In a whirlwind we had been contacted by Radio 4’s Farming today, we had shared information over email, followed by a phone conversation which had lead to this Saturday morning in November a visit from a broadcaster to our new community farm in Hertfordshire to interview us!
The premise of the programme is that many people would like to escape the city to live the dream and own a farm in the countryside but only a small percentage of people actually manage to fulfil this dream. They had found two families who had succeeded, one who had sold a house in Fulham for a lot of money and bought an established farm on 200 acres of land in Oxfordshire and the other…us. We are at the other end of the spectrum, having scraped together enough to buy 20 acres of agricultural land as close to our families as possible and with a lot of financial and practical help from them too!
Over the space of one week, we had gradually managed to prepare for this with snatched conversations, call outs to our family and friends to help and announcements to the volunteer community on the farm. We thought these people who have all shared in our lows would definitely want to share this excitement!
My sister offered to come and babysit the kids in the caravan despite lockdown. Volunteers came to help tidy up and show face and Myself and Jon sat down to go through the history of the last 8 years since we met each other, started a family, decided to buy land and actually built a farm here from scratch.
Change is needed
We were determined to be positive and show people that this was possible for them too. I believe that if you have the urge to steward some field or forest, to grow food or raise livestock then you should do it! The planet needs these people to love and tickle the earth. We need the changemakers, the greenies, the environmentalists, the activists, the animals lovers, the foodies, the people desperate to stop sitting at a desk, the peacemakers and the nurturers to look after this land.
The average age of farmers is 60. It’s almost impossible to get access to land if you don’t come from a farming family and its widely recognised as the most stressful career you can have with the highest suicide rate. Something needs to change!
The interviewer came in a fetching tweed. He was very professional and perky and really put us at ease. We spoke mostly in the polytunnel because it was a windy day. It was quite disconcerting when he would turn the recording on and the furry twin mic head was in my personal space and he was using his broadcasting voice asking us a question. Sometimes, I got tongue tied, but mostly I had a lot to say. I was surprised how fluent I could be about the topics..but hey what do people love more than talking about themselves and their passions?
He was complimentary about Jon’s carpentry and as he was wrapping up after an hour he said that he found time passing so quickly and commended us for taking the plunge at our young age of 34 and 33 instead of waiting till our situation was ‘perfect’. This was nice to hear as describing some of the challenges we have had since buying the land does leave us feeling quite vulnerable and there is always the critical internal voice saying we should have been better prepared, waited longer, worked harder, handled things differently…etc.
After the visit there was a proud glow and a boost of energy to help us through winter’s cold mornings, planning and fundraising work.
Notes post Listening
When Jon was listing the enterprises we have here, there was a pause at the end before he remembered the Market Garden…where we were stood doing the interview! (in the polytunnel) The interviewer cut it out.
Our residence is still in London. We are never there because of our essential need to be on site for care of animals and to manage the complex nature of the 7 symbiotic enterprises on the Farm. I am very glad to be here most of the time working and feeling part of the community here in Colliers End, East Hertfordshire.
There was disappointment on Christmas morning when I first heard the interview on Radio 4. He cut out everything about my family, the community, volunteers, mentors and helpful organisations whom we wouldn’t be here without. it sounded like we were just doing it alone! After a few listens though, I started to see that he had to chose an angle and the one he chose was that the urbanites didn’t regret their choices despite the difficulties.
Also, when he asks for our tips to people considering making the jump, I would have said…’just do it! if you want to, just do it. Decide and then things will flow to you’.
Link to crowdfunder
Land workers alliance advocate for small farmers and forester
Ecological land cooperative put farmers on small plots.
CSA network https://communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk/
Pasture for life https://www.pastureforlife.org/