Tuesday, 4 February 2014

2014 International Year of Family Farming

We have risen to a morning without rain! Admittedly it rained heavily during the night but at the moment I am looking out onto glimmering watery sunshine and palely washed blue skies & the birds are singing...if you can call the eternal squabbling of hedge-sparrows singing but it is a cheerful sound accompanying the trills of blackbirds.

2014 has been designated the International Year of Family Farming by the United Nations. We only learned this when we recived the latest issue of The Land magazine (www.thelandmagazine.org.uk), it is not something that has been heralded in the mainstream farming press as far as I am aware.
According to UN figures there are an estimated 500 million family farms in the developed & developing world.These farms feed 'billions of people' and are being recognised by the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation as 'leading figures in responding to the double urgency the world faces today: improving food security and preserving the natural resources.'
In Britain events to celebrate the International Year of Family Farming are being organised by The Landworkers Alliance and the Family Farmers Association, www.familyfarmingcampaign.net

Here on our very own family farm work on the new dairy continues apace with the floor screed laid yesterday& there is much discussion on positioning of doors and windows. The window placement is particularly critical as we don't want direct sunlight coming in warming the room up, after all by definition dairies are cool dim places.
Here in the farmhouse I have what was the original dairy from the days of hand-milking by dairy-maids and the vast slate slabs where the bowls of milk were set to cool are still in place. The room has two windows which are not glazed but filled with a zinc mesh to allow cold air to flow in. I now use it as a larder and in very cold weather I turn off the fridge as there is no need for it.
The dairy also had some enormous slate salting troughs for curing hams etc. They are beautifully made, carved out of a dark blue slate but they are now used outside as plant troughs.

Despite the weather the cows are milking well and the are very content in their winter housing. They are being fed fodder-beet as well as silage and the milk is noticably richer and with a good flavour. The Farmer & Sons spend the first half of every morning feeding all the stock and cleaning passages with the tractor mounted scraper & then putting out clean straw for bedding. As I write I can hear the constant hum of the tractors in the far sheds with a backing chorus of the calves waiting for their breakfasts.
The milk price at the present time is very good and so we are making the most of it. The market price fluctuates so much that when demand is high & the price is good we all rejoice. I think at the moment we are getting about 40 pence per litre and as a result we are receiving some our biggest milk cheques ever but we know this won't last hence the investment in the new dairy while we can afford it.

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