Thursday, April 16, 2020

Economic self-sufficiency will be farmers'​ new goal

Like many, I've been trying to make some sense of it all. You know what I mean and what's on my mind, and like everyone else, it's a new experience. 

To me it really does feel as if all the world’s a stage. There’s no need to explain why… the life of every human, in every village, in every country across the globe is effected by a single variety of microscopic bug. 

We have become news addicts, amateur microbiologists, and look for the power of prayer to turn the grim statistics on the graphs downwards. Have we reached the peak? Will there be sufficient PPE for the hospital staff should I get it? We have become fearful of everyone, family and friends as well as strangers. Have they been close to anyone carrying the virus? 

Authority becomes agitated with people breaking the rules, the guidelines, the swiftly written laws. Incongruously it’s mounted policemen on well groomed hunters who patrol the parks for sunbathers and the under 2m joggers. 

The global shut-down has unbelievable consequences. Flower growers in Kenya are dumping 50 tons a day. Half the Colombian coffee crop is unpicked. Global milk prices collapsed simply through distribution changes. With empty roads and clear skies oil prices have gone from $75 to under $30/barrel. 

On the farm, life is unchanged. This spring, the busiest season for any farmer, is being kind to us farmers. Lambing has generally gone well in good conditions, and this spell of warm weather will bring them on a treat. Cows too have got some decent grass under them, and spring calving sucklers have got it good. Crops look better than expected, though some are wanting some rain. The plants and animals have no clue of the change in their environment, and a good thing too.

This week I took a call from a farmer who said that, when he’s on the farm, he finds himself forgetting all those ghastly events on the TV, in the paper, on-line. 

“You focus on the job in hand, checking stock, crop walking, fixing something. On the farm here there's a lot to look after and help along, and thankfully the virus should be no-where near”

Despite that, these global events are going to have a huge impact on his farming, and in the not too distant future. Economic recession will have consequences on prices and values; heavy support will be needed for many industries and government services including the NHS, just the same as it was for farmers in foot and mouth.  

Since the start of Practical Farm Ideas in 1992 I have promoted self-sufficiency, from an economic standpoint. A part of that was making things to make the farm work better. I often say that the welding classes allowed me to reduce the quantity of string which held the farm together, but in fact the bits of kit I bodged together helped increase yields and reduce costs at very little expense. Over my PFI years I have seen changes made by innovative farmers which have increased their profitability hugely. In the next issue I have an organic farmer in Ireland who has near doubled his organically grown spring barley yield by doing it differently. The challenge is to make these and similar changes on your farm. 

Economic self-sufficiency is going to be the new goal for many farmers, and this magazine will do all it can to help show the way, as it has done for the past 27 years. 

 4,500+ ideas devised by working farme

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