This Farming Life

The Home Farm at Staunton Harold is long gone, the buildings converted to houses and sold off.  Thanks mainly to the enthusiasm and commitment of son-in-law Andrew a farming business has again been established over the last ten years.  As I write eight of our fourteen cows have calved, with all but one a bull calf.  This is good news because the cows are in calf to a modern ‘beef’ bull, a breed with the unattractive name of ‘Stabilizer’.

Next come the ewes, eighty of them due to start lambing next week. For this operation Andrew and Caroline move their whole family up to our holiday lodge, which is strategically placed with a bedroom window overlooking the sheep pens.  With a floodlight in place Andrew can make a quick check  on his flock without getting out of bed.  We also fatten a few pigs each year and of course there are the hens, which keep the family in eggs with those dark yolks which most modern eggs lack.

The farmstead and lodge are set among the trees on the hill opposite the Hall, and the land stretches down to the lower lake.  We also graze other areas, including the ‘Field of Hope’, currently bright with daffodils.  The work is rewarding for those of us who enjoy working with animals, but it has to be said that like most farmers in Britain, more than half our income comes from subsidies.

Farm subsidies soak up more than half the budget of the European Union. It is commonly thought that the ‘clout’ of French farmers has helped to bring this about.  One argument put forward by the ‘Remain’ group in the current debate on EU membership is that this generous arrangement would end if we quit the Union.  But nobody knows what arrangements would follow Brexit, it is after all our own money coming back to us after deducting the bureaucrats overheads.  This seems to be another of the scare stories put about by non-farmers; those farmers I’ve spoken to aren’t panicking.

Farming and forestry; we do both our small estate.  It’s work we do because we love it, but at the same time it connects us to the land, and to our neighbours.