We hope to get the winter beans drilled this week but so far no sign of the seed which is tiresome. It is still early and my agronomist will not be pleased; he like most in his profession advocate delaying the planting of beans as late as possible.
It is surprising how many people remark that they were unaware just how reliant farming is upon the weather. Not only does it have an impact upon when we get crops drilled and harvested at the optimum time, the weather across the globe can be totally responsible for feast or famine.
Certainly at the present time of low prices, as the supply of most agricultural commodities exceed demand, the weather on this side of the Atlantic, and in the Northern hemisphere, has been relatively kind. That is not to say it has not been tricky to work with, it has certainly been a challenging year.
It is increasingly obvious that food produced across the world requires a better distribution service. There is a chronic imbalance between those who have too little and those who have too much.
The increase in obesity, particularly in rich western countries and city dwellers in countries with an increasing diversity of wealth, is escalating uncontrollably, as unhealthy diets are embraced.
It is predicted that three-quarters of UK adults will be overweight by 2025. Due almost entirely to the rise in the consumption of processed food and snacking around the clock.
We are what we eat, and to attribute this epidemic on faulty genes, poverty and other such excuses is unacceptable and devolves personal responsibility.
The millions of displaced people, including refugees across Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East where families barely survive on a subsistence diet, is an escalating problem. Compare this with the growing catastrophe of obesity, already costing our already over stretched Health Service millions of pounds.
This criminal imbalance along with the scandal of over indulgence, poor nutrition, inadequate education, lack of cooking skills and the general malaise of too many, is spiralling out of control.
The Universal Expo taking place in Milan will close its doors on 31 October. This massive event which opened in May has been staged to address ‘Feeding the Planet - Energy for Life’.
140 countries have attended, showing off their best technology, hoping to offer ‘concrete’ answers to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, at the same time as respecting the planet.
20m visitors will have visited the 1.1m sq mt exhibitions centre, a platform for the exchange of ideas from all participating countries.
It has also given visitors an opportunity to find out about and taste the world’s best dishes.
The question is, will this international ‘food’ extravaganza answer any of the pressing questions regarding supply and demand, and importantly, the fair distribution of vital food supplies and sustainability?
There seems to be some surprise within government agencies that there has been a relatively low take up by farmers of the new environmental schemes which this year replaces the original schemes which have been running since the 1990s.
Many Entry Level or Higher Level environmental schemes run out this autumn, as has ours. If you wanted to enter into the new Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme, this should have been done by 30 September. It seems that very few farmers have taken up the offer.
This is unsurprising for a number of reasons, despite our need to maximise farm income when prices for the crops, milk and meat we produce, have sunk so low.
These schemes are designed to encourage farmers to carry out valuable environmental conservation work on their land. This could include allowing hedges to grow out of control to create better habitats for wild birds, small rodents and insects. Leaving six meter uncultivated margins around the edges of arable fields as habitats for flora and fauna. Creating beetle banks and wild flower mix habitations, protecting water courses, and planting additional hedges. For this work, some of which farmers do anyway, we are paid a modest amount in compensation.
The former schemes were relatively simple to apply for. You filled in forms, set aside land for the wildlife, and did a bit of measuring. We would welcome inspectors onto the farm occasionally who would tell you if you were doing a good job, or not.
This new SC scheme is quite another matter. It seems many farmers like me, took one look at the paper work involved, the photographic proof required, the complicated ‘group’ schemes, and other paraphernalia and decided it was all too much trouble for little reward.
Guy Smith, NFU vice-president, said “This is not farmers walking away from Countryside Stewardship, it is Countryside Stewardship walking away from farmers.”
It will be interesting to see if anything changes, but as things stand life is too short, the rewards to low and the advantages of these new schemes debatable.
Carola Godman Irvine