I am writing to you today sitting on the train to Devon, travelling through the countryside of Wiltshire and looking at the cows grazing, pen in one hand, beer in the other. I think about my farm and my mind wanders to what we’ve been up to lately. Now, I’m no Shakespeare, but I’ll give you a run-down of what’s been going on down on the farm.
We have just welcomed a new herd of Hereford Friesan cross cows to the fields, who are very content just grazing and sleeping all day. Our sheep, on the other hand, are escape artists and attempt to tunnel under our fences! We have 1,000s of turkeys, ready for Christmas time. They came to us back in July and have been growing very well since then. Our hens are back outside when the weather is nice, laying hundreds of free-range eggs every day. If you have a look at our YouTube channel, we have an in-depth video explaining the process.
Our Maris Piper potatoes are available in the farm shop, and this is the first time in 30 years that we have grown these crops on our farm, connecting to my Irish roots! These have been really popular, as you just can’t beat homegrown produce in terms of nutrition and taste. We also have an abundance of homegrown courgettes, beetroot, and runner beans.
What’s going on in the local area?
My fellow farmers in the Tandridge district have been busy making the most of the fantastic weather to gather in the harvest and start autumn cultivations, after the wet July caused so much stress. Did you know that Surrey is the most densely wooded county in the UK? Even though the southeast is densely populated, more than 80% of the region is classified as rural. Tandridge actually holds one of the last family farms within the M25!
Farmers in the local area recently got together at the annual turkey conference, where we discussed sustainable feeding, price increases and the importance of the health of our birds. It’s important to liaise with other local farmers – we are all in this together when it comes to feeding and looking after the community.
What’s going on in the UK?
Farmers across the UK have been lifting potatoes and onions, but potatoes have had a difficult year – wet weather has made the harvest late, and a dry June has hampered growth so while prices have soared, yields have dropped. An acre of spuds can yield up to 40 tonnes, but this year it has been more like seven-ten. My old college friends from East Anglia have been harvesting 150 acres of onions and working seven days while the weather holds. Farming works to the weather, not the time. From a national view, there are challenges and changes ahead, which I’ll discuss further in future columns.
What’s going on globally?
As many of you know, I am a strong supporter of Ukraine and its fight against its invasion by Russia, which I think may have removed me from a few Christmas cards this year. Despite the challenging times, the impact of the conflict on the country’s agricultural sector cannot be overlooked, from disrupted supply chains to loss of farmland. At the farm shop, we have a constant fundraiser for Ukraine, so please donate if you can when you come and see us.
Across the globe, India is suffering from a tomato shortage – yes, seriously! This may affect Indian politics, as elections loom and politicians are keen to be seen to help these tomato farmers. Imagine the humble tomato, altering Indian politics! Burger King and McDonald’s have had to update their websites to explain why some of their fast-food outlets don’t have tomatoes in their meals. Watch this space!