January on the Farm (2019)

Photograph by Colin Wootton from the early 1960s,  when villagers’ muscle power was needed in the fields (and steam powered trains still ran over the distant embankment!)

Richard Fonge writes:

January so far has been mild, with the winter crops around the village looking very forward, but there is plenty of time before spring for some proper winter weather of hard frosts and snow.

I mentioned last month the Food from our own resources White Paper of 1971. The sixties had seen great strides in the modernisation of Agriculture and the incentives laid down in this paper to produce healthy and plentiful food for the nation were taken up by the industry as a whole, so that within a dozen years or so we had milk lakes and grain mountains, which was to result in land being taken out of production and the introduction of environmental schemes. Milk yields from the dairy cow were improved by better understanding of nutrition and enhanced genetics with the importation of bull semen from North America. Crop yields improved dramatically by the scientists invention of the fungicide chemical in particular.

By applying this chemical twice during the growing season we were able to keep the leaf of the plant free of disease and therefore green allowing photosynthesis ( the action of sunlight on the green leaf) to take place more efficiently. We know this by keeping our roses free of disease how much better the blooms are for example. These and many other factors too numerous to mention in these brief notes, resulted in an Agriculture industry becoming more efficient in its use of land and labour, with farms becoming bigger and specialising more, which saw the demise of the smaller mixed farm.

These developments have made great changes in the make up of villages like Sulgrave. Forty years ago some 75% of our population were indigenous, with most families having a close connection to the land . Today that is nearer 5%. Although the make up of our community has changed so much, the sense of community is still as strong and vibrant. You could say we have gone from curing our own hams and growing our vegetables on the allotments, to croissants ,canapés and Chardonnay.

Richard Fonge



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