joshuafmetcalfe

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Mediation in the Media?

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2014 at 6:35 pm

 

Impartial; a state in which one is neutral, unbiased, unprejudiced and non-discriminatory.

 

  It serves a purpose for media organisations to exercise a degree of impartiality when documenting whatever they happen to be documenting. It helps to form and maintain a wholesome, clear-cut image of the organisation and also prevents the loud minority amongst the audience who seem to relish the opportunity to be offended, and take every opportunity to feel so.

It worries me that the BBC should report on the findings of The National Academy of Sciences without presenting a balanced, reasonable article that could perhaps rationalise the situation for those who have never seen a Chicken and a Cow stand side by side. Is it really news that beef production requires 28 times the land necessary for poultry production? Considering a vast fraction of global poultry production constitutes battery farmed chickens, I think not. One need not even engage in comparison between the two animals as to do so is simply absurd: How can you compare a Cow to a Chicken in terms of discussing efficiency?

These points aside, the article has been published in the English media and is being touted as a fact of British Farming. Fair enough, it’s engaging an issue which is of huge importance to government; food security. My problem with the article lies in the fact that the British consumer is being fed an article conceived, conducted and concluded in a country 4,242 miles away from the UK. A vast country with various climates, most of which couldn’t be any further from the climate we all know and love here in the UK.

 

I do not question the importance or the credibility of the study, I question the BBC’s lack of consideration for the reputation of British Beef and the people who work hard to produce it.

 

  In stark contrast, I have enjoyed watching the new series Channel 4’s First Time Farmers a great deal. I feel it represents British Farming in a pleasant and realistic light; highlighting the immense difficulty and hard work whilst showing just how much fun can be had along the way.

I understand the reservations of many who feel the programme fails to engage with just how serious a life choice Farming is, but I urge them to remember that Farming has experienced a tough time in the media in recent years, and any media representation that engages with the public en-mass, and generates so much positive feedback should be championed by British Farmers.

Foothold

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2014 at 5:54 pm

In the wake of a lengthy break from writing my blog I am pleased to be able to say that much has changed.

 
 
Some broody Hens

Some broody Hens

 
Early this year we were presented with the opportunity (after months of patient brokering) to take on a stewardship of a farm only half a mile up the hill from where we lived. The Farm comes complete with land that conveniently backs onto our owned land, extensive barn with a hay loft, numerous outbuildings and half decent access routes. The Farm has been empty for a number of years and consequently required a generous amount of work both inside and out in order to bring it up to scratch. Whilst the Farmhouse is very much the domain of my Girlfriend and her mother, the outdoors has been largely left up to me to me to sort out. So far this summer I’ve been busy with a great deal of fencing and weed-spraying, a little de-forestry, repairing the outbuildings, hanging some gates and a little dry stone walling. The arrival of some orphan lambs in April gave me fresh incentive to get on with the work that needed doing. Having raised the lambs from birth it is now a lovely sight to see them enjoying the freshly restored pasture. They were turned out around four weeks ago and have enjoyed significant and consistent weight gains ever since. Typically however, the solution of one problem often leads to the formulation of another and this is it:
 
Do I keep the Lambs back for breeding, or do I finish them and use the money to invest in quality stock?
 
I’d prefer the latter, though as I feared sentimentality factors into the equation with my family, who would prefer to keep them to breed. 
IMG_1085[1]
 
All the Farm work takes place before 7am/after 5pm on a weekday or during weekend, this is because I have also undertaken an apprenticeship in Agricultural Robotic Engineering at Harry Travis (Rishworth) LTD. For the most part it entails Dairy Engineering, building/refurbishing/repairing/servicing pasteurisers, homogenisers, separators, fillers and washers but as a company we specialise in automated robotic milking systems. The work is challenging and more often than not confusing but rewarding, plus the company also trades in farming supplies which is convenient for me. 
 
What is there to come? As I’ve mentioned I’m scheming on growing my flock, but in which direction is yet to be decided. I feel I should further consider both rare-breeds and commercial breeds. Perhaps the latterr would benefit me as they are easier to market and thus will fit into my busy life a little easier. 
 
 

Back In The Saddle

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2013 at 8:35 am

University is over, finally. I must admit I was expecting to feel relieved at this stage, which I most defiantly do, but I feel I shall miss it sorely, particularly the people.

 

At any rate my sentimentality is quickly over-ridden by an overwhelming realization; I can finally get out about about on the farm. Getting back into the swing of things is important. My challenge now is to find somewhere that’ll take me on. In the meantime the name of the game is gaining experience. Again I feel very lucky to have the friends I have as my friend Mike (@mikefarmerscott) has agreed to put me up for a month on his dairy in Lockerbie, I intend to take him up on the offer. In other events, I’m meeting with a farmer next week (the day before I leave for Lockerbie) to have a chat about things. The farmer I am somewhat familiar with, but as for the things, I couldn’t possibly say for fear of jinxing any potential outcome.  In any event I expect a positive and enlightening experience, and am thoroughly looking forward to it. Words can’t really express the desire I have to get out and work and learn. I find myself resenting wasted time, I can no longer sit on the sofa for longer than half an hour without climbing the walls in frustration and boredom. If worse comes to worse I’ll have to get a hobby horse.

 

On another note, next week is the Great Yorkshire Show and I’ll be helping prepare some Salers for showing in the ring later this week; pressure washing, shampooing and perming. I’m also very much in-the-market for a wax jacket, so I’ll be spending an awful lot of time trawling around the show ground taking in the sights. smells and sounds. I can hardly wait. As a way of celebrating, the farmers in question throw an annual barn dance in aid of Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Calder Valley Mountain Rescue. I feel it would be a suitable excuse for finalizing celebrations in the wake of leaving university and FINALLY starting my career.

 

These next few weeks will be exciting!

 

A year won’t last long

In Uncategorized on October 4, 2012 at 11:02 am

The more I explore my options, the more I learn. Possibilities literally do seem endless. To my delight I have been accepted and will participate in the final of Farm Apprentice (Taking place 22nd-27th October) and am very excited to say the least. Being presented with this kind of opportunity sends my imagination wild. I feel it will be essential to transfer these ideas into sustainable and lucrative practice. Although I have just started my third year of University (and should be enjoying it) it feels more like a distraction.

My mind should be on literature. I sit in classes writing and discussing Philip Hensher, Shakespeare and Marlowe, Contemporary fiction and British Drama. I sit in classes thinking about rare breeds, business models, profit margins and sustainable organic production. Needless to say my degree and my dreams are clashing at the moment. I feel that I can maintain a healthy balance, focus on my degree and indulge in farming when I can. Sadly I’ve yet to find a Farm around Leicester that I can go out to. I’m still determined to find one though.

Farmers weekly, Inspiring Fresh Farming Talent

The Farm Apprentice competition boasts a £10,000 prize. This is a dizzying amount of money for a student and I know I could make something that size go further than most. Providing I have free access to land I plan on establishing a small flock of Hebridean sheep, maybe 25 heads. I plan to breed them for lamb. Although they are smaller than most breeds (and therefore less suitable to meat production) I plan on needing a hardy breed. To increase the size of the lambs I may consider cross breeding the Ewe’s with a large breed of Ram, like a Texel or Lleyn. My flock would serve as a great side project that I can work on whilst working and educating myself.

I want to keep poultry alongside my flock. I’ll knock up a makeshift run, cut my fingers to shreds on chicken wire, break my back fence-posting, but I will do it. I will re home battery hens. I will watch them as they learn to be Chickens again. Watch them as they learn to walk and socialise, then feed them corn and sell their eggs and eventually their meat.

It astonishes me that the Badger Cull debate is still raging. Every day I read of different perceptions of the argument. I read of people who support the cull, they argue it is the cheapest & most efficient way of dealing with the problem. Although I don’t think it’s an ideal solution, I can easily empathise with this argument.  It seems easy for people outside of the industry to campaign against the cull as Badgers are a part of our Great British countryside. But I feel that the Cull doesn’t affect them as much as it does Farmers. Although this does not mean their opinion is less valuable, I do feel that the matter should be kept within the industry.

It’s all very confusing, always interesting though. 

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.