Maple Field Milk – another howler

Another howler; another lovely deep north Atlantic low barrelling its way up from Cape  Finisterre; another complete deluge over Maple Field Farm.

Perfect weather for grass.  And as we like and rely on fresh grass, we love it.  After the longest day the grass loses its raging need to send up flower spikes and settles back into the engine room of leaf and root production.  Ankle deep we are and it’s August!

Our paddocks are pickled with the tall flower spikes of chicory; with the melancholy droop of sainfoin;  with the startling presence of a million clover flowers covered in a bee-buzzing ‘get-together’ where we hope the bovine won’t sniff a bee up its soft brown nostril.

How can a 24 year old Welsh sheep farmer so cling to the hope of selling his lambs to China? (BBC 2 interview with Tom Heap). Could that be a rather dismal outlook for his lively young farming career?

Hereford and Worcester have sold 42 County farms from their estate – cheers for that – and against the advice of their land agents who wanted  ‘retention and rationalisation’. I ask you.

Maple Field Milk needs to form a land trust upon which to allow new entrants to start dairying.  This has to happen or we shall lose the lot.  We have devised a business system that yields a profit through the devoted link with our customers who need and want to be fed every day with their delicious fresh local staple.

Our outdoor milking bail is so  cheap and light of touch;light on the land and easy with the cow; and very easy on the eye.  Bails were invented by Arthur Hosier in 1931.  We have his book on our central desk and we give him all the credit for such a leap of thought.  He took the cows away from the dung-soaked homestead and  pranced across the Wiltshire Downs with his mobile milking machines. And this at a time of deep farming depression.  We talk to his grand daughter Rachel from time to time.  I have tracked down three ex-bail milkers/herdsmen who worked the bails in the late ’60s.  All three men absolutely loved them.  They loved the ease and the movement and the ‘outdoorness’ of the whole procedure. Concrete…..what’s concrete? Now with the addition of a jaunty caravan awning and  Bail FM tuned to the Be Good Tanias, they think its heaven.

And by the way…..still with all this farming going on at Maple Field Farm: with thousands of customers for our milk: with ten people employed; with masses and masses of interest in our new dairy business system;  with all of this activity……the powers that be – the Local Authority; the Secretary of State; and the usual gathering of “friendly” locals forbid us to inhabit our own land. Can you believe it?

This is another modern form of Enclosure.  This is designed to send the up-start peasant back to the town.  This  modern Enclosure movement wants the small fields to remain empty for dog-walkers to glance at once a fortnight; for wealthy urbanites to live out their  retirements in complete silence. “Ten livelihoods……that’s nothing. Our food comes from the Argentine.”

We are soon to become exiles from own land. Ethnically cleansed from the Parish and the work we love.  We don’t fit.  We are noisy and vocal and we sell stuff.  We are a mob.  A mob of enthusiastic rural workers.  We don’t have farming in our blood. We can’t look back over four generations of farming.  We just have ideas and vigour.  We don’t count.  Small scale farming………….what’s the point of that?

This is who used to live here. 60 butternut squash plants on the dung heap. 150 chickens (for the table). 12 pigs every 15 weeks. Three polytunnels full of pelargonium plants for sale. Herbs etc. Cows and calves in various numbers at different times (total herd size 27 dairy cows). Vans arriving. Music playing. Ten humans. A cat. 27 wagtails. Rooks by the parliament. 27 pheasants.  Occasional fox.

Talk about diversity.

Nick Snelgar

August 2017

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