You won’t often hear a farmer bragging about how well he’s doing. Farming is the oldest profession and no other group of individuals is more aware that the light at the end of the tunnel is probably an oncoming train; weather too wet, dry, hot or cold, plagues of black grass or black fly, BSE, foot and mouth, bird flu, salmonella – you name it they’ve dealt with it. So when a farmer has a good year all it means is that they have a bit of a cushion against the terrible events that will inevitably befall them in a few months. In other words, a farmer does not count his chickens before they are hatched!
Queuing up behind a farmer in our local chip shop the other night the old boy was coppering up to buy his cod. The fryer commented, ‘What’s up..yields down?’, a common refrain in rural communities. This same farmer probably owns several hundred acres and a few hundred thousand pounds worth of plant and equipment.
As if to demonstrate their abject poverty, clothes will be woolly jumpers full of holes and ancient, muddy boots with steel toe caps. Vehicles (other than for farming) will be tiny, old hatch backs, barely road worthy. Holidays will not be taken. Dining out will be a Sunday roast at the local and a pint at most. Dogs will be small, scruffy and purposeful; built for catching vermin.
I like this approach. It was never brought in to sharper focus than when we were property hunting in rural North Yorkshire a few years back. We were shown around one farm by its typically phlegmatic owner. This guy must have had had considerable wealth in term of assets (although no central heating?) but gave nothing away. Driving back to our then home in West Yorkshire we stopped at a local pub frequented by builders and property developers. The car park was wall to wall white Range Rovers and as the lager flowed the bragging started regarding annual turnover and so on. This was during the property boom when mortgages were two a penny. A farmer could have told them that disaster was just around the corner in some form or another and sure enough the global financial meltdown of 2007/8 will have wiped many of those hopeful young men out.
The only things that farmers do have bragging rights on are their tractors. 65 of them passed the end of our lane last weekend on the annual Wold Newton vintage tractor run…here’s one of them.