Keeping workers on the farm is a challenge; we generally see new faces every year. While this has its attractions, especially in the faces of eager horticultural students in the summer, I don’t always relish the cycles of training that we have to go through. In fact, we have been through a period of relative stability with Mark, who joined us as an apprentice, remaining with us for a third year. We have a great team at the moment with Mark, Owen & Dan but six months from now, they will all be gone. Perhaps it was ever thus with labour moving around the country meeting seasonal demand but I have to confess to a feeling of sadness as the time has come to build from the beginning once again.
Genetically modified (GM) plants and potatoes in particular are in the news again with, sadly, our very own Defra secretary Owen Paterson spearheading the promotion. Luckily restrictions in the EU which, for instance banned a GM potato variety “Amflora” are likely to prevent the release of GM crops. You might have heard the Today programme on 17 Feb which had not one, but two pro-GM speakers (Peter Kendal of the NFU Lord Huskin a trustee of Rothamsted Experimental Station) extolling the virtue of GM technology with no dissenting voice. I thought the whole BBC presentation was rather strange and it got the conspiracy theorist within me thinking. There was talk of a reduction in herbicide usage with GM crops and I was reminded of how Monsanto predicted that the use of “round up ready” GM Canola in the US would lead to reduced use of herbicides. In fact, the opposite has occurred as herbicide resistance genes spread in the environment. It’s a complicated subject but I get particularly upset about the notion that GM technologies can feed the World. In my opinion they are about making money for a handful of companies and the solutions to World poverty and hunger have little to do with GM.
The first of my ‘toys’ arrived on the farm this week. One of them is a sub-soiler. It is a dragged machine which cracks open compacted and smeared layers deep (12”) in the soil. It really is an essential piece of ‘kit’ for veg growers where the nature of the task means repeated tractor driving within crops which can lead to compaction.
I am proposing a series of monthly farm walks through the season for you to see what’s going on and I wanted to try to gauge what interest there might be in this. Can you drop me an email if you would be someone who might come?