As I See it on the Land – May 2022

This country needs a Minister for Food, and very soon, meaning now.

This DEFRA nonsense is beyond a joke. Since leaving the EU, our government decided that it would reduce the acreage payments to zero by the end of 2024 and replace it with another scheme that would be for the ‘public good’. They still have no firm plans and are consulting with over 800 farmers, who have shown an interest in the scheme, asking what the farmers think of the ideas they are proposing and how they can be improved. It is impossible to plan ahead. With farming you plant months before you have a commodity to sell.

We have withdrawn from the scheme. As it stands at the moment it was going to cost too much to implement their ideas for a very small return. Land is wanted to grow crops to produce food for the public good. Very few people seem to be aware of the consequences of the terrible conflict in the Ukraine. There is not going to be sufficient food grown in the world to carry on as we have done in the past, by importing.

Farming needs encouraging to expand to produce more home-grown food. We have had the situation of being unable to get pigs killed in abattoirs and going into the food chain due to a lack of skilled slaughtermen. Farmers have culled 40,000 pigs and buried them. At the same time, we have been importing pig meat. Madness.

Our horticulturist and fruit farmers are unable to get staff to pick the crops and Defra will not get a sensible scheme in place to allow foreign workers to travel to this country for the seasonal work.

Our farmers co-operative, Openfield, has lost the contract to grow wheat for Warburtons. We were the largest producer growing for them in Kent. Growing bread making wheat requires more nitrogen fertiliser than growing stock feed wheat. With fertiliser nearly four times the normal price, we are having to be very careful with its application. We will not be expecting such good yields at harvest time unless there is a near perfect growing season.

Around the world there is severe flooding in parts of Australia and South Africa, with dryness in parts of South America. Our grain marketing managers cannot see where in the world, production can increase to replace the loss of Ukrainian or Russian wheat. Ukraine is vital for sunflower oil and our shops are already rationing how many bottles one can buy at a time. The Ukrainian farmers are trying to get some seed into the ground, wearing bullet proof jackets. They will need workers at harvest time to get the crops into store. Their port facilities have been destroyed and Putin seems determined to take control of access to the sea. The only way out will be by road or rail making exporting grain an expensive job.

Currently grain is at £320 per tonne. Last harvest the price was around £190. It is no wonder prices are rising for commodities. The dog food I buy has gone from £15 to £20 for 15 kilos.

Mark is busy planting a large acreage of linseed. The fields are planted in two directions in order to get a better coverage of seed. Provided moisture comes in the near future, our fields will be beautiful with new blossom coming daily. I hope dog owners will show a little more respect for crops and stop throwing sticks or balls out into the fields for the dog to chase. If you want to play ball, take your dogs to Carters Field in Bromley Green Road where no damage can be done. Once a seedling is broken that is the end of the plant. Do you throw balls in your flower bed or vegetable patch?


Looking over the fence, I see one neighbour enjoying a plentiful number of lambs with the ewes milking well and the lambs thriving in the kind weather. Another neighbour has just started lambing in earnest and is currently lambing nearly 80 ewes a day. This is a tremendous number to cope with and I know how hard they will be working and the long hours involved.

Indoors, when help is to hand, quick action can save this situation. It is a difficult task to keep the ewe upside down without damaging the uterus. This can carefully be inverted back into the animal, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Success is very rewarding for such a difficult task. The ewe gets stitched up, treated with antibiotics and with luck survives, but it is the end of its breeding life.

I cannot recall such a colourful countryside as this spring with daffodils aplenty everywhere. Primroses are doing well and the bluebells are just emerging. I have not seen or heard a swallow or cuckoo yet but perhaps by the time the magazine is printed my anxiety will be settled. The marsh frogs are just finding their voices much to the amazement of visitors.

Peter Sillibourne