Guy’s news: Musing on misery & contentment in farming

My current state of contentment is unusual for a farmer; we have a reputation for misery. Could a dour anticipation of calamity be a prerequisite of farming success? Thomas Hardy’s Gabriel Oak didn’t save the harvest by revelling at the harvest festival; he was out virtuously sheeting the ricks against the gathering storm while everyone else was getting legless in the barn. Joe Grundy, David Archer and Brian Aldridge maintain the tradition across the class divide with their variations on rural self-pity in Radio 4’s The Archers. Folklore would have it that there is always some form of deluge, drought or pestilence waiting to wipe rare smiles off a farmer’s face before they settle.

The challenges facing farmers may be tangible and dramatic, but I suspect they are no more onerous than those suffered by many professions, and we do have many compensations. What greater privilege could there be than to be working amongst the rising birdsong, part of the annual renewal that is spring, ploughing and sowing as returning life erupts around you? Even my ageing bones feel a hint of youth returning.

As the years pass and experience gathers, the calamities seem less personal; as I remember collapsing exhausted to my knees and weeping by a broken-down tractor as potatoes died of blight around me, I am grateful for the serenity and perspective that comes with age. As in all businesses one must be mindful of the risks and prepared to react quickly to minimise their impacts. Experience helps, but, longer term, humility and feeling part of nature rather than personally embattled is key to contentment and effective management. Misery is a waste of emotional effort; it just gets in the way.

It has been a glorious spring; my dairy farming brother says he can’t remember an easier farming year than the one past. Could this contentment be the start of a complacency that will be our downfall, or could it be maturity arriving? A really good farmer should feel cradled by nature; its ally and friend rather than its adversary. This perfect spring, that aspiration feels within reach. Hence the contentment.

5 responses to “Guy’s news: Musing on misery & contentment in farming

  1. Can’t really relish the happy ‘ups’ without the ocassional stomach churning ‘downs’.
    Birdsong – magic!

  2. As a farmer, it has been an amazingly easy year, and with bird flu clucking off, first calves born today in grass up to their knees, all is good! I am a pint glass half full character (unlike a lot of old school farmers), but the weather is only part of the picture, receiving great feedback for what you do, being proud of what we produce and getting paid a fair price for it are what really keep the pint glass topped up, and our relationship with Riverford makes that happen. Happy days!

  3. Guy , this is from A.P.Herbert’s poems , 1922 . The last two lines stuck in my mind , but I had to check for the first two .
    The Farmer will never be happy again,
    He carries his heart in his boots ,
    For either the rain is destroying his grain ,
    Or the drought is destroying his roots .

  4. With age comes the wisdom to appreciate what really matters in life – time spent appreciating family, friends and nature (though the latter is a bit of a stretch in the fens, especially if you were born and bred in the West Country like I was). My forbears grew vegetables to pay the rent and feed the family, but they still had pride and satisfaction in what was for them a necessity, on top of the physical day job.

  5. It is very important to know how to grow healthy vegetables on a healthy Soil
    for healthy animals and healthy human consumption and how to get healthy compost to keep Soil healthy and apparently according to Sir Albert Howard if this things are done right pests keep away. Only best farmers know how to do that.

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