Turn of the Year

Reader Contribution by Nick Snelgar

‘Pack to a minimum’ say the Trading Standards. They are the final level of inspection before we process and sell fresh local milk to the public. They are interested in the label on the bottle and in how much milk is in each bottle. They were set up at the time of Magna Carta to jump on villains and food adulterators who would sell you watery milk and chalky flour. So it’s a good thing for all of us. We expect good measure. Now we shall weigh sample litre cartons to check by weight that they indeed hold one litre.

We are talking to the ‘Ring of Five’ shops within a few miles of Maple Field . Do they want to stock fresh local milk … fresh- as- a- daisy milk and milked by Hannah this morning ? Of course they do. We are busy with posters and leaflets to promote the launch.

I watched Country File( BBC 1) last Sunday. Tom Heap created an interesting conversation between a young farmer (in his twenties) just setting out on a tenanted farm (unclear on the acreage) and Sean Ricards who is an economist noted for his opposition to the CAP Single farm payment. The young farmer defended the pocketing of large subsidy handouts by saying ‘all his farming in-put costs of fuel, binder twine, rent, seeds and nitrogen fertilizer go up every year but the sale price of my crops remains static. ‘Other businesses‘ he said, ‘could demand a sale price for their manufactured goods or their services (which they would get ).”

Sean explained that ‘other businesses’ fought like the devil in the market place and lived or died by their competitiveness … so should farmers like him .

We can’t have our farmers on perpetual income support. It is ridiculous. I think we have to prepare for a massive change. I think we have to reach all farmers with an alternative market – one that delves right into the audience; one that mimics the terrifying maelstrom faced by the engineers and the manufacturers; one that extracts the best from the generation just emerging like pupae placed alongside the excellence of all other businesses  What’s different? Farmers produce our daily intake of food. Every fridge has a litre bottle of milk in it. Its not just a must-have-fashion item that might sell. It’s a ‘must-have item that without which we shall die. What sort of an ad slogan is that? Saatchi and Saatchi would lie on their backs with their legs pummelling the air for this. Tom Heap has to have another conversation with the new young farmer and Sean Ricards needs to be there … and so do I.

We have reached, a few days ago, the turn of the year. This an easily missed Trojan event with no absolute date fixed or festival wrought. The feint indication to me that this is upon us, is the flowering of the wild willow herb (‘fireweed’ because it grew on every bomb site ). The peas are ripe; the cuckoo has gone; the barley harvest is beginning. This signals the turn of the year when the first seeds ripen and the first crops are harvested. We have begun the gentle slip into autumn.

Two fantastic rain storms this week nicely regulating the temperature and giving long nights of dreamless sleep. The aftermath is greening over like an algae bloom in the tropics and the rabbits can be seen for the herbal scoundrels they really are. The aftermath, by the way, is the grass pasture once cut and mown and baled. It is the silent wonder of mid-season recovery.

I was listening to a band called ‘the Avalanche’ last night and they played first,’ Bad Moon Risin’ followed by ‘Brown Eved Girl’ … they must have known I was in the audience , so tailored was the gig. Now I am in love with the band and their dizzy blonde singer. We shall plug them in to Bail Radio.

More good solid summer rain today. The temperature has dropped to a more workable 20 C with a night time temperature of 10C .

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