Steeple Bumpstead
Agricultural Discussion Society

Established 1929

Well! What a surprise! Someone has read my reports and they even missed them when they did not appear. I am very flattered and I felt I should acknowledge the compliment by returning to the keyboard. Farming is a cyclical business in many ways. We till the soil, sow the seed, nurture the crop with fertilizers and pesticides, and we harvest it before it all starts over again. Our financial fortunes also have a cycle of good times and bad times. This is a very irregular and unpredictable cycle like the heart monitor of a patient in intensive care. Most farmers must be born optimists because we plod on even though we have no idea how long it will be before profitability improves from it’s current, abysmal level. The programme for our society is similarly cyclical with the subjects that we cover – finance, environment, agronomy, machinery and general interest.

Each year the speakers are different but the subject are broadly similar and it is the speaker who adds his angle to the story. The earth shattering or innovative ideas come only occasionally. It is for this reason that I felt I had not got much to offer your magazine. Especially as I have to treat the subjects in a ‘broad brush’ way for a non-farming audience.

I hope I do not sound as if I am bored by it all because I have been very impressed by our speakers this year. In January when Mike May was telling us about the ‘state of play’ on GM crops we had one of those rare insights into an innovation that was to appear on the front page of the national press a fortnight later about their work with GM sugar beet and how it is possible to let more weeds grow to maturity between the rows of beet confident in the knowledge that they can be taken out with Round-up after they have provided an improved environment for farmland birds but before they cause yield loss in the crop. Of course this does not mean that GM crops are the answer to an environmentalist’s prayers, but it does show that they are a tool, and like all tools, if used well, they can benefit us all.

A member of the audience also brought up the national press when we had Gary Markham telling us about the financial pitfalls that should be avoided when restructuring or diversifying a farm business. The article in a Sunday paper told about a farmer’s wife who had diversified by joining the oldest profession (yes the one that is even older than farming) and was earning £120 per hour. This caused great amusement and discussion about the earning potential of our wives and whether we would have to pay tax on the money.As you may have guessed our members are a very good-natured bunch and we do not take things too seriously.

Hopefully the cycle is still cycling and it has not flat-lined like the heart monitor .

Stephen Graves (Secretary)

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