe is to legislate on every fucking detail of every fucking minute of every farmer’s life… until it becomes impossible to make a living farming.

    Which is what’s happening right now. When you look at it dispassionately, the Occam’s Razor principle would suggest the policy is deliberate, and the extinction of UK farming is its strategic goal.

  6. US madness Says:

    The USDA conducts the same type of bureaucratic nonsense in the States. They want to prevent any potential for food illness by regulating farmers. But as these governmental organizations do away with the small farm and increase our reliance on food from other less regulated countries, they may want to consider what food source is most safe. Their forcing our greater dependence on imported food suggests they believe food from less regulated countries is safer. This leads to one startling logical conclusion: regulations should be less strict at home to match those of the food coming from overseas sources deemed acceptable! Do you think they will see the logical flaw in their strategy?

    There is a tale so ridiculous from Vermont, US that it boggles the mind “Mad Sheep: The True Story Behind the USDA’s War on a Family Farm”. A bit depressing reading, but eye opening.

  7. Soilman Says:

    Glad to hear this isn’t uniquely a UK phenomenon.

    Part of the impetus comes from traditional UK/USA devotion to the principles of Free Trade and Comparative Advantage. By this reasoning, First World countries shouldn’t be ‘doing’ agriculture at all, because it’s not our speciality… and we can sell our own products the better if we’re buying our food from countries that need the income and can grow it cheaper.

    … which is all well and good, but of course – as you rightly point out – it means that we outsource our food production to countries that have little or no safety or animal welfare regulations. Plus we have to import it all, at vast cost in fossil fuel CO2 etc etc. Plus it consequently tastes of nothing and has lost most of its vitamin content. Plus we lose our ability to feed ourselves from our own backyard.

    And all so that the cars in the showroom and the lawnmowers in the garden centre can remain cheap.

    God give me strength.

  8. Soilman Says:

    PS to my last comment

    No coincidence that it’s UK and USA who are most rabid in the comparative advantage mindset. Only anglo-saxons could be in favour of a system that makes their food taste of nothing.

    Like they’d notice…

  9. Matron Says:

    That makes my blood boil too! Bring back the milk marketing board, or something like it so that however many cows you have, you still get the same price for your milk! Talk about fairtrade products for cocoa growers in Ghana or banana growers in South America.. what about a fair trade price for British growers, then everyone could have a go on an even playing field.