What a difference a few days of sunshine can make. In the east, October was the second dullest of all time, and one of the rainiest too. But November has dawned, skies are blue and the fields are fit.
It is a reminder that even in our darkest days we should always harbour hope and things can turn for the better surprisingly quickly.
November also brings a second lockdown. We are lucky we continue largely as normal, with plenty of space and fresh air. Spare a thought for those cramped in to tiny city flats.
We should count even more blessings. There is a lot of negativity in farming and has been for ages. It is particularly noticeable at the moment, understandably, and maybe nowhere more than in sugar beet. This autumn has seen some truly awful yields due to virus, weather and disease, and we face an uncertain future.
Many beet farmers are now questioning long held habits about their rotations and looking hard at alternative ways of working and other crops. It is with such tentative, small steps the long journey ahead for UK agriculture will begin. Let’s be in no doubt that change is happening, or that farmers have to change too. Let’s embrace that change.
Farming has been ‘done to’ for so long, we have forgotten how to get up and go. We can’t change the weather, but we can change our game plan. We can’t control crop prices, but we can control what we sell, and how, when, who to and who with. We sit at the bottom of the food chain, but together we can be a bedrock from which to build a better one.
Across the world, farmers are some of the most resourceful, resilient people around. They are problem-solvers, improvisers, innovators. We UK farmers, insulated for 45 years, may have had those instincts dulled, but it is in our bones.
What we are bad at is working together; many a farm is an empire entire to itself. This is no strength. The biggest single predictable factor affecting performance is not soil type, region, variety or inputs but ’farm factor’ – that means you.
It means how you think and what you do. The best place to improve that could well be in your neighbours field. We aren’t in competition.
If you are from a farming family, your grandads and theirs’ farmed in an age when UK agriculture cultivated its own luck; let’s rediscover that knack.
If you are new to farming, or want to be – welcome and bravo. We need new blood, new ideas, open minds and energy. We need you and I guarantee there will never have been a better time to get Britain farming again.