From reading his column, I rather gather that young Will Evans who farms beef cattle, arable crops and a free-range egg unit in partnership with his parents, near Wrexham in North Wales, possibly thinks that all farmers over the age of about 35 have no qualifications.
His argument is that the general public would respect farmers better, and perhaps take British agriculture more seriously if we all brandish a flurry of certificates of competence, and have letters after our name.
I believe Will is right when he senses there is a perception amongst the public that farmers spend their days leaning over gates gazing into the middle distance and chewing on a blade of straw. Mind you, maybe that is what happens in Welsh Wales!!
I am not complacent, I believe it is essential that all of us who work within our industry follow certain rules and regulations and can demonstrate a degree of competence regarding livestock, growing crops, using farm machinery and administrating chemicals and medication.
I doubt there are many farmers not already complying. We are professionals, and the schemes which ensure we qualify for Red Tractor status and the Single Farm Payments insist we do.
Guy Smith who I hope will not be offended by my suggesting he falls into the ‘middle aged’ category of farmer, is not quite so convinced but recognises our industry should at least debate Will’s idea, and not take the view that the only qualification one needs for running a farm is, ‘that your grandad used to’.
When I look around this part of the country, I see highly educated, enthusiastic smart young people running and working on farms, with innovative ideas, eager to ensure they are up on the latest technology, and recognising opportunities to enhance income, standards, and involving their local communities. Added to which, they are deeply conscious that they are responsible for the welfare and protection of wildlife and the environment.
Qualifications are good and in most cases essential, but that is not all it takes to make good farmers. There is a little more to it. In a nutshell it is called passion and a love for farming, the livestock we tend, the crops we grow, and recognising we do so to feed the nation.
It is a year this week that Michael Gove was appointed Defra secretary. If a report were to be written on his performance so far, I believe it should read along the lines, “This man initially showed promise and enthusiasm for his subject, but he has been too easily distracted and enticed away from his main objective by fringe agencies. He certainly could do a great deal better, and should have recognised earlier that farmers’ already care for the countryside and environment ,and their primary purpose is to produce food”.
It is disappointing that after twelve months the agricultural sector still lacks any certainty regarding its future direction of travel. However optimistic those of us are who support Brexit and recognise the opportunities outside the EU, and its repressive regime. As long as the uncertainties persist we cannot plan for the future, or know where to invest our time, expertise and funding to ensure we remain viable.
The concern is Mr Gove will include in the Agriculture Bill due later this year, policies which take us by surprise and in some cases pull the rugs from under our feet. I wonder if he understands how vulnerable some farmers are, and that he holds their future in the palm of his hand. Perhaps someone should remind him that farmers continue to commit suicide at a rate of one a week.