joshuafmetcalfe

Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

Imparting of Wisdom

In Agricultural, education, family, farming, getting started on August 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm

People who know the industry say that we need an injection of passion into younger Farmers. Whilst I don’t feel I know enough to form an opinion on the matter, I do feel that I am passionate about Farming. I have said often that I seek to learn from everybody I meet and I have encountered no shortage of helpful people yet. I find myself drifting further and further into the form of a terrible stereotype; I have a genuine urge to get outside and do something useful; so I have done.  

I treat a big old wooden Barn door and cross frame with Creosote. It runs in streams of black tar tears down the slight channels and imperfections of each individual wooden plank in the door until, an hour later, a stinking black veil dresses the barn door (and much of the yard below it).  I take a step back and realise why Creosote has the harmful label on every bottle; I feel dizzy and slightly drunk. I pick up 50 new fence posts; the fences around the fields need patching. I pile them into the Barn and swing the dapper shiny Barn door shut. A gust of chemical air follows me.  I wander down the hill, covered in tar black specks and smudges and I watch the Hebridean Shearlings graze. I recall watching the news the day before and hearing; ‘summer is over’. Those Sheep will need their fleeces by winter, especially up here.

I get hold of some free information from EBLEX with regards to better returns programmes for your flock. I flick through and read in-depth and feel re-assured. If this information is free then I think I will struggle to grasp the hypothetical definition of value. Information from the horse’s mouth is equally as important. I visit my great cousin’s farm outside of Haworth and they kindly walk me around, introduce me to their Simmentals and Sheep and share pearls of wisdom. I thoroughly enjoy my afternoon and leave with a snap of Big Bad Bert (pictured below) and a picture of the view from their doorstep (pictured at the very bottom) . I leave feeling grateful, excited and of course, slightly jealous. I appreciate all the kind words, efforts and advice I receive. I feel it is the people I will meet who will be the biggest influence on how I end up Farming.

I receive further promising news, again through somebody I know (and in true fashion abides to the law of seven separations).  My girlfriends friend knows a Farmer whose plot is just outside of the city. Although I don’t want to get my hopes up, this is extremely encouraging. I feel assured too, that people are thinking of me and trying to help me. I feel gratitude alone would not be satisfactory repayment. I thank people for their kindness.

I hope to go to some auctions and markets before I go back to university. I hope I can find somebody who’ll let me go along. It’ll be very beneficial to get used to the way things are done.

That’s quite a view.

Keeping busy…

In Agricultural, farming, getting started, ragwort on August 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Though these are early days it appears there are even more people willing to help. You simply have to look in the right places.

I received the exciting news from Farmers Guardian. They are interested in featuring my Blog in their “Getting Started” section. I hope now more than ever that I am capable of writing interesting things.

I intend to keep myself as busy as possible for an indefinite period of time. I feel I must take advantage of being at home, so before I return to University I will do everything I can to get outside and work as much as possible. I have several people I can approach and I feel confident and determined.

This leads me to worry about what I will do when I return to University in six weeks time. I think it would be very lucky if I could find someone not so far out of the city that can offer to take me on one, or two days a week. But it’s not an impossibility. Hopefully someone will read this and grow empathetic and give me a chance, I know that I would bite their hand off if I received an offer.

This week I dug out the horses shelter and laid a new straw floor on it,15 wheelbarrows full of mud, straw and poo. The smell of it burns the back of my throat and screws my nose up, but it makes me feel revitalised. The best medicine anyone could ever need. I lay a full bale of straw down on the bare earth and the smell instantly changes. The straw smells sweet, almost dizzying; Natures perfume.

I discover, to my horror, that the fields I cleared of Ragwort last summer are once again flayed with knee high, green leafy stalks topped but clusters of bright yellow flowers.

It is far worse than last year.

This does make me wonder why DEFRA haven’t classified it as a poisonous plant (which it really is) so people don’t have to repeat the same arduous process every summer. Maybe there is something that I don’t know. In any eventuality, it will have to be removed before it dies, dries out and ends up in the winters silage.

I laugh to myself; it is a good job I enjoy these things.

Farming on my mind…

In farm shop, farming, ragwort, Uncategorized on August 21, 2012 at 8:51 am

As the days pass at work, my mind wanders between thinking about my final year at university, what I’m going to have for tea tonight, football and FARMING.

I recall the most consistent factor of farming that has left an impression on me being Farm Shops. My parents have always shopped at Farm Shops.

Even though I am 21 I still love going and buying Steak, Pork Pies, joints of Ham and various chutneys and preserves. I know that I would love to run my own Farm shop, selling on site. I think of ideas, write up crude plans of multiple herd systems for my cattle.

I’d have to put 400 heads a cattle through a year to make it lucrative. I draft ad-hoc financial plans on pairs of pigs, calculating what return I could make a few years down the line by having ten breeding sows beginning now.

In theory I could make good money. But I know my ideal is a world away from reality. You don’t choose what to keep; your land chooses what you keep. So I suppose it depends where I end up. I hope for 1,200 acres in Wainstalls (West Yorkshire) but I know that will not happen. I will be happy with whatever I can find.

I spend my lunch breaks on my Iphone reading Farmers Guardian and reading ‘Farming First’s recent posts on Twitter. I have begun to form opinions on hot topics, the Badger cull and the fight that the Dairy Farmers have been provoked into. Times are turbulent but it is engaging and dramatic reading.

Morrison’s raised the bar up by offering more per litre. There is hope, credit to the Dairy Farmers for not taking it lying down.

I spend my time out of work intermittently looking after horses when my Girlfriend’s mother goes away to Agricultural shows all over Britain. I love being up in those rough and blustery fields.

I muck out their shelter and over an afternoon pull all the ragwort out and pile it 6ft high in plastic rubble bags, stinking of sour pollen. I look back over the field as I walk home and it is clear of Ragwort. A nice sense of accomplishment fills me as I walk back down the hill.

I beg my girlfriend’s parents to let me keep chickens in their garden. Probably best to get some after I graduate university when I think about it, wouldn’t be very responsible of me if I had to leave them for months at a time.

I learn that my mother’s cousin owns and runs a Farm in Haworth with her Husband. This revelation excites me and I message her asking for advice. I volunteer myself for helping out if ever they should need it. I feel lucky to have that option available, I will go over one day for a brew and talk about my aspirations. It’s all I ever seem to do anyway.

My attention turns to the news that Schamallenberg Virus is circulating again, perhaps I should look into Agriculture and intermediate Farm Vet courses.

It could clearly be helpful, after all.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…

In family, funding, shows, Uncategorized on August 21, 2012 at 8:48 am

You hear it often and as far as I can tell it’s right in some ways. If your best friend runs a car garage and your car’s on the blink, I’m sure they would offer you help in the form of advice or a cheeky discount.

Similarly, if you have a good friend working behind a bar, I’m sure they’d risk trouble by trying to slip you a free drink. Of all the tokens of friendship, I consider the most valuable to be their good grace and willingness to put up with my never-ending musing.

I feel I have been lucky in the last few years of my life, specifically since I started university. I have met many new people there, many I already consider to be very close friends with whom I suspect I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life.

Through meeting my girlfriend at university, I met her family, all conveniently living in the same small town as me.

Meeting your girlfriend’s family is never easy, nor is it made easier when you realise the ‘true extent’ of the family. I was made very welcome, and was introduced to her family, some of which Farm. It has been getting to know these people (Not just the Farmers, but everybody) that has shown me another reason to Farm;

The Family life. Running your own business with your own family is an idea that is special to a lot of people, including myself. As I have experienced it creates a great, loving family whose desire to help is so strong that it extends beyond just family and friends, but out into the local community.

It seems it takes a lot of graft and an equal amount of heart to Farm, I consider it a humble and very rewarding thing to aspire to.

This holds my anxiety back. I feel full of promise, excitement and desire. I have a year to consider my options. Times are good. I explore the credentials of different breeds of cattle, I settle on the Salers breed. My girlfriends’ mother is secretary of the Salers Cattle Society of the UK and so I read up. They are a hardy breed who graze well and calf easily, great sucklers, good beef and milk production.  I do not feel I will do much milking however.

Still not much luck with finding government schemes. I read on Farmers Guardian that it is a topic for debate in the houses of parliament at the moment.  I think it is good to encourage people like me, but not make it too easy. Offering interest free loans and overdrafts, put pressure on local councils to stop selling their tenanted farms. I feel that all I need is a fair chance when the time comes.

But farming is tough and unpredictable, never fair. I feel confident and challenged. I feel grateful for the people around me. However all this is overridden by the disappointment of the Yorkshire Show.

I was helping out with show cattle for the duration of the show until it was cancelled due to the appalling weather conditions. At the time I was irritated and sure that there could have been some way to go ahead with it. These people are Farmers after all; they’re used to loads of mud. But in hindsight I know it was the correct decision, especially after seeing the front axle being ripped out from underneath a £100,000 horsebox by a Tractor attempting to tow it out of the mire. I suppose it just goes to show how unpredictable the work can be.

Never a dull moment.

What’s the first step?

In Agricultural, College, education, Uncategorized on August 21, 2012 at 8:44 am

In the car on my way to work in the morning, I often find myself thinking “What’s the first step?” and inevitably the same question plays at me for the remainder of the day. But the question still begs an answer; what is the next step for me?

Having started reading Farmers Guardian regularly over a year ago, I have come to the realisation that the sector is as diverse as it is challenging. To me though, this is similar to presenting a 20 stone rugby player, with an insatiable appetite to a lavish wedding buffet. I feel the best next step for me is more education.

More education is a regrettable prospect when I already owe over ten thousand pounds to the government for the funding of my Literature degree. This is serious food for thought. But I know that Farming of any sort requires know-how that is not only vital, but so traditional and variable. Going into Farming with limited knowledge would be like taking a knife to a gun-fight. Not destined to end very well.

For two weeks I have trawled through many prospectuses from Agricultural colleges. Consequently, after much printing, clicking, post-code entering and reading I deduce that I really like the look of Askham Bryam College, Bishop Burton and The Royal Agricultural College.

I work my way through the prospectus, seeking a course that seems to provide the best kick-start I will need to enter the industry. I read of the modules, the facilities, the alumini and the career prospects and I also read the course fees.

Needless to say, they are not cheap; £10,000 is quite a lofty amount of money for somebody like me, and when you consider that the government don’t provide loans for these courses, you quickly start to worry a little. I feel this anxiety is useful. It would be wise to look up and government scheme’s involved with getting started.

I don’t find much upon my first attempts, perhaps I’m not looking in the right places.

I counter this concern with daydreams. Ideas of what I’m going to do enter my mind, and I toy with them all afternoon. Where I’ll be farming (In my mind, It’s got to be Yorkshire). What I’m going to call my first Bull. This all probably sounds terrible to a Farmer, but I have convinced myself that my idealistic thoughts are not detrimental to my desire to attain what they already have. I sincerely envy every son of every Farmer in Great Britain.

This jealousy or whatever you may call it is heavily counteracted by people I have met recently who already have what I want. I tend to worry that approaching someone in the industry for help might well just be considered an inconvenience. I know that if I was working 70 hour weeks, the last thing I want is to have some green farmer badgering me for advice and help.

The people I have met thus far have surprised me with their willingness and genuine interest in helping me. Be it advice or letting me come work at Agricultural shows in the cattle lines. It shames me, but I feel painfully green sometimes, and more than ever I have a hunger to get out onto someone’s farm and graft for them. I hold hope in the fact that this will spur me on to work hard when I need to most.

I am at a stage now where my English Literature degree is beginning to frustrate me. I feel it will offer limited benefit to getting where I want to be. I take consolation in the fact that I have another year to further explore prospects, come up with new and profitable business ideas and mostly dream of where I want to be in ten years.

I am helping out at the Yorkshire Show again next week, I am excited to get out of the office and into the mud and poo.

I want to be a Farmer…

In Agricultural, farming, getting started, Uncategorized on August 21, 2012 at 8:39 am

As a middle class boy born in the heart of gods own country, I have always been bordered by rough and ready hill farms. Lots of Sheep, lots of cows and not a lot of crop.

Having attended a series of decent schools, I performed above average in my grades at GCSE and at A-level and in the summer of 2010, decided to further my education onto studying an English literature honours degree, currently approaching the final year.

I am sure anybody who attended school can remember the careers meetings. Sat in geography class on a miserable Tuesday afternoon, it was always a welcome sight when ‘the careers lady’ popped her head around the door and called your name for a meeting.

However pleasant this may have been (and no offence to the lovely careers lady) I am not sure that interviewing 13 year old children about their future job prospects was necessarily the right course of action. I say this because I am now 21 and have only just realised what it is I would truly love to do.

I want to be a Farmer.

I have been certain of this for almost three years now, reasons being I have always been close to it and have become more involved in the industry since my life took a very lucky turn two years ago. This does not negate the fact that people (understandably) consider me to be somewhat naïve.

“How do you intend to even get started?”

Financially I am not sure, though I intend to undertake a post-graduate degree in Agricultural Management and Business Management. But it’s a very complex and unpredictable industry, so who knows what I might need to do.

“What about the long hours?”

I am a strong advocate of the principle that if you want something badly enough, you will work as many hours as the lord sends. Grafting must be easier if you love what you do.

“What about the change of lifestyle?”

I think it’s the best lifestyle. Family orientated self-sufficient business unlike any other. Plus everybody gets a nice LandRover.

Aside from feeling dreadfully sorry for myself, I have been happy to have received a lot of support in what I want to do from my family and friends. I feel with this essential continued support, a little guidance, making the next steps in my life correctly, A LOT of learning and A LOT of hard work I can make something of myself in the industry.

Perhaps one day even my own farm!

I hold a lot of excitement for what my future brings, I believe myself to be very lucky in that sense.