Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Devon knows I'm Miserable Now .....

It’s sobering to realise that some of the normal essentials in my life, effectively make me a terrorist suspect.  Stripped of these essentials, immediately stops me being a liability (at least in this strict context).
And so it was, after discarding my beloved pocket knife, my 200 ml can of shaving foam and, most worryingly, my 200 ml can of deodorant at Edinburgh Airport security, I was eventually allowed on the plane to Exeter.
There was a seminar on the “Missing Rung of the Farming Ladder” in Cornwall. Its a long way to go.  Seminars usually disappoint.  As a return on investment, if judged on a knowledge profit per £ spent - it was going to be a risk.  Yet I managed this risk by obtaining an assurance that my hosts, Nevil and Rona Amiss - first generation farmers and all things poultry - would teach me the ways of the bird the following day.
“The missing rung” referred to tenancies for progressing farming businesses. It was a revelation in some respects. As a Scotsman, I didn’t appreciate that the English system of Council tenancies were such a vital tool for first generation farmers.  I asked my obligatory embarrassing question by saying in my introduction that I was from Scotland and that we normally think we are better than the English at most things but that I was really impressed  with the Council farms setup.  No one laughed: if we were in a pub, they’d have switched off the juke box, stopped talking and just stared.
Their problem is the move from smaller Council tenancies to larger farms on private estates.  The Cornwall Council Land Agent’s mission was to get rid of his best tenants! In other words, to ensure they started but then progressed and finished on larger farms.  His aim was principally to facilitate new entrants up the first few rungs in farming - 50 acres up to 200 acres.  Using my calculator, I suspect that Council Farms are perhaps a light drizzle in the ocean. Yet they are at least that compared to the still waters of Scotland.
The log jam were the private estates and the lack of incentive, will and parallel philosophy to let land. Some said persuasion was the key .... I just can’t see it!  To expect business people to act on guilt or loosely held duty rather than financial incentive is asking too much of human nature. But propaganda may be our only weapon.  Changing the tax system, changing a culture, changing aspirations, changing rural housing legislation (so retiring tenants can move to somewhere as cheap) - I’m not holding my breath.
So revolution maybe the only way to go. This land is a common property for everyone to share. We need radical change.
Here I am - a small boy with a receeding hairline but without my 200 ml of deodorant.  Maybe I’ll have to terrorise the Treasury with only my natural smell as a weapon.


julesandtim said...

Mr Blanche finally gets it right---there is no farming ladder, its a free for all dream...

The council farm ‘rung’ is a myth, there are precious few of them and those that do exist are being sold off rather rapidly to balance soaring local authority debts
Land is the most valuable commodity available, its future is guaranteed and linked to the rising demand of an increasing population. That’s why any man or woman with spare change is buying up land, and who wouldn’t—its guaranteed to rise in value, produces an income every year and is also due interest in the form of subsidies ---
The good thing about this (mostly) city money coming into the farming world is that these guys have a fresh approach to agriculture---they are more willing to look again at food production with a clean sheet and few traditions/prejudices to hold them back

This will only change when people get hungry enough to take back ownership or dwindling natural resources force a radical way in which we farm

So for new entrants the way forward is bleak in the UK, as I’ve told you before Michael(pay attention this time)---you can;
1) Beg for a tenancy that will leave you financially/physically and emotionally drained—and then get chucked off or have your rent rocket if you are in the least successful
2) Become a manager for a rich city guy and live the life without actually having a real stake (just be prepared to loose it all when he decides to capitalise on his assets)
3) ‘Go east young man!’---emigrate somewhere where your small savings can get you in at ground zero with a chance. For this you will need lots of guts and to be physically determined as by nature where land is cheap the odds will be stacked against you (unstable governments/fluctuating economies etc)
4) Get rich in the city and then invest in your farm ---this is the most common approach to new entrant famers in the last few years

So ends the lesson for today --

Rona Amiss said...

I think you meant the trip to Devon was useful, i hope so. You forgot to write about Somerset selling of their farms, 35 tenants have been given notice to quit this week. Maybe Tim is right (now i know who he is!)and maybe he needs to come to the next conferance, it would liven things up!

julesandtim said...

My speaking fees are very reasonable----

Michael Blanche said...

Rona, Devon was brilliant ... never doubt that (I am currently at work on my defining piece - The Amisses)! It just happens to be a county that rhymes with heaven and I can prove how odd I am by substituting it into one of The Smiths most brilliant-est song titles.

Tim - can you give me a quote for you not to speak? ... Tee Hee

julesandtim said...

Michael, you know i'm cheap---one drink starts me off but two will put me to sleep

Caroline said...

Only just got around to reading this. Ashamedly, I don't have anything intelligent to add to the farming ladder debate, I just wanted to applaud you for the use of a Smiths song in the title. Well done.