Midland Farming

“Midland Farming” is rising four years old, and people sometimes ask me: “Aren’t you afraid of running out of ideas?”

Leslie Thomas… an expert who provides a townsman’s guide to the countryside.

But how can you run out of ideas in farming? The variety is endless. Talk to a hundred farmers, even in these days of rapid technical advance, and you’ll find a hundred ideas on how to run a farm; how grass should be managed; or how machines and men should be used in silage or roots.

Take my favourite story: farmhouse cheese, a wonderfully fertile system of farming, a cycle of fertility (“the nitrogen cycle” today’s young farmer might call it) that goes like this: the grass feeds the cow that gives the milk that makes the cheese that leaves the whey that feeds the pigs that leave the muck to feed the grass that feeds the cow…

Break that down into programmes for farmers, beginning with the underworld under the grass (do you know there are about 30 cwt of earthworms to an acre of land in good heart?) then to the ways of management for grass (could you name a dozen kinds?) and the mixtures and the manuring a man may use, and all grazing, silage or hay.

As to the cows—the breeds and their breeding, feeding and housing and management; and the pigs — and “their” breeds (could you name a dozen?) and the ways of housing and feeding them — the systems, and combinations of systems, which stock with which crops, machines and men and soils—the permutations are as endless as they are in a football pool, and often as big a gamble.

Farming, in other words, is a living world, very human, very animal, never at rest changing and developing from farm to farm and farmer to farmer.

Because of this, because it is about real people doing real jobs of importance to us all, and because, I believe, of the professional but relaxed direction of Reg Watson, “Midland Farming” seems to have carved its own little niche in television in the Midlands.

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