…I’ve been following you around the village and I need to tell you how miserable farming is at the moment.” It’s lucky that it it a beautiful Summer’s day because I tell you, this farming can be a miserable business. They have the worst PR machine in the country. Purpose of Public Relations; to reinforce a brand’s identity. Hence, farmers not great on the old PR front.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have heard farmers narrate the changing of the weather like no poet can, philosophize on any aspect of the countryside with eloquence but when it comes to discussing possible outcomes, farm wise, they can be a miserable bunch. It’s as if they have a radar. If there is the slightest chance that you might be struggling on the farm, if the weather has turned against you, an animal is sick or it’s just a ‘bad year for farming’, ‘they’re’ immediately onto you.
Now, I’m not a girl immune to the odd bout of negativity myself but if pushed into a corner, I can produce an optimistic outlook for you. You see, I’m the sensitive type, I take what you say to heart, especially in the days before I had children when I had time on my hands for thinking. So when, for example, a farmer told me on a trip to the village that this was the worst year he had ever encountered in farming and that ‘there wouldn’t be a farmer left in the country come Autumn,’ I was ready to pull the suitcases down from the attic.
Hobby farmers are the worst, those who have come off the land, left agriculture, kept a patch of land for a couple a cows and a horse for the children and therefore know everything about the lay of the land. There is one particular gentleman locally, who I am convinced chases me around the village just to enquire as to how difficult a position we find ourselves in on a given day. So far this year, he has advised me(!) not to dream of putting a slurry tank in a wet field, not to send any whitehead bullocks to the mart and to take heed that the milk prices will be turning for the worse come August. Dear God, deliver me from all evil, It’s like listening to a Nancy Griffith song on a loop.
I have my own farmer trained now, although in fairness, he is quite a jovial soul. He knows the look by now, the ‘don’t-tell-me-it’s-the-end-of-farming-life-as-we-know-it’ look. It does force him, for better or for worse, to put a positive spin on this farming life and so he saves the misery for the trip to the creamery where I’m sure even the bags of ration complain.
Yet somehow, somewhere mid rant, I might hear some hope amidst the sighing and tutting that tells me that all is not lost. A twinkle in the eye of the complainant that tells me that as Mrs Doyle suggests that maybe they just like the misery and that we will live to milk another cow.
“And all this trouble in our fields
If this rain can fall, these wounds can heal
They’ll never take our native soil
But if we sell that new John Deere
And then we’ll work these crops with sweat and tears
You’ll be the mule I’ll be the plow
Come harvest time we’ll work it out
There’s still a lotta love, here in these troubled fields.”
(Nancy Griffith’s ‘Trouble in our Fields’)