Search:  options
Farming lives, past and present

Farmers  Workshop  Photo-diaries   About   Contact

You are here:
Home > Farmers > Interview Charles Peers

Interview with Charles Peers, farmer




Interview date: 5 June 2002

Interview location: Views Farm, Great Milton, Oxfordshire. OX44 7NW.

Interviewee: Charles Peers

Interviewer: Andrew Wood

Transcript key: AW: Andrew Wood; CP: Charles Peers




5.0.           AW: Okay, it’s, err, Wednesday 5th June, I’m at Views Farm interviewing Charles Peers, err, hear Little Milton


5.1.           CP: Yeah, well it’s between Little Milton and Great Milton


5.2.           AW: Yeah, if


5.3.           CP: The postal address is Great Milton


5.4.           AW: If I asked you to introduce yourself, how do you think you’d do that


5.5.           CP: How would I do it, I would say, I was Charles Peers, err, and I’ve been a farmer at Views Farm, Great Milton, Oxfordshire since 1974, but farmed all my life, mainly arable, umm, and in 1988 we started to diversify, realising at that time, there wasn’t um, sufficient income from a, a farm of this size, without doing something else, is that the sort, is that how you want me


5.6.           AW: Yeah, yeah, that’s fine


5.7.           CP: to, to introduce myself


5.8.           AW: If you think of yourself as a farmer then, then, err


5.9.           CP: But I do think of myself as a farmer, because, cause, primarily, err, that’s what I do, but umm, in, we, we’ve had a difficult time, because, because, err, the, the, the, the, the, land or the estate I inherited, which in fact of course I got for nothing, from my father, is an old family estate, my family came to Oxfordshire in the 1700’s, having made, made their fortune in the East India Company and so on, and, but by the time father got, came to it, he was the first one in the family actually to farm it, and my grandfather in fact was the first one in, in, in the family for a hundred years to actually earn a living, and, my forbears where, umm, members of the cloth, and they err, survived, well not survived but, they, they err, thought it was their duty to build churches and schools for all the villages, and so as I say, by the time my grandfather inherited, the estate had diminished to, I think it was a seven hundred acres, my father actually took over, but, substantial debts, err, and it was a very wet farm, father spent his life time err, draining it, and getting it so that, it would crop sensibly, which it did, but that left a tre, tremendous hole in, in the family finances, and by Sept. 1974, in fact, I suppose I, I took too much of a reaction, but it seemed to me that, the, the answer was actually to find a slightly smaller farm, which this was, err, and a very good farm, and umm, sort of try and do away with some of the debt, which is what we did, err, and in fact, we out very well and bought this very well, and so we did very, very, very well out of it, however as things progressed, and I always been a, umm, a restless sort of a person, I wanted to always do a bit more, or do a bit better, err, and by 1980, sorry, by 1988, things are getting to caught up with us, and umm, I had to look very seriously, that, that, at everything that we, we owned and capitalise on all, all our assets, and we had a range of farm buildings that really weren’t proving their worth, we got a farm yard that was, by modern standards, too small and too poky and we couldn’t get, we had difficulty in, in getting, large equipment and large vehicles in and out, access was bad, concrete yard was breaking up, and I was faced with, with, what the hell do we do, we can’t afford to do this, we can’t afford to do that, we can’t afford to do that, we’ve got no money, or very soon we won’t, if we do, do it all, and we had this range of farm buildings which really weren’t doing anything and they were more adaptable to, to some, something else, and we thought, that, that, we, you know, we, we began to look  at the assets we  had, to try and make them, earn, earn us a living, and so, we, we after a lot of, thought and, and, and so on, over a two or three years, in 1988 we actually built, we converted this range of farm buildings into an office for the local NFU, and six holiday cottages, and started the process of actually demolishing the existing  farm yard and moving it to the opposite side of the road and rebuilding, doing as much we could ourselves, and that stood us in very good stead for about ten years and then, as everybody knows in the last two or three years, things have gone down hill, very badly as far profitability in farming is concerned, and we weren’t, on, on, a farm of this size, we weren’t in a situation as it were, to whether the storm, err, and we had to make decisions as to, what the devil we were going to do, and always wanted to redevelop some more farm buildings, and completely move the farming operation to the opposite side of the road, and complete my sort of plan, and, we got consultants in and we talked about it, and obviously the, the development of three offices which we did last year, was, was, the, the right thing to do, but we couldn’t see anyway of doing it, and continuing farming, with farming profitability on a four hundred acre farm like this is, not really being able to sustain a family, and, and in fact it has to sustain two families cause I farm in partnership with my son, or, running the farm in partnership with my farm, my son, so, the decision was made, to rent the farm out so we had a regular income from the farm or to contract it out, and do this conversion which we did, umm, and from the 1st April last year that’s what we did and, and I retired, as it were, but in the mean time, I had umm, I’ve done various, various sort of committee work, but nothing err, really other than, I men, I was a District Councillor for a time, err, I was chairman of the Governors at Peers school for a long time, am now still on the Governors, so I’ve always had an interest outside the farm and about ten years ago, no, more than that twelve, twelve years ago I was elect, elected onto the board of Organic Farmers and Growers, which is an organic sector body similar to the soil association, so everybody understands what they are, we certify farmers, and processors, err, and, and, make sure they, they abide by the rules, err, and give them certificate, and umm, anyway, I’ve moved up the ladder in that and now, being available as it were, as a retired person, I’m now chairman for which I get quite a substantial income, which also helps, so I think that brings us ups to date as to, thumbnail sketch, what I do, why I do it and err, who I am


5.10.       AW: So, your, your family is a, you come from a farming family did you


5.11.       CP: No, no, no, I mean my father was a farmer, but he was the first one in the family to farm, land owners, yes


5.12.       AW: Right, and was that land err, err, in Oxfordshire


5.13.       CP: Oh yes, yes, just down the road, Little Hampton, just the other side of Stadhampton, it’s, you could see it from here, only four miles away, we haven’t moved very far

5.14.       AW: So


5.15.       CP: No, I couldn’t move out of Oxfordshire that would be, that would be heresy


5.16.       AW: Did, did you learn farming from your father, or did you attend agricultural college or


5.17.       CP: I went to, obviously I learnt from my father, umm, but no, I went to, I went to, what was then a County Institute in Northamptonshire, it’s now, now a college, but it was a years course, well nine month course, a practical course, because I was never, not an intellectual, I’m not, I’m not umm, umm, that well educated so I wouldn’t have gin, gone to, I didn’t have qualifications to go to university put it that way


5.18.       AW: I think that you mentioned to me umm, earlier that err, you went into farming after national service, so would that be immediately after the national service you went to agricultural college


5.19.       CP: yes it was, I did, I did two, actually I did go into national service until I was seventeen so I had, I had a year, I had eighteen months I think it was working on a, on a farm, as a lad, you know, learning the, learning how to work, the work, work ethic, then I had two years, and then I went to, yes, I went to agricultural college after that, that’s right


5.20.       AW: Was, was that eighteen months err, with your father, or


5.21.       CP: No, no, no, no, no, I was away, I worked on a farm in Devon, err, sorry and then ended up, just, no, wait a minute, I’m wrong, I’m wrong, I went to, I went to umm, worked quite a long time, before I came home, on a farm at Burford, and that was after national service, that was between national service and going to college, and after college until I came home in, in err, ’63, so that fills in that little gap, in time


5.22.       AW: What was it like at agricultural college


5.23.       CP: Brilliant


5.24.       AW: Did, did you, umm, was that something


5.25.       CP: Best year of my life


5.26.       AW: Was it


5.27.       CP: yeah, yeah


5.28.       AW: Was that, were you at home at that stage, or had you moved


5.29.       CP: No, no, no, no, I was in effect, working on the farm at Burford, and I went, went from Burford to agricultural college, or agricultural college and back to Burford, until father decided he wanted me home


5.30.       AW: What, what did you like about the agricultural college


5.31.       CP: Well, just, just college life that’s all, I mean we learnt a lot, we got, got stuck in, and it was a, it was a college with a farm and we worked on the farm, as well as in the classroom and that sort of thing


5.32.       AW: Did you, did you learn a lot there


5.33.       CP: Oh yeah, oh yeah, well it, it confirmed a lot of things in my mind and actually wrote, wrote things down, I think that’s really what, umm, what that did and I learnt how to, you know, err, what, learnt how to write things down, and err take notes and that sort of thing, no that’s important, it doesn’t sound much but it is important


5.34.       AW: Did you learn a lot of new things there, I mean, err


5.35.       CP: Once I learnt a lot of new things because there weren’t a lot of new things about in those days don’t forgot, you know, things were just beginning to take off in the modernisation and that sort of thing


5.36.       AW: Say, say something about the farm at Burford, what was err, was it a mixed farm


5.37.       CP: It was dairy and arable yes, umm, quite a fair size dairy farm, I didn’t actually work on the cows, I mean obviously I helped out, but umm, err, you know, I did practical work mainly, but it was, it was, just a simple, arable, and dairy farm, and a few beef cattle, sorry, the annals of time one forgets, there was a beef unit, which I ran, that’s right, barley beef, one of the first barley beef units, yes, I looked after that, umm, it was, I think it was about seven hundred acres, and there two people in the dairy and three of us on the land, in those days


5.38.       AW: So you were doing mostly the arable work on the farm there, were you


5.39.       CP: Yes, yes I was, and the arable, I mean there were arable aspects that, that, that were actually like we used to, we used to grow kale and graze it and so that, in those days, we used to have to hoe it, umm, and so that was, that was for the cows, but we, we still did it, did the hoeing and did the planting, so it was arable work but it was for the cows, if you see what I mean,


5.40.       AW: And you’d be doing the ploughing umm


5.41.       CP: Yup, ploughing, cultivating, everything, drilling, bailing, harvesting, everything, yeah


5.42.       AW: And if you think about the equipment that you used then, is it very different to what, what


5.43.       CP: Oh yeah


5.44.       AW: What they do now


5.45.       CP: Well, a lot of similarities, umm, we’ve, just, just got bigger machinery now, err, we had a combine, we’ve got a bigger combine now, we had a bailer, well it’s a bigger bailer, we had tractors, they have bigger tractors, we had ploughs and they’re bigger ploughs, principles are the same, basically, err, everything’s more sophisticated, umm, were-as in those days, if anything went wrong you got a spanner out and you put it right, now it’s so bloody complicated you don’t know, whether the spanner, the spanner would fit let alone whether it would do any good if you did anything with it you know, that’s the trouble


5.46.       AW: So do you think that in those days they had things like agronomists


5.47.       CP: No, no, they didn’t start for another ten years after that


5.48.       AW: And the dairying, at that time was it tankers or churns, or


5.49.       CP: Churns, definitely churns because I can remember that vividly, because, that was during the bad winter of ’63 and I was there, and our farm yard was like a sheet of glass for three months and I had to take the milk to the dairy in the churns in the back of a  Land Rover for three months, cause we couldn’t get the milk lorry in, without the churns, and we used to, [inaudible] I don’t know ,that it was thirty, no, [inaubile] how many churns were, trying to think how many churns, probably be, nine or ten, something like that, and they were ten gallons each, so that was a thousand gallons a day we were taking up, it was quite a big dairy


5.50.       AW: A thousand, about a thousand gallons


5.51.       CP: Something like that I should say, I mean really can’t remember, I really can’t remember, I can’t remember how many cows he had


5.52.       AW: And the churns, how much would the churns hold


5.53.       CP: Ten gallons


5.54.       AW: Ten gallons


5.55.       CP: Yeah


5.56.       AW: So err that’s a hundred


5.57.       CP: That’s ten churns, no, sorry, hundred gallons, not ten, hundred gallons


5.58.       AW: Hundred churns, is that a hundred churns


5.59.       CP: A thousand gallons would be ten, err


5.60.       AW: Hundred churns


5.61.       CP: A hundred churns, we took ten churns


5.62.       AW: Oh right


5.63.       CP: Sorry, I got it, got one, see can’t remember everything


5.64.       AW: [laughs] And in terms of those err, the, the err, the dairy, umm, would they feed on silage or, anything else


5.65.       CP: Yeah, they feed on silage, um, we used to, yes, we had one of the first, well it was harvested with a, flail forage harvester, direct cut, straight, rolling straight into the trailer and then I think we had two forage harvesters, little ones, and they used to stay coupled up, and they’ve been [inaudible due to dog baking]whole, whole training on top of that one and go back and get another, yup


5.66.       AW: Did you say it was one of the first silage


5.67.       CP: I don’t think there was many, much silage done in that way in those days, cause when I first started , the farm in Devon, we used to cut it with [inaudible] and buck rack it, sweep it up with a buck rack and put it in a clamp, and that was the long, in the long, and that all had to be shaken out, and that was the first job I ever did, on that farm, [inaudible] when I first started work, at sixteen or less, shaking this bloody grass out, cor that was a job, cause they used to roll up quite tight underneath at times, and, and that all had to be shaken out, otherwise you had an air pocket and a, all had to be laid out


5.68.       AW: So that would be like bags would they


5.69.       CP: No,no, just loose, just loose, no bag, cor, they didn’t come along until much later, no, it was all loose and it had to laid out in, we had clamps, and it had to be laid out properly so that it, you could press it down, get the air out and


5.70.       AW: Have the clamps changed


5.71.       CP: No, not really, no, I mean they’ve got bigger, they’ve got more sophisticated sides, what used to happen was that, they had these sort of wooden sides and struts and they used to sort of, do that, with the weight on the top, they, they’d do that when you get in the bottom and they weren’t safe and you know it just depends on what particular farm, some, some, some people dug them into a bank, just depends on the, on the, on the terrain really, but on the, the concept has not changed much, I mean they did have things like, vacuum silage and so on, where you’d, you’d put it in a clamp with plastic all the way round and then suck all the air out when you finished but, that went out of fashion because it didn’t work


5.72.       AW: And in terms of the arable, umm, was that wheat or barley or


5.73.       CP: Yeah, wheat, barley and oats, yup, yeah, more, of that sort of thing than, than, than the diversification of crops that we’ve got now, I mean, didn’t often grow beans, few beans, I used to grow beans when I first went to London in ’64, ’65, but there were a very few of us growing beans in those days


5.74.       AW: Sounds like the crops, the dairy were rotated err, over successive years


5.75.       CP: That’s right, I mean the thing is, with, with that farm, err, it had a fairly, for it’s time, a fairly substantial dairy herd, it also had some sheep, I’m sorry, I forgot about that, and I used to work a fair bit with the sheep, and so you had, you had enough stock to keep the fertility going, that’s what’s the [inaudible] swaps said, the fertilisers and so on


5.76.       AW: And err, at that time would they being used hybridised seeds or


5.77.       CP: Hybridised seeds were just coming in then, yeah, yup, yeah


5.78.       AW: So it, it sounds quite, at the time, quite a modern farm, they started to use silage, they were using hybridised seed


5.79.       CP: Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh we were always up to, fairly up, all the farms I worked on were like that, yeah, oh definitely


5.80.       AW: When you were at agricultural college did you specialise in err livestock or arable or


5.81.       CP: General agriculture, there wasn’t, wasn’t any specialisation, in those days, well not, there wasn’t an option, in, it was just all straight course in agriculture


5.82.       [mobile phone rings and vibrates on table, CP answers the phone]


5.83.       CP: hello


5.84.       [recording paused]


5.85.       CP: Don’t say it hasn’t it hasn’t been working [recorder] all this time


5.86.       AW: No it has been working, yeah, it’s just been very quiet, sometime, it has a motor but it doesn’t always start the motor that’s how it saves it’s battery and it lasts so long, but it’s dam confusing I can tell you


5.87.       CP: Yeah


5.88.       AW: So when, when you started, umm, when you left agricultural college, then umm, what was the work that you started then, was it a continuation of the arable work, that you’d been doing


5.89.       CP: Yes, it was just the same, I took up my same position, virtually, and I gradually worked into a managerial position, in fact the chap I was working for, this was a Burford you see, had, had, sort of offered me a managerial job, umm, and at the same time, father had said, look I think you’d better come home because I can’t, can’t cope, he’d had something wrong with him or something, so


5.90.       AW: Was that a family farm, would you describe that farm at Burford as a family farm


5.91.       CP: No, not, well, how do you, no, not really, no, it was a chap who had some money, I mean he was a farmer, umm, but he’d got some property elsewhere, and he’d, he’d he’s one of the first of that sort of people, but he ran and efficient farm, you no, no messing about, it was a proper farm, but no it wasn’t a family farm, he’s bought it, and I think, fairly soon after I left he sold it actually, I’m not sure, I say fairly soon after, within, within ten to fifteen years he’s sold it


5.92.       AW: If you were to think about that farm now and err, just speculate off the top of your head, how you might run it today


5.93.       CP: Yup


5.94.       AW: What do you think you would change about it


5.95.       CP: Well, I don’t think that, that, that the thin Cotswold Brash is the place to have a dairy farm, dairy herd for a start, err, I think it was ideally suited to, to, to arable cropping, err, and I think it wanted, I think it needed a more, you, you know, with modern techniques and, and, and rotational, farming, you know, legumes and that sort of thing, err, I think that what it, I mean it was good for sheep but I think it’s a sheep and beef, err, and a arable farm, but not a dairy farm


5.96.       AW: Is that because the herd size would be too small


5.97.       CP: Yes, I think, I think you see that, that, that margins are such that, that, wasn’t very good enough grass there, you wouldn’t get the production out of the grass, that, that, you’d get even here, and this isn’t very good here, umm, the land was too thin and that, you know, just, not, not sustainable, whereas with sheep, umm, because of the way they graze and so on, it would umm, it would have been more suitable


5.98.       AW: When you say it’s too thin, what do you mean it’s too thin


5.99.       CP: Well, the, the, the, there’s not enough, har har, not enough strength in the ground, I mean the ground is not, umm, you need, you need, umm, well you need strong land to grow decent grass and, and, and wet, you see the Cotswolds aren’t, alright, they get more rain than we do here, funnily enough, but you, you need, you need a moist climate to grow good grass and you need, there’s a lot of stone in it, and, and so, you, grass is a plant that’s got lots of little roots and of course the, the plant grows off the roots and if there’s a stone in the way, there’s nothing for it to grow off, because arable, is, is, is an annual plant and it grows every year, it doesn’t need, doesn’t need so much water, and water is what’s deficient on the Cotswold, it’s alright in the valleys, but this land was, was all up in the hill


5.100.  AW: Burford’s not far away, what about


5.101.  CP: No, twenty mile, no thirty miles, twenty, thirty miles, yeah


5.102.  AW: But it’s quite a different landscape to, to what you have here


5.103.  CP: Totally, totally, yeah, yeah


5.104.  AW: Were there any, umm, contractors working on that farm at the time at Burford


5.105.  CP: Yup, we used, we used to get a contractor in to come and do the threshing, and


5.106.  AW: They had a specialist machine did they


5.107.  CP: Yes they had specialist, what did he come and do, what else did he come and do, spread the muck, I think, I’m sure he did, we used to take it down and tip it in the hay, I think he used to spread it, I think, think, think


5.108.  AW: So when you said he’d come to do the threshing, do you mean he would err, have like a combine harvester, or

5.109.  CP: No, no, no, he had a, he had a, I just remember him coming with a thresher, we must have, we must have had a binder, we must have had a binder, so it’s threshing corn, no it wasn’t a combine, because we had our own combine I know, we used to have two little trailed combines, that went behind the tractor and I used to drive one and the other guy would drive another, but I’m sure he came in, with a, with a, with a umm, with a thresher, no he had a big wirer tying stationary bailer


5.110.  AW: Have you been back to that farm since, do you know, do you know


5.111.  CP: I’ve driven past it once or twice, that’s all, don’t know anything, what’s going on there at all, no, but I think it’s much the same, I don’t think there’s a dairy herd there anymore, sure there isn’t


5.112.  AW: So then you came back to err, this farm here


5.113.  CP: No, I came back to err our family farm which is Littlehampton, which is, about four miles from here


5.114.  AW: So, was this actually part of the land or something separately that


5.115.  CP: What this place


5.116.  AW: Yes


5.117.  CP: No, no, no, I bought, I sold Littlehampton and bought this place


5.118.  AW: Oh, okay


5.119.  CP: In, in ’74, and this is a hundred acres smaller than that, and that was five hundred acres, this is four hundred, and a difficult farm and this was a nice farm and it was, so, it realised some of, some of the borrowing you see


5.120.  AW: You didn’t consider selling off a portion of the, the farm and staying


5.121.  CP: We did, we did, but we, we fancied the idea of this, we, we liked the look of this farm, and it in, and it, and it, it, it offered everything that, that, that we wanted, we did, we did start talking about, splitting the farm, but we needed, we needed to keep our income stream up, and we thought we’d be able to do it by this farm, err, which we did, and selling that one, and so that’s what we did, but we did look at all the options, but just at the time, this farm came on the market, we thought we’ll that’s the answer, it’s a good farm, [door bell rings] that’s my man, it’s a good farm, it solves all the problem, well it’s not all the problem, but it, it goes a long way to, to, to doing what we’re going to do


5.122.  AW: Okay


5.123.  CP: Alright


5.124.  AW: Yup, let’s stop there


5.125.  CP: We’ll have a coffee and


5.126.  [Recording paused]


5.127.  [Unrecorded; CP asks to hear end of recording to allow continuation of interview]


5.128.  CP: Well you’d, we’d pick up the threads of where we left off that’s all I’m saying



5.129.  AW: Oh, I see, obviously I can’t


5.130.  CP: Well, whatever


5.131.  AW: Unfortunately I don’t have speakers to play it back through, yeah you can buy


5.132.  CP: Yeah


5.133.  AW: Speakers to put on to it, but I don’t have them


5.134.  AW: Okay, so you returned to, err, your family, to the family farm


5.135.  CP: Yes


5.136.  AW: Did you do much farming there, before this, then you moved up here, to this farm


5.137.  CP: Yes, we did eleven years there


5.138.  AW: Right,


5.139.  CP: And I actually took over from my father in 1966, I think he became sixty five, umm, that’s right, so I worked for him, as it were, err, from between, September, not it was July, July that’s right, we got married in the September, July ’63, err until, September ’66 when we formed a partnership, so I farmed in partnership with my father but then father took a complete backseat and did his other work, umm, father I suppose doing like I am doing now, and err, I, I was left to, to run the farm on my own, entirely


5.140.  AW: Did you, did you ask him for that partnership, or


5.141.  CP: No, no, no


5.142.  AW: Is it something, it was something


5.143.  CP: It was something he, we were, we were advised by our then account, that, that was probably the best way to progress the gradual take-over of err, the estate from my father to myself, or the gradual had over, umm, and it was, it was, it was, we, we looked on it as, as the actual best way of, of, of handing, the family asset onto the next generation as it were, and that’s how it was done, through a partnership


5.144.  AW: Was, was err, did you have some kind to celebration when you became a partner in the farm, was it err, was it a big, big thing for you


5.145.  CP: No not really it was just a natural progression, I don’t think we, we might have cracked a bottle of champagne or something, I can’t, honestly can’t remember what we did, well we might have gone out for dinner but, yeah, I don’t thing we did anything particular, no


5.146.  AW: And how did, how did that work in terms of the, the running of the farm, would err


5.147.  CP: Well I mean, it, it, it worked very well, because, father, literally took a back seat, he had nothing more to do with the farm at all, other than my providing somebody to mow his lawn for him, every so often, err, which, which went against the grain, needless to say, umm, but no, it, it worked amicably and very well, and, and, because he’d got other interests, in much the same way as I have now, and umm, he, he, I wouldn’t say he lost interest in the farm, but umm, he did umm, he just, let me get on with it, which is by far the best way, I’m trying to do the same thing with my son now, with the things that he does, of course it’s slightly different now


5.148.  AW: Do you think the other things that your father was doing beside farming, do you think that provided some kind of model that you’ve taken up in, in the future, did you


5.149.  CP: No, I think it’s the sort of think that you do, I mean it’s something in the genes, that makes you do that sort of thing, but umm, I mean, no I didn’t err, I didn’t do it because of my farmer, father, I did it because either I’d been asked to do it, because I have obviously people think that I’ve got some attribute or, err, I actually wanted to do it and it’s worked, umm, I don’t think that, I mean I’ve done, I’ve, I mean, I think I said to you, I was a District Councillor, a bit, I was a Parish Councillor, both at Stadhampton and here, umm, and I found that, that, I was doing all the work, you know, was chairman of Parish Council as Stadhampton and I couldn’t get anybody else to do it, so I left Stadhampton and became Great Milton Parish Councillor, and then within a year I was made Chairman here, umm, which is fine for a short period of time, but running a business you don’t want to be, err, Council Chairman  for that long, because umm, you know you’re always on call, and with a business like farming, you’re on call on your business anyway, so, I, I, that’s the reason that I gave it up, District Council, I, politics came involved so I gave it up, because of that really, I quite enjoyed it, I was, I did, I did three terms, if I remember rightly, I did a term at Bullingdon, which was before, umm, local Government re-organisation in ’74, I did, I did a term of transition while there was a transition from Bullingdon to South Oxfordshire, and then I did a term as full South Oxfordshire, and then I was invited as, as, as a Conservative and I said that I’m not interested in politics and local government, don’t mix, there’s no room for, and this is my feeling and I’m not necessary right, err, but I said in local government there’s no room for politics, and so I will not stand, if, if you’re going to put up a conservative party, err, person, you will be in opposition to me and I’ll stand as an independent and I’ll stand as an independent, and that I did and I lost by one vote, that’s how close it was, but you know, that was it


5.150.  AW: When you


5.151.  CP: rather than having somebody telling me what to do


5.152.  AW: Going back to the farming and when you, umm, you took over, did you say you had four years before you formed the partnership


5.153.  CP: Yup, yeah

5.154.  AW: When you formed that partnership


5.155.  CP: Well no it was three years wasn’t it


5.156.  AW: Three


5.157.  CP: ’63 to ’66, yeah


5.158.  AW: Where there many changes that you instigated when you took on the farm


5.159.  CP: No, not really, umm, gradually, yes I did, umm but not immediately, umm, we, the writing was on the wall, we, the farm had got no stock at all, it was purely arable, father had got rid, he used to milk, he used to have beef and I started introducing cattle, after I’d, after we’d formed a partnership, we umm, in a small way, and we’ve gradually built up, we gradually built the cattle up, umm, then we let them go back again, but I mean, I started, I dabbled in stock, both on a sort of vertically integrated business with a retailer and so on, my own bat, we played around, err, we


5.160.  AW: So you


5.161.  CP: We shed staff, umm, got bigger machinery, more modern combines, more modern, tractors, you know, that sort of thing, the usual progression, as we went on, course they introduced sprays, cause you know, err, we didn’t use many sprays in, in the early sixties, but by, by 1970 we’d all got sprayers, bigger sprayers and so on


5.162.  AW: So ’66 when you took on the farm in effect, do you remember what sprays were being used at that time


5.163.  CP: MCPA and 24D, the only ones I can remember, oh and 245T and Denox and umm


5.164.  AW: Those are pesticides aren’t they


5.165.  CP: No


5.166.  AW: Is that right


5.167.  CP: No, Denox


5.168.  AW: 245


5.169.  CP: No, 245T is a brushwood killer, err, Denox what the hell is that, but it’s lethal stuff, horrible stuff, it was yellow and we used to have it put on by contract, terrible stuff, sulphuric acids we used to use, umm


5.170.  AW: So that, were they


5.171.  CP: Copper Sulphate on potatoes of course


5.172.  AW: Were they hazardous to all, to use those


5.173.  CP: Very, very, oh yeah, oh yeah, didn’t realise they were, ‘til it was too late, I suppose I was one of the lucky ones, but yeah, we didn’t, we didn’t have any accidents, but particularly the Denox, I can not, can not remember what Denox stood for, but it was very common, but it was lethal, terrible stuff


5.174.  AW: Do you mean that it was ham full, harmful to people, or what


5.175.  CP: Oh yeah, oh yeah


5.176.  AW: Did people get sick from it


5.177.  CP: Oh I think so, yeah


5.178.  AW: Did


5.179.  CP: That’s why they stopped using it, aldrin of course, as a seed dressing, we were, we used a lot of that, for two or three years, ‘til they discovered how, how dangerous it was, DDT, yes it all comes back


5.180.  AW: So there were actually quite a number of sprays that were being used at


5.181.  CP: Well they were introduced, yeah, there were, there were some, umm, but, it they, they didn’t really start getting used to any great extent until, until later in the ‘60s and then by the time the ‘70s came, the, the bad ones were beginning to be phased out, and by 1980, even 24D, which was a bloody good chemical, was, was, was, was, was, was, um, being pushed off, because, it was, umm, dodgy, I think that had dioxins in it, umm, and MPCA  which, which, we always thought was, was very, very mild was found not to be very good and so that was being phased out, and then there were, there were, de, de, derivations, and we used to put an MCPB, umm, but that’s what the beast is for, but that was one that was MCPA when you had clovers, they’d kill clovers, and then they were gradually mutating them  and we got the safe chemicals that we’ve got now


5.182.  AW: In terms of the arable, arable, etc, I’m not exactly sure when winter wheat was introduced


5.183.  CP: Oh always, always been there


5.184.  AW: Has it


5.185.  CP: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we always grow winter wheat, winter barleys were not that popular err in the ‘60s, err it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s that they became popular but it was, I mean we never, I never grow a crop of winter barley until I came here, that was partly inherited fear from my father, he said, you’d daren’t grow winter barley here, the birds love it, or something like that, which actually was cobblers, we could have done, umm, but that’s just one of those things that, that we did or didn’t do, but umm, winter, I mean winter barley was always growing yes, don’t miss understand me, but it wasn’t grown to any great extent until they started getting the six rows, in, in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, and, and pushed, pushed the profitability up, um, and of course, that’s, that’s some of the problem, that, that, that umm, all the, all the winter cropping is very much more profitable, but like everything else, anything that’s good has a bad spin off, and that’s what’s encouraged the tremendous infestation, I think, of, of black grass, and some of those sort of weeds, wild oats, not, but wild oats were always there, we always had a problem with wild oats, but black grass was almost unheard of in the ‘60s, err, and it’s now a real problem, and that is continuous winter cropping that’s done that, I’m sure of it, because we’ve, you know, in, in the ‘70s, late ‘70s, we started turning over to organic production, and one of the things they insist on, in, our, in, in, in, in, in, umm, organic farming, is, is strict rotations, include, well it doesn’t include, it ought to, but, but because you got, you stick to strict rotations, you tend to grow far more, umm, spring cereals, and, we, we, had, in the fields that we had a problem with black grass, we haven’t now, I’m sure it’s purely because, the spring cropping, yet the parts of the farm that are still conventional, and there’s crops of winter wheat down there, it’s just smothered in black grass, it’s unreal, and I’d actually, we had, had we not stopped farming, we, we, I’d taken the decision that we were going to do far more spring cropping, and try and save the cost, of, of, um, of these expensive black grass, umm, spaced


5.186.  AW: Can you thing of umm, changes that you, err, instigated when you took on that farm, umm, you said about umm, the changes in labour, for example, that err, there was less labour, was that, people, was that them changing from employees to contractors, or was it umm, simply and pure being employed


5.187.  CP: Fewer people, but more efficient machinery, umm, more cost consciousness in what we did, err, and not replacing people when they retired or, or left, we didn’t, we didn’t, we never, we’ve never made anybody redundant, except a year ago when we had to, um, but when people decided they want, I mean we had one sort of key man, that, we, I mean we used to have an estate maintenance man, well he retired, we didn’t replace him, cause we had quite a few houses down there, but, umm, then we had another chap who was soon after I took over, he, funnily enough decided to go on the buildings, so he went, he went building, we didn’t replace him, ahh and, and so on, and, and that’s the way it happened, and, and, because, at the time, the Morris works were expanding, people were going in there, because they were paying good money, we just didn’t replace, we just had, bigger machinery, we didn’t start using contractors until, well I supposed the early ‘70s, we were using a few contractors when we came up here, but then you see we moved into contracting anyway, because we could see that, as, as a way of utilising our bigger machinery, and labour


5.188.  AW: So what sort of contract work would you be doing there


5.189.  CP: Well, we, we, we, we got quite a sort of a, err, umm, because we contracting for about twenty five years in all, err, and we got quite big, and I mean, about half my farming income was, was earned by contracting, or profitability, but we started off, we, we tried to specialise, rather than doing odd bits, we’ll obviously you did the odd bit of ploughing for somebody, a bit of cod really, if they gotton old that sort of thing, but we never set our stall out to do that, we started off by, getting a contract, ohh, with a company, umm, injecting, err, soil for the winter, with aqueous ammonia, which was a form of fertiliser, and that was quite popular, oh, ‘70s, ‘80s, and we did, we did a lot of work, and that enabled us to have a, better machinery and also keep an extra member of staff, because we get our staff down to, you know, if you want to carry a heavy weight, you need two people, if you’ve only got one, then you’re stuffed, and I’ve always maintained that you need, you know, if you want, if you want to send somebody up a ladder, you want somebody to hold it at the bottom, and so if you’ve only got one person you’re stuffed, so we always try to have a staff of two and that enabled us to do that, so we started off with, with, and we probably had about a ten year run with that


5.190.  AW: How did you err decide to buy, or go into that particular aspect of contracting, had you done some research


5.191.  CP: Well yes, we’d done some research and I thought it was the thing to do, it was, was something that, that, we could do in the winter when we weren’t doing anything else, and we were actually approached by a fertiliser company to do it for them on contract, so we had, we had, we had security of employment as it were from this company, err and they did all the work, of, of the actual buying and selling, I mean, we didn’t, all we did was just, they would get the work, and they would just pay us such us so much an acre for doing it, so it was, it was quite a nice, simple, err, system, to, to, to do, you know, they’d, they’d, they did all the, the, the running around and getting the work and that sort of thing, themselves, which of course can be very expensive, so that’s, that’s why we’re into that, and it didn’t need, it was something we could use our, they provided the machinery to do it with you see, all we had to provide was the man and the tractor, so that was quite good, and then they err, that particular company went into, with the same material, and by that time you had to have certificates to handle hazardous chemical and all this sort of clobber, which of course we had, they wanted to move into umm, I thing they’re still doing it, to a certain extent, umm, straw injection, sealed stacks, and it turned, in effect, to the label, it turned straw into hay, or low quality hay, and that was very popular, I suppose it was early ‘80s, we did that, and we ran two lorries, cause the, the soil injection had gone out of popularity,  so moved into that, we bought two lorries, and, and all we had to do was, HGV and we were trained up as far as the safety was concerned, so we did that for, about five years, so that was quite good


5.192.  AW: What would that involve, it involved injecting


5.193.  CP: Farmer would have a stack of a certain size of bales, which he would lay on polyethylene sheet, a special polyethylene sheet, presumably treated so that it doesn’t spread, and then a sheet over the top where they’d roll, seal the two sheets together and we just come along and poke a probe in, a meter long probe in between the bails, and just pour this liquid in, so much at a time, and we’d work out the size of the stack, they had to weight the bails so that we knew roughly what was in there, then we put, some, I forget what it was now, but so much per tonne of this stuff in and we got paid so much a time for doing it, simple, and that worked quite well, but them that, lost popularity and so I gave up, and err, about the same time, we then moved into to, err, some people that I knew quite well, or we’d been involved with them with the soil injection and in the stack injection, the company was selling up, funnily enough around Burford, umm, and they, they were into silage making in a big way, they started off, when maize first started coming in, they got the big machinery and, and pioneered that, and they, hadn’t worked very well, or they, anyway, they, they, they wanted out and so I bought them out, and we went into that, and we were doing that right up to last year, we did sort of three thousand acres of grass silage and about a thousand acres of, maize silage, a year, umm


5.194.  AW: Would you have your own machinery for that


5.195.  CP: We had our own machinery and we had, we were lucky, you know, we, we kept our, err, labour force of two, right the way through, virtually the same people, and, and, and, and, my son, and before my son we had another chap, yeah, so always been three of us, and umm, we’d got, as it were, a bank of part-timers that come in, for that side of it, because we used to make a team up, and umm, that’s how we used to do it, and umm, it worked very well, and we had, yes, we had all our own machinery, very expensive and it was coming up for renewal, and err, I couldn’t see how we were going, and it had tailed off because of the lack of stock now, you know, last two or three years, it’d had begin to tail off, we weren’t doing quite so much, and err, so it all came, about the right time


5.196.  AW: When you moved, umm, from your fathers farm to this farm


5.197.  CP: Yup


5.198.  AW: Then did you see, the opportunity to start again in new crops or livestock, or how did you decide what


5.199.  CP: Well, I mean, this, this, this, this farm needed, a slightly different, farming regime to what we had down there, and different management, and, and, um


5.200.  AW: Is that because of the differences in land


5.201.  CP: Yup, yeah, yeah, this is much easier farm to farm, and we did everything much more quicker, so it, a, it also gave us more ability, a, it was a smaller farm, but b, it meant that we could have lighter equipment than we had down there, or if we had heavier equipment, we’d got, we’d got spare capacity to do work for other people, which is what in fact we did, but umm, yes, I mean, and, and, and, and it’s a much more flexible farm you can do much more with it, we’ve got some meadows that you couldn’t , we can’t plough up, err, yet, down there we got some meadows that, you could but shouldn’t, but we did, and that was a mistake, learnt that one, so we didn’t plough up river meadows that flooded, umm, that, that was all wrong, well I’d stop doing it down there, that’s why I’d entered the, you know, introduced the stock, because, you know, we had to util, utilise the land, umm, somehow and, land that floods is, is, is okay fro grass, so we, we ran cattle down that through the summer


5.202.  AW: That was on your father’s farm


5.203.  CP: Yeah


5.204.  AW: Yup


5.205.  CP: Yeah, so I mean, yes, by the time we moved here, technology of plant breeding had moved on and crops like peas and


5.206.  AW: In what way had it moved on


5.207.  CP: Well pea’s and, they’d, they’d got better varieties of peas and beans, so, you could actually introduce sensible break crops, rape was beginning to come in, in the ‘70s, umm, we didn’t grow much rape, because I didn’t like the stuff, and I could never get on with it, but umm, I’d, I would manage it now, but, but, so we, we, we started to introduce far more break crops and we did down there, umm, more, and more manageable break crops, what we used to do for break crop, at Chiselhampton which we wrong, but there was no other way of doing it, we used to grow grass for seed, that was an awful hassle, and, by the time I came up here, as I say, there were peas and bean, beans crops that, that were now, more viable to grow as a break, as so that’s, that’s the sort of things that we looked at, and of course as I say there was the rape as well, which we tried but didn’t, but not terribly successfully


5.208.  AW: That grass seed, would that be grassing grass or


5.209.  CP: Yeah


5.210.  AW: Yeah


5.211.  CP: Yeah, yeah, but it’s very, very tricky stuff to harvest, wrecked, and dry, got to be very careful with it, but we, we got good technique that worked well, but I would, I  didn’t want to get involved, um, um, had I stayed in farming, we might have done a bit more of it, here, but we didn’t, so there we are


5.212.  AW: And you were keeping livestock, was that beef cattle was it


5.213.  CP: Yeah, yeah, we had suckler cows, well we’d had suckler cows there, when we came up here, I think we done, we’d stop having them, and then we started having them again here, about, did I buy them, probably bought, bought my first suckler cows up here, we used, we used to just fatten cattle, that’s what we used to do, yeah, that’s right, to buy in stalls and fatten cattle, and then, it was about, late ‘80s, that we, we got, we, we were, we bought a herd of, only twenty, only ever had twenty suckler cows to run on the river meadows and various other places, and err, course they’re quite good now, and I’ve still got them


5.214.  AW: SO was your decision of what arable crops to grow based on what you had done or the, the market price or were there other, other factors that err


5.215.  CP: Well, no, this is the problem you see, err, it wasn’t based on anything, it was based on what we’d always done, I suppose you could say that, which was wrong, we, we had, and, and, and our ability to actually, to do, sensibly, umm, you see in the, in the ‘70s, there wasn’t much alternative, you either had grass or you had cereals, and if you had cereals, oats weren’t very popular, barley and wheat you could sell, so that’s all you grow, we always grew a few oats cause I always liked oats and there was always a bit of a market for them, but it was easy and that’s the trap that we all fell into, it’s easy, people would buy what you grew, and then suddenly, suddenly we didn’t want food for our own resources, we wanted cheap food, and that’s what killed it, and we were not prepared for it, and nobody told us it was, got ‘a lookout, or anything like that, and we were just growing and growing, and we were growing more and more, and the cereal mountains for growing, we were blind, and we didn’t get ourselves organised


5.216.  AW: So did subsidies come in while you


5.217.  CP: Oh no, always had subsidies


5.218.  AW: Always had subsidies


5.219.  CP: Always had subsidies, subsidies came in, in ’45 after the war


5.220.  AW: I think they had a, had another name then, efficiency payments


5.221.  CP: Efficiency payments, yeah, instead of subsidies, yeah we used to have a wacking great cheque just at Christmas time, which was very nice, yeah, yeah, efficiency payments, actually weren’t a bad idea, cause they fixed the market price, if you didn’t make that price, that was was you see why, it was easy, that’s why you grow cereals, because you knew, you were going to get, whatever it was, twenty pound a tonne, and if you only made sixteen, the Government would pay you four, well they made eighteen, they paid you two, but you knew you were going to get twenty pound a tonne, and so everybody grow it, and that’s the problem, you get Government tinkering with things, they can do all sorts of things, and, and they just bugger it up for everybody


5.222.  AW: Do you think the subsidies on err, arable, made a difference as to what crops you grew


5.223.  CP: Oh undoubtedly, undoubtedly, oh yeah


5.224.  AW: When you were choosing new crops, for example, did you err


5.225.  CP: But you do now, what’s the subsidy go with that one, see there’s a subsidy on virtually any crop you grow, oil seed, there’s an oil seed subsidy, proteins, there’s a proteins subsidy, because you can’t grow anything, I mean if you were to, if you were to, if you were just to grow things, to sell on the open market and you relied on the open market, it wouldn’t even pay for the seed, that’s the problem, I mean the whole things geared completely, daft, I mean it’s right, I think probably, you know, if, if, I was organising it, I would say, alright, well, you know, that’s twenty pound a tonne or whatever it is, that’s, that’s the base price, that’s what farmers got to get at least that to, to, to make a living and he’s obviously got to make a living to stay in business, and we want the countryside, to be managed, well it’s always been managed, so that the farmer has got to stay, we, we’ve got to retain the farmer, so how do we do it, twenty pound a tonne for wheat, eighteen for barley, or whatever, I mean that’s not correct, it’d have to be a hundred and twenty or whatever, but that, and then, you educated the public to what food really has to cost, and so sometimes the price will be up here, and sometimes the price will be down there, if the price is down here, you obviously have got to make it up somehow, with a deficiency payment, do it that way, while what you do with the extra, you either tax the farmer or whatever, but you, obviously, that’s what’s wrong, they’ve, they’ve, allowed the public to, to umm, think that, that, they, that the public has god given right to have food on the cheap, which is absolute bloody nonsense frankly, there was a thing on the tele only the other night about house prices, no it wasn’t, well it was about house prices, but they comcaring, comparing the price of things, fifty years ago, when the queen came to the throne, and now, and houses have gone up so much, everything has gone up so much, food, price of the pint of milk, fifty years ago, was thirty five p, equivalent, what is it now, thirty five p


5.226.  AW: That’s also the case on grains is it

5.227.  CP: Much the same on grain, no it’s not quite the same, because I remember when I started, which was just after that, umm, first, first, tonne of, of wheat I sold, I sold at harvest time between fifteen and sixteen pound a tonne


5.228.  AW: Was this after you’d taken over the farm


5.229.  CP: Yup, umm, and now, it, I mean it’s been up to about a hundred and twenty, and it’s now down to fifty, well, but the problem, the dairy farmers have had the ability, to cut there costs, they’re, it’s bloody tight at they get now, but cereal farming, you know, with, with the price of machinery that you’ve got to have, and so on, you know, it’s just, fifty pound a tonne is just not on, just not on, I mean they’ll be, farmers going broke wholesale, I suspect, just can’t compete, what you can do, is get bigger, spread the cost, have bigger machinery, you know, it’s the same old story, but you can only go so far, and we’re, we’re getting there now


5.230.  AW: In terms of where you would buy seed from, umm, has that changed over the years


5.231.  CP: Only in as much as there aren’t so many people selling seed


5.232.  AW: Can you remember where err, bought seed from when you started, when you took over the farm


5.233.  CP: Yes, we used to buy it from the seed merchant, from, course you bought it from the seed merchant but I would buy it, basically speaking, what we used to do, with seed and fertiliser, very common way of going on, you’d buy it from the bloke who bought your corn, and you paid him, at harvest time, when he had a tonne of corn off you, as it where, to contract, but nobody can afford to do that now, I’m a bad example, err, that’s probably not a quest you ought to ask me, or take my sense of, because, I’m a very loyal person, I like to give everybody my business, you know, put my business in, just a few people, and stick with them, and hope that, they will reciprocate by giving me the best price they possibly can, and I used to buy, I mean, for the last twenty years, I’ve bought my seed from, from a man I still deal with and he’s still a friend of mine, and he was a small independent chapee, because I prefer to, to deal with small independent people, I don’t want to deal with, the, the big men, because they’ll push you around, which they do, they get too powerful, so I’ve always supported the small man, and this one man, err, I used to buy all my seed from him and all my fertiliser until he stopped doing fertiliser and I bought it from somebody else


5.234.  AW: Did, he live round here


5.235.  CP: Yup, yup


5.236.  AW: So would you say he was an agricultural wholesaler in a sense


5.237.  CP: He was, he called himself, umm, agricultural services, you know, he was, he used to work for, a grain merchant, and that’s how I got to know him, he used to buy my corn, that, that corn merchant was subsumed, or bought out by one of the big companies, err, they, this is now it really started and went he for them, and they gave him the sack, made him redundant, I said never mind, he’d got his group of customers, people round here like myself, who liked him, got on well with him, he had their business, and, and, or some of the business, and that’s how he went on, and a lot of people did that, he used to, he used to do, um, consultancy work on chemicals as well, err, he did start off by handling chemicals and then when the laws for storing chemicals got tighter, he gave that up, but he would still walk the fields and say oh you’ve got this, that and the other, you want to put so on and so on, and we’ll get it from so and so


5.238.  AW: So initially you sold your grains to err


5.239.  CP: An ordinary grain merchant, whoever there was, I mean, there, there, round here, there was one in Thame, there was one in Abingdon, and basically speaking I dealt with them, mainly, the one in Abingdon


5.240.  AW: Do you remember what they were called


5.241.  CP: Yes, the Abingdon one was Harrison Matthews, they used to be, um, the old jail, that was there, that’s where, where their depot was, I remember going all round the old jail, they had different cells, different lots of corn, and the one in Thame was Halland and Bush, Halland and Bush Were bought out by Dalgety's, by two or three different, they were taken out, they were taken over by a firm called Franklin's in Bedford, which was immediately taken over by Dalgety's And well, they’ve disappeared, umm, Dukes of Southampton, Bishop’s Walthum I dealt with for a bit, they were independent, Chipping Norton, they had a depot, umm, but yeah that’s the way it went, and I tried, when he gave up, we, he would buy a certain amount of my grain, and then, I decided, I thought well, we’ll try a co-op, because that's really the way we should be going, very much in favour of co-op trading, and there was a company; um, well they were, they were taken over by West Midlands Farmers, down in Gloucester, called Three Rivers or something, and that worked quite well and, and, and then they sort of disbanded, we had a grain group and it was sort of disbanded or I forget what happened, but I went back to this other guy who was trading with, with a big company, or biggish company, but a big independent company, err down in Winchester, and umm,  then they were taken over by Banks, err about seven or eight years ago, I dealt with Banks Southern, which was the same company, until I packed up really, through this other guy, but, it was getting to the stage where, not happy about it, because basically speaking with, with gain you see, you've got, about three buyers, that's all, and they're just, playing silly buggers with, with farmers


5.242.  AW: What are, what are those three buyers


5.243.  CP: For grain


5.244.  AW: Yeah


5.245.  CP: Well there's, Banks, err, Banks, Grain farmers, and Cargill


5.246.  AW: They're all national companies aren't they, Cargill obviously


5.247.  CP: Cargill is international, Banks and Cargill have joined forces you see, yup, so it's only, only, it’s only Grain Farmers, there was, there was a big co-op called Viking Grain and they went bust this year, so its, its you know, that's some of the trouble, but, but, but you know there are, there are, two hundred thousand farmers, dealing with, basically speaking, three supermarkets,  two grain merchants, four fertiliser companies, haven’t got a change, not a chance


5.248.  AW: Do you think they have a lot of control


5.249.  CP: I'm bloody sure they do, why have they got bigger, not only because of scale, scale of size, it’s, it’s because of um, don’t sound like scale of size, but umm, but got power, real power, and that’s, that's where we slipped-up in agriculture all along, we  would not co-operate, that's why the French farmers are so strong, because they speak with one voice


5.250.  AW: Talking about umm, farming associations or, or unions, are you a member of the NFU


5.251.  CP: Very firm believer in the NFU, I don’t agree with everything they do, I mean I’ve served my time as Chairman, and I’ve been on one or two County Committees


5.252.  AW: Is that a local branch that you were chairman


5.253.  CP: Yes, I’m Chairman of the Oxford and Thame branch, err, in fact I did two terms at it, which is enough for anybody


5.254.  AW: Yes, what sort of period do you think that was


5.255.  CP: That was early ‘80s I guess, yeah, late ‘70s, early ‘80s, yeah, about that time, soon after we first came here, umm


5.256.  AW: Can you think of other ways in which farmers, would, would meet up, umm, beside the NFU


5.257.  CP: Well the farming clubs of course, some, some clubs are stronger than others, and I never, I got sort of personally, umm, I didn’t, I got too involved in other things, I didn’t really get time to go to farm clubs, but farming clubs, was very strong one in Thame, err, Nettlebed Farmers, Grattan Farmers


5.258.  AW: What sort of thing do farm clubs do


5.259.  CP: Well, they, they, they’re, they’re discussion groups, get togethers, they have meetings, they have speakers, rather like young farmers, as I say that assuming you know what a young farmer is, it’s the same sort of thing, it’s just a loose group of people, you pay a subscription, there is a national federation of farmers clubs, umm, I don’t, not having done a lot with farmers clubs, I don’t know the answer, but they, they’re not political, they just a, a gathering of farmers, you meet there, rather like the WI, and you meet at a pub, have a meeting, you have a guest speaker and then a few pints and home, social, but of course, you get a group of like minded people together and ideas are spawned, and from these various farming clubs and association, they’ve spawned things like, in this area, there’s Thames Valley Cereals, which is a, which is a, umm, buying group and selling group for cereals, Thames Valley pigs, same thing for pigs, so you’re getting bigger co-operation, and so on, and various other similar things, and machinery rings have been setup, err, and also big buying syndicates, there’s Thame Cash Farmers


5.260.  AW: Those, are those like co-ops then, I mean


5.261.  CP: Yeah, very similar, well they are co-ops, they are co-ops


5.262.  AW: They are co-ops


5.263.  CP: Yeah, you’ve got buying and selling, err, and, and umm, I’ve never been a member of a buying group, funnily enough, although I think that, cause I’ve always said, that, I’m, I’m in business to produce something, not buy something, so the important thing for me to do is to, be in a selling group, and they’ve never really got off the ground unfortunately, but the buying groups have, so you buy all your fuel, rather then, rather then, going to, err, you know, the individual oil supplier, you go through your group, err, and they, they will always negotiate a good price, may not be the best price you can get, but it’s always a good price, umm


5.264.  AW: That’s the kind of thing that Thames Valley Cereals, or Thames Valley Pigs would do is it


5.265.  CP: Yeah, but the other way round, you see, they, they, group together lots of pigs, to sell them


5.266.  AW: Oh right, okay


5.267.  CP: But you’ve got, organisation like Thame, Thame Cash Farmers and Syndicate Credits, and I can’t think of, of, cause I’ve never been members of them, but, that’s what they do, it’s rather like a French Co-op, but a French Co-op is all inclusive, you just deal with a co-op, you buy everything through them and they buy everything from you, and they are all powerful, and that’s why the French farmer has such a good deal all the time, it’s as simple as that


5.268.  AW: Have there been any moves to try and set up that kind of all inclusive co-ops in this area


5.269.  CP: Yes, and they’ve never worked in this country, never, ever worked


5.270.  AW: In, in this area or in the Thames Valley


5.271.  CP: Anywhere


5.272.  AW: Can you think of anywhere


5.273.  CP: Anywhere


5.274.  AW: Can you


5.275.  CP: I would think it’s more likely to work in this area than anywhere else cause they are, farmers round here are more of that sort of mind, but it’s never really worked here


5.276.  AW: Can you think of any instances where people have tried it


5.277.  CP: Yeah, because I’ve tried it myself, funnily enough, on, on machinery lines, about five years ago, the writing, I could wee the writing was on the wall, for farms of my size, so I wrote to everybody of my size and smaller, within a five mile radius, surprising the number of farms I picked out, I didn’t ask everybody, because I, I didn’t know them all, I invited them to come, at my expense, to lunch, at a local pub, and a seminar afterwards, and the idea was to say, we’re all up against it, we’re not going to be able to compete against the big, big farmers, how about, us getting together, a group of seven or eight of us and deciding how we’re going to work and run our farms as an integrated thing, as I say, I sent it to about thirty people, seven turned up, and we ended up, by doing the combining for one of them, they were just not interested, independent, and now they’re struggling, and that’s typical, they will not change


5.278.  AW: What do you think put them off


5.279.  CP: Oh, the reason you’re farming is because you are independent, you know, you’re not, you’re not, you’ve not going to tow the party line along with everybody else, and, and, the fact that you know, when I want something done, I want it done, I mean, we, we found this with contracting, nobody ever, ever, plans ahead, they just ring you up, oh we want out silage cut tomorrow, ah well we can’t come for a week, why can’t you come for a week, well I’ve got so and so, and so an so, they’ve, they’re booked, oh no, no, no you must come to me next, oh I’ll get somebody else then, I can’t work like that


5.280.  AW: Do you think that’s the nature of err, growing crops, it


5.281.  CP: No, I think it’s the nature of farmers, they’re very narrow minded, tunnel vision, blinkered, everything, they will not think beyond tomorrow


5.282.  AW: You said about the farming clubs and the NFU, they’re, they’re quite distinct are they, they have quite different roles


5.283.  CP: NFU’s political, lobbyists and so on, whereas the farming clubs are social, farming clubs will, will, might press the, the NFU to say, look I think you ought to take this line, or they might get, a recommendation from the NFU, to see, to get there opinion before the NFU actually does anything, but no, they don’t have any, sort of legal standing at all, or any standing, whereas the NFU is a recognised political lobby and also, umm, if that’s the right word, the Government will actually umm, approach the NFU for it’s opinion on various things, whereas it doesn’t with the, with the farming clubs


5.284.  AW: And have you found the NFU to be useful, I don’t, they obviously


5.285.  CP: Yeah, there’s a lot, a lot to be said, I mean a lot of people you could, you could criticise the NFU an awful lot, but, but farming would be all the poorer without it, it couldn’t, you know, it would need, it definitely needs the NFU or a, a similar organisation, umm, it can’t afford the NFU, and the only way the NFU can survive is the fact that it sells insurance, but umm, no, you know, it, the, it’s not a sustainable, you know, it’s not affordable by the industry


5.286.  AW: Do you think it’s representing farmers well


5.287.  CP: I think it’s as repre, as well it could do, yes, you could criticise it, and say it’s got an awful lot wrong, which it has, but on the whole, no, it’s, it’s doing a good job, but like everything, um, it’s easy to criticise, not so easy to sort it out


5.288.  AW: You, you diversified on this farm


5.289.  CP: Yes


5.290.  AW: Into a number of things, can you just take me through, umm, when that happened and what


5.291.  CP: Well, yeah


5.292.  AW: What decisions you made, why you made them


5.293.  CP: We, well I mean, basically speaking,  in the mid to late ‘80s, it was becoming obvious that we needed to, we needed to increase our income somehow


5.294.  AW: You were doing some, some beef and cereals


5.295.  CP: We were doing some beef and cereals, and sheep, we had sheep in those days


5.296.  AW: Many


5.297.  CP: We had about two hundred breeding ewes, and, it got to the stage where we really weren’t going anywhere and if we wanted to survive, we need to, to do something, we got a set of buildings and I was looking at you know, our, our business in it’s entirety and, we needed to put all our assets to work, all our assets had to, had to give us an income of some sort or other, and so we started looking at, the bits of, well, looking, looking at our assets that weren’t, weren’t actually making any money, one was this house, we were living in it, but it wasn’t making any money, but, we weren’t in the position, if we’d, we’d have sold it, we’d have to build another one or we’d have to have another one, and we have a, we have a planning restriction on it anyway


5.298.  AW: That’s an agricultural tie is it


5.299.  CP: That’s right, yeah, because, there’s a bungalow across the road that we built, [inaudible], cause there was no suitable, workers cottages here, the pair of cottages up the road, as I was saying, but you couldn’t put anybody in there, the way they were, so, [coughs] we had to look at what else there was, selling the land was not really an option, because, if you, if you sell that sort of thing then you’re not, you’re only going to get, you’re only going to get the income from the sale and once that’s gone it’s gone, you need something, to spend some money on, something, to actually bring some income in, and so we looked at the buildings and, and umm, the first lot of buildings that we, we adopted, we, we, um, altered, umm


5.300.  AW: Did you need to raise money to do that


5.301.  CP: Yes, yes, [clock strikes], we, we looked at the options as I say and, and that range of buildings were the least use, so we, we, we had then had look at what we going to use it for, and, we, to cut a long story short, we decided it would be holiday apartments and an office, not actually knowing, what the market would be for holiday apartments, but we thought, it was a fair gamble, tourist board said, but then the tourist board you see wanted people to alter, and they were giving grants, we got a grant, umm, from them, all the rest was done on borrowed money from the bank, and we, we went ahead, well as it turned out, we got all our budgeting wrong, we were unable to let for the rates which the tourist said we alter to be charging, but, the occupancy rates that they gave us were also wrong, by about the same fraction, in the right, in our, in our favour, so what we lost on our income, we gained on our, letting, and the moment we done it, before we actually were able to put the loan on long term, it was the time that the interest rates went through the roof, and for the first two years we suffered very, I thought we’d have to sell up, because we, we managed to set up, we managed to pay interest and that’s all we did pay, we didn’t pay a penny off, the bank gave us a, a two year holiday, capital holiday and that just saw us through and the interest rates came down and so we were fine, we fixed it and err, that’s all paid off, we paid that off in ten years, so that was good, umm, but, but, obviously with the Tourist Board loan


5.302.  AW: Did you employee someone to specifically look err, look after those, to manage them, to market them


5.303.  CP:  No, whatever we did, we had to do it, some, something that we could manage ourselves, which we did, we were paying a little bit more farm, for farm labour and we had a chap who that was really, while we were doing it, was, in effect a farm manager, so I didn’t have so much to worry about the day to day running of the farm, err, and he left us soon after that, but we’d got, the farm, we got the business running so ti would run it’s self without full time, umm, of my attention, and that’s again, as simplified, um, um, almost a redundancy, because we didn’t replace that man


5.304.  AW: Just take me through what the, the staff and their roles would be at that time


5.305.  CP: Well, we, that time we had two tractor drivers, and, and, and a chap was a sort of working foreman manager


5.306.  AW: And, what, you also said about umm, farmers cottages, so, were you, are you, still providing tied cottages aren’t they called, for, for those farm workers, is


5.307.  CP: No, yes and no, one yes, one chap was in the bungalow across the road there, he’s still there, and of course he’s, he is, err, a financial burden to us, but that’s, that’s life, the sort of things we had to put up with, I mean he does pay rent now, which he didn’t before, but it’s not, it’s not, it’s not as much rent as we could get for that house, but on the other hand, it is more than we were getting before, and so in the scheme of things, it’s, it, it, it’s, it’s viable, but we could probably get another two hundred pound a month, because of the area that we’re in, the other guy, was living in a tied cottage, because I kept, there were quite a lot of houses went with the old estates you see, and I kept some houses, some we’ve sold, and he was living in one of those, and when we wanted to do the flats, out first development, I said to him, would you like to buy your house, and he had a favourable rate and he jumped at it and bought it, so he wasn’t, we weren’t, we weren’t paying for his, for his house


5.308.  AW: So you had two tractor drivers, farm workers would you call them


5.309.  CP: Yup, yup, farm workers, and then we had the manager who was living in the, one of the cottages, which is where my son lives now, yeah, and the other cottage which was already here, we let it out to a guy, who actually was working for me, err, when we first moved here, and he, wanted to get married and he wanted a house, so I said, well you can have that one, cause at the time, the other, the bloke that bought the house off us, was, was, didn’t need a house, he was living with his parents, so that’s, that’s how that worked


5.310.  AW: And you, the offices, similarly, is that something you’ve managed yourself, was that a, was that the same time as you got the


5.311.  CP: Oh no, no, we only did them last year


5.312.  AW: Oh you did that last year


5.313.  CP: They, they, just, they haven’t been occupied for a year yet


5.314.  AW: They’re conversions aren’t, is that right


5.315.  CP: Oh yeah, there was a range of buildings there, which had to be demolished and rebuilt really, in effect


5.316.  AW: I notice the NFU is one of the tenants


5.317.  CP: Yeah


5.318.  AW: Is that, do you have any personal connections with, umm, the occupants


5.319.  CP: Not really


5.320.  AW: Did you advertise and find them


5.321.  CP: Well, [coughs], no the NFU have always been tenants of ours, they had the office in the other complex, when we first altered it [cough], because at the time, umm, there office was, in, in, North Oxford, Summertown, [cough], in the County NFU office, the County sold that site, it’s where Radio Oxford is now, and moved to a new site, and a new building that they built in Eynsham, and the Oxford and Thame branch, because there was nowhere else to go, had to move there, the, the then comp, the then group, NFU group secretary, who actually is a friend of ours and lives in the village, I said to him, would you like a local office, he said, too right, cause it was near his home, the staff lived around here anyway, they didn’t like going to Eynsham, so it just all fitted in, and now he’s retired, and umm, they wanted a bigger office, so then we moved them out of the original office into one of the new ones


5.322.  AW: Has it taken much of your time, to, err, keep those offices, and


5.323.  CP: I mean, took quite a lot of time last year, when we were building, but now, no, doesn’t take any time at all, well in fact, funnily enough, when you came, I, I’m actually writing the monthly bills out for the rent

5.324.  [phone rings]


5.325.  CP: I’ll leave that


5.326.  AW: So you still quite an active roll in, you still have an active roll in err, managing them


5.327.  CP: Oh yes, but there’s not an awful lot to manage, really, they’re almost run themselves, I mean, yes, if a tile falls off the roof then I have to find somebody to put it back on again


5.328.  AW: So, you’ve diversified in a number of ways, haven’t you, you, there were the holiday lets, err, and also recently you did the offices


5.329.  CP: That’s right


5.330.  AW: Umm, is there, are there any other things that you’ve been diversifying into, with the farming or, maybe


5.331.  CP: Well no, I mean, you, you, you could, you could call the contracting, when we were doing it, as sort, a form of diversification, no, not really, there’s my organic work that I do, but that’s hardly diversification, it’s just a, don’t know, help to occupy my time


5.332.  [mobile phone rings and vibrates, pause recording]


5.333.  CP: Fax, telephone and email, we do quite a lot on the email now, umm, and they usually phone out of hours actually, because it’s private people tend to stick to there work, actually, I must go to the toilet


5.334.  [pause recording]


5.335.  AW: Do you think you could have survived, if you hadn’t diversified


5.336.  CP: It would have been very difficult, I probably could of done, had I been prepared to do more physical work myself, and possibly had more secretarial backup, but when you’re getting older, there isn’t the inclination to do that, and I don’t think I could have  physically done it, I had the heart, heart attack as it was this year, yeah, so umm, yes, I could but I didn’t want, I didn’t think it was, would make sense


5.337.  AW: Were you spending much of your time doing paper work or other


5.338.  CP: Yow, that was another death knell, as far as I was concerned, it was just getting so complicated, it’s not true, regulation, after regulation, and


5.339.  AW: And those were related to, err


5.340.  CP: Well, just the ordinary, day to day running of the farm, cattle movements, umm, assurance schemes, every bloody thing, everything was against you, and it’s all people, outside agencies making money out of farmers, because they’re a soft touch, frankly


5.341.  AW: So it’s not all, it’s not all Government err


5.342.  CP: Well, a lot of it is, but I mean the point is, that the point is that lot, under, a lot other industries would have more strength to them, would say no, get lost, I won’t do that, or, they would so okay, but, but, it, it, it, it’s going to be reflected in the end price of what we produce, but we do, a myriad of, extra work, for which we get no payment, no extra for it, at all, I mean you could say, that, just take for instance, probably, the assurance scheme for cereals puts a pound a tonne on cereals, what do we get, we get less per tonne not more, because we have to compete with the rest of the world


5.343.  AW: What, what’s the name of that scheme, is it FABL, no


5.344.  CP: ACCS


5.345.  AW: Right


5.346.  CP: Assured Combinable Crop Scheme, that’s, that’s for grain


5.347.  AW: And why do you need to be part of that


5.348.  CP: Well, because the supermarkets say, that unless all grain is produced at, unless it’s assured, we’re not going to buy it, so they say


5.349.  AW: But you weren’t selling grain directly to supermarkets were you


5.350.  CP: No, no, but they buy it at the end of the day and they’ll say to you, Mr flour miller, and you’ll say to Mr corn merchant, well Sainsbury’s won’t buy my grain anymore, it’s got to be ACCS, so then the grain merchant will say to the farmer, look, well you’ve got to, it doesn’t cost you anything, doesn’t cost the grain merchant anything, but it cost the farmer something, and the grain merchant, will still take his thirty percent r whatever, and so will you


5.351.  AW: So the grain merchant would be someone like Banks


5.352.  CP: Yeah


5.353.  AW: Or Cargill


5.354.  CP: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and now, in fact, they have got a price differential, but it’s the base price less if it’s not, not the base price more, if it is, and that’s the way they’re just treating us, all the time


5.355.  AW: You say that’s the supermarkets, do you think it could be other people, millers, or


5.356.  CP: Well, I, I mean, I don’t know, that’s just an example, but, if you look at it, the supermarkets will fan the flames all the time, if they can get a better product for the same amount of money, they’re going to get it, wouldn’t you, can’t blame them for it, they’re running a business, and they’re running it very efficiently, but it’s our cost, all the time


5.357.  AW: Is that also the case with the cattle that you keep, the livestock, or is there any assurance schemes that you’re part of there


5.358.  CP: Yes, they won’t, they won’t, they won’t buy, they won’t buy beef unless it’s FABL which is Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb


5.359.  AW: That seems to be quite common, FABL


5.360.  CP: Yeah, I’m not against the concept, don’t misunderstand me, the idea that we can sell rubbish has gone, those days are gone, but, with anything else, as the quality goes up, you pay more, do you not, you wouldn’t expect to go and buy a Rolls Royce and pay a Ford Focus price for it, would you, so why do you, and it’s the same with organic grain as if ordinary, ordinary grain, you’re getting a Rolls Royce product for a Ford price and that ain’t fair, and that’s what’s driving farmers out of business and round the bend and to secede and all the rest, I’m not against the assurance schemes, and I mean, there’s, there’s, there is, there is, movement registration, legislation and so on, from the Government, because, partially because of foot and mouth, but it was getting pretty tight before hand and traceability of animals, it’s all, I’ve got nothing against it, but it does cost and awful lot of money, and it comes out of my pocket, and I’m not prepared for that, I haven’t got, I haven’t go the, the, the, the, the, the stamina for that, the financial stamina, I mean, and so, I’m sorry, I’ve done what I’ve done


5.361.  AW: When you were selling the cattle from farming, that was only last year, I think it was, was it


5.362.  CP: Yup, oh, still are, cause we still kept the cattle, cause, cause that side of the business, no body wanted, so I’m stuck with that


5.363.  AW: Oh right


5.364.  CP: At the moment, well we’ve only got, well, we shall, we have, fourteen calves to sell this year, and fourteen last year, but they’re organic you see, slightly different, slightly different


5.365.  AW: So there’s


5.366.  CP: But, but, but that market is not what it’s used to be


5.367.  AW: Right, so, is that, that’s another assurance scheme I guess, the organic


5.368.  CP: In effect it is, yes, it’s a very strict one, and it’s, it isn’t just, it isn’t just the way you treat your animals, it’s actually the way you feed them and, but that, you know, that’s quite complicated, I could go on for ages about that and I’m not prepared to


5.369.  AW: When, when did you decide to err, to rear you cattle organically


5.370.  CP: Oh, in the last ‘70s, no, sorry I beg your pardon, beg your pardon, no, early ‘90s, early ‘90s, but, but, you know, were, were doing it, on a very low key, and I mean I’m, I’m, all my, and, I’ve now found somebody who will, will rent my grazing so, umm, we’re going to rent it out, and if he doesn’t I shall just cut it, probably going to be cheaper to pay somebody to mow it, than it is, to keep cattle on it


5.371.  AW: So, in the, the early ‘70s, you say, when you went into organic


5.372.  CP: Hmm


5.373.  AW: the beef then, did you, umm, did you suddenly do it all over night, or did you


5.374.  CP: Oh well, they had to be converted, they had to be converted, takes two years to convert them, so we sort of did it gradually, by stealth, err, but obviously we made the decision over night, but it was enough to progress and we done cereals and so the next thing was to, to, run, run the beef into it as well, and doing what we were doing, cause we were rearing all, everything, everything was born on the farm, stays on the farm, right the way through to it’s, goes off, for slaughter, and that’s the best way, you control everything then.


5.375.  AW: Did you say that the, the, arable had also gone or, err, organic


5.376.  CP: Yeah, they all, we, we turned arable land over, before we, we started doing the, cattle, we did, we did the arable late ‘70s, early ‘80s, and, and, umm, it was abut ten years later to be honest, when we did the, when we did the, err, cattle


5.377.  AW: Err, why did you decide to, decide to go, organic


5.378.  CP: Well, because I thought it was, it was, it was more viable, and in fact it was, we were  at the time, we were recording everything, well we were right up until the time we finished, on, on a computer, err, field records and everything else like that, and, and we used to run the two side by side, and umm, there’s no question, that, the, the, the organic always paid better, even with bad yields, it always paid better, so that near enough


5.379.  AW: Did you sell your, umm, did you sell the err, wheat was it


5.380.  CP: Yeah, well wheat, barley and oats, mainly, lot more oats, not much barley actually


5.381.  AW: Was it difficult to sell organic at that time


5.382.  CP: No, still isn’t, not, not in cereals, they can sell any amount of cereals, it’s beef that’s getting difficult


5.383.  AW: And would you sell that to err, a separate err


5.384.  CP: Yeah, there was, there was a grain merchant who specialised in, in organics, part of the Banks group, funnily enough, but umm, yeah, and we, we formed, we did form a grain, an organic grain co-op, just to sell to them


5.385.  AW: And how many other farmers were in that organic grain co-op


5.386.  CP: Well, probably about ten or fifteen of us I suppose


5.387.  AW: Is it still going


5.388.  CP: Oh yeah, oh yeah


5.389.  AW: What’s it called

5.390.  CP: It’s, it’s called, I can’t tell you, it’s part of Kerdells, Kerdells, who are part of Banks, it’s just run by one bloke, I don’t think, it’s necessarily got a name, it was, to be honest it was never constituted properly, but we always used to get a group, group price on it, and by the time that, that I’d really got it going, I was getting less interested in selling to it and more interested in what, organic farmers growers, Organic Farmers and Growers, which I was Chairman of, would actually get out of the group for actually setting it up, that’s the way things go isn’t it


5.391.  AW: So the Organic Farmers and Growers, is that err, how, how would you describe that, is it a


5.392.  CP: Well it’s a certification body basically, and there, there are, there are about ten or fifteen of them in the Country, the two biggest are Organic Farmers and Growers, and the Soil Association, but, Soil Association is a charity, err, set up to promote organic farming, and has, what they call, soil association certification, which does the certification, which is exactly the same as we are, it’s just a company, umm, and all we do is, set the rules, which are based on, what, the EU directives, umm, and make sure that our licensees, our customers, abide by the rules, and that’s, and being a certification body, we’re not allowed to do anything more than that, we’re not allowed to get financially involved with our, with our members, because there could be collusion, which is fair enough


5.393.  AW: And it’s not like the NFU, having a political role, is it


5.394.  CP: No, although inevitably we do get asked, to comment politically on things, and do, but the, that’s not, that’s not, our role, our role is purely commercial, in, in taking a fee for inspecting, and certifying farmers


5.395.  AW: What did the neighbouring farmers or, or your err, farming colleges, as you might call them, umm, what did they think about you going into organic like that


5.396.  CP: Thought I was crackers, they don’t now


5.397.  AW: Why did they think, is that cause they


5.398.  CP: Well, phfwwugh [pursues lips and exclaims]


5.399.  AW: A risk


5.400.  CP: Can’t, can’t, risky, can’t, can’t farm without, without chemicals, we can’t farm without fertiliser, that’s why they were introduced, we got this, we got that, umm, I mean to a certain extent they’re true, I think they’re frightened as much as anything else, you know, because, because, because they’re up against it, they can just about do what they’re doing and see their way through, but they’re not sure, what they can do, without, this chemical inputs, that’s the problem


5.401.  AW: But it, it sounds like, your financial situation, wasn’t such that, going into organic wasn’t a risk for you


5.402.  CP: Err, it’s always a risk, yeah, oh yes it was, but I, it was a calculated risk, I, I thought we’d be alright, and we were


5.403.  AW: Were your family supportive of you, in that decision, or did they not


5.404.  CP: No, they weren’t, they weren’t, they weren’t, they weren’t, they weren’t of an age where they could have been, umm, I’ve always had support from my wife, obviously, but she’s been tremendous support, could have managed without her, but as far as, as, that decision was concerned, it was one that we took between us, not, because umm, the boys were too young, in those days, and I don’t think they, think it was the wrong think to do anyway


5.405.  AW: Would you say it was primarily a financial decision to


5.406.  CP: Oh yeah, definitely, well commercial, oh yes, there’s no, if you’re in business, there’s no reason for, no other reason for doing anything other than, commercial or financial, because you’re in business to make money, or make a living anyway, I don’t make any money


5.407.  AW: Did you notice any changes in wildlife on your farm, umm, while you where farming, particularly before and after, you changed to organic crops


5.408.  CP: I think that, I think that there is definitely, I think there’s definitely more wildlife about now than there was, what I can’t say to you, what I can’t say to you is, why, I can’t say to you put my hand on my heart and say, well it’s since we’ve been, err, organic farming, I do, if I need to win an argument, but, to be quite honest, I don’t think, it’s necessarily organic farming, I think, I think there’s more wildlife about, because everybody is more aware, I think also, these thinks go in cycles anyway, err, and it’s interesting actually, there was an article, in , the Saturday Telegraph this week, by Robin Page, who often writes, as a sort of weekend supplement and every so often, they have a countryside thing in which he writes in, and he was saying, that, cuckoos, sparrows, starlings, umm, are in decline, I mean we, you don’t hear the cuckoo here as much as you used to, and the reason for it is, we’re not quite sure about the cuckoo but certainly sparrows, there are more sparrow hawks about, so there predators, and same goes for starlings, and probably cuckoos as well, and there are more magpies about, that’ll raid the nests, so it doesn’t do with agriculture necessarily, it’s because we’re not, going out to kill so much, so there’s, there’s more for the predators, and so the predators get, are getting more powerful, then they’ll be something that controls the predators and then, it’s a natural thing, so, doesn’t really tell you anything, I don’t think there is an answer to it, nature is a very fickle thing and the balance is very, very fine, yes it might be slightly better under organic regime, but I don’t think, if anybody says, oh things are much better now, aren’t you great and so on, they’ll say yes, course they will, but my hearts of hearts, I’m not sure, I’m not entirely sure, because if you, the chemicals that we use, they’re safe to human beings, so, they’ll, they’ll be safe to, to birds, if there’s anything that isn’t, it’s jolly soon found out and stopped using, like as in, Aldrin, DDT and so on, so umm, because you know, companies do make mistakes, you know, nobody’s infallible, but umm, as long as you’ve got the mechanisms, which we have, to put right anything that’s wrong, then you’re relatively safe, and umm, I think that, that, after all, set aside, you see, you will have noticed, that, some people are spraying them off, well that’s better to actually spray off, to control weeds


5.409.  AW: You mean


5.410.  CP: For the wildlife, than it is to mow


5.411.  AW: Spray off, you mean apply a herbicide


5.412.  CP: Yeah, spry it with Roundup, or paraquat or something, total clean, you’ll see bear fields about, now any nesting birds, they’ll be disturbed if you spray, if you mow it they will be, because you cut through the nests, and so on, so, you know


5.413.  AW: Something I was going to ask you was about, umm, what role your family has played in farming, umm, your wife for example, how, how much of a role she was, was she playing on the farm with you


5.414.  CP: Well, she’s all, well it’s very, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s very difficult to, hum, quantify what she’s done, a look at her and myself, as it were, in running the farm as one, we don’t have any specific thing, she’s always there, she probably knows a little bit more about stock than I do, and I’ll say, I’ve got a, got a bullock that’s, what do you think, and she’ll have a look at it or say, we’ll my dad always, because her father was a real stockman


5.415.  AW: Was, did you meet through farming


5.416.  CP: We meet at college, yeah, umm, so, err, there’s that, when the telephone rings and I’m out on the farm, she answers it, and usually knows enough to give a sensible answer, or will tell me to ring back, she will be here, if I wants, if I want some money banked she’ll go to the bank, or if I want something she’ll go and get it, so, you know, invaluable, invaluable back-up, you can’t quantify what she does, but the business would be very much poorer without her


5.417.  AW: And your, your children do part, play a part in the farm


5.418.  CP: No, yes, I mean err, the oldest son, is, is, works with me now and always has done, well not always has done, but, alright the last ten years when he, when he was old enough


5.419.  AW: How old is he now


5.420.  CP: He’s thirty, thirty four yesterday, umm, so he’s always been about and, and, and done bits and pieces, and, and, he now, is with us and helps me tun, I suppose the estate management side of thing, making sure people have got what they want, you know, it’s all part of running the business, he does the day to day outside business and I do the day to day inside business, of which, there’s, there is work to do


5.421.  AW: The outside business being


5.422.  CP: Well, it’s, again, it’s one of these things that you can’t quantify, we, we kept a tractor and a loader back, and we’ve got, see over in the yard also, we, we’ve got various people, we’ve got somebody that rents the dutch barn off us for, puts thatching straw in there, well when this thatching straw comes in from Poland, it’s got to be unloaded, so Robert sees to that, gets paid for doing it, we’ve got a chap who’s selling, stone from the yard, umm, to garden centres, well he’s forever shifting stones around, so he borrows a loader for that, so he’ll ask Robert, yeah, hires it out, and he keeps track of that, chap who’s running the farm needs a hand with certain things, so we hire, Roberts services out to him, or his tractor, umm, and so it goes on, it’s, it’s, it’s not anything specific, but just a load of things, there’s the grass that needs cutting, the amenity grass needs to be cutting, well Robert and I do that between us, sometimes he does it, sometimes I do it, just depends on how it works that particular week, he’s busy doing other things this week, I do it, err, it’s all work that’s got to be done, err, it’s all work that’s got to be done, somebody’s got to do it, it’s odd-jobbing really, fence needs mending, gate needs re-hanging, [mobile phone rings and vibrates], bit of concreting wants doing, whatever


5.423.  [mobile phone rings and vibrates, recording paused]


5.424.  CP: He [CP’s other son] used to, he used to, he’s actually, he went to Harper Adams, but he’s seen the light and he’s now selling Land Rover parts, he did do a bit of work on a local farm for a bit and I was hoping, that, that, um, you know, that. That, he would, perhaps, one day work with us, but he’s got this very, he’s got a very good job now, travels all over the country, and the continent, umm, doing this, this job, and, and, that’s that’s fine, and, and, and so he’s off, umm, he’s off our hands as it were, he’s bought himself a house in Bicester and lives there, and err, that’s it


5.425.  AW: So that’s, did you say you had three children


5.426.  CP: No, two, two, Robert and Thomas, Thomas being the youngest one and Roberts about thirty four, and Tom’s twenty eight, something like that, twenty eight, twenty nine, yes, twenty eight, he’ll be twenty nine next time


5.427.  AW: Do you think, either, either of them will take on the farm from you


5.428.  CP: Robert will, certainly I think, well, an added complication is part of the, part of the reorganisation that we did, a year ago, we actually formed a family partnership, so we’re all in partnership with it, umm, and umm, so that, so that, that in fact the land doesn’t actually personally belong to me anymore, it belongs to the family partnership, although I have, my wife and I niety eight per cent shares in it


5.429.  AW: So this is rather like, the partnership you had with your father, when you


5.430.  CP: In a way, slightly different in the fact that it involves more people, err, and of course time has moved on, from the point of view of inheritance laws and so on, so it’s, it’s, what we do, what we’ve done now, is geared much more to, to present day, than, than, than what is was in ’65, ‘66


5.431.  AW: So since, April, April last year would you, is it now rented out, the, the


5.432.  CP: Yeah


5.433.  AW: Right


5.434.  CP: Yeah, yeah


5.435.  AW: And is he, is that person, the farmer, you rent it to, is he doing pretty much what, with the land, what you were doing


5.436.  CP: Yup, yeah


5.437.  AW: Do, do you


5.438.  CP: He, he’s introduced into the organic acreage, he’s introduced organic sugar beet, that’s the only thing that he’s, that he’s done differently to what we were doing, umm, as an experiment


5.439.  AW: So it is, in effect err, an organic farm, is it


5.440.  CP: Yeah, there’s just, there’s just about a third of that isn’t organic, isn’t converted to organic now, and I’m hoping that we will, quite quick, convert that as well, when I say I’m not, I mean, I in effect, he’s renting it off me, but I’m, I’m still officially, the farmer and we still discuss what we’re going to do and I have a certain amount of say in what happens, but obviously if you’re taking money off somebody, rather then share in the profits, you have to let him have, the final say, so that’s how it works, and because, it would be difficult to, to, but I don’t want to get, I don’t think I want to get back into the, into, into, sort of having a partnership in the actual business side of it


5.441.  AW: Did you err, did you sell your machinery to him, or


5.442.  CP: No, no, we sold them all privately, we advertised it and we got rid of it all, completely separately, he didn’t buy anything off us at all, completely separately, he didn’t buy anything off us at all virtually, because he’s got his own equipment, that’s the whole point of the exercise is to, is to rationalise


5.443.  AW: Was he someone you knew, umm


5.444.  CP: yup, yeah, we’ve been, we’ve been working together for, oh about five years I suppose, he’s a neighbour, oh yes


5.445.  AW: So he was, was he one of your farm, farm workers


5.446.  CP: No, no, no, no, no totally different, but we, we had, we started a chicken enterprise together here, which he’s now taken back into hand himself


5.447.  AW: Oh right, so that’s, so you, so err, beside the, the arable and the beef, you also had chickens


5.448.  CP: We had, also had chickens, yes we did, they were organic, organic free range chickens, on, on, a fairly big scale, umm, which we went into about five years ago, umm


5.449.  AW: It’s a big, you said, a big scale


5.450.  CP: Well there are eight thousand laying hens, so there’s, so now he’s having to, now we got, we got something like fifteen thousand eggs going off the farm every day, so that’s far


5.451.  AW: So quite a substantial part of the business really


5.452.  CP: oh, yeah, yeah


5.453.  AW: If you had to, give some advice today, who’s thinking of going into, into farming, what, what would that be


5.454.  CP: Don’t, I’m not being factious, I’m saying don’t, what is the point, there’s no future in it at all, we got no, no help from anybody, the Government are not interested, umm, and, we have got a cost structure in this country which is higher than any body else’s, we are never going to be able to compete with people, who are prepared to work for nothing, and there are people in the world who, well, for next to nothing, and they are just as capable, of producing a tonne of grain as I am, so there always going to be able to produce it cheaper then us, they’ve got, probably, most countries have got a better climate, climate in their favour, they got low, lower labour, they’re got a Government that has, is orientated round agriculture, because it’s the base industry, we’ve, we’ve evolved beyond that, we’ve gone, we’re an industrialised nation, we’re not interested in, in, in low production out of land, we’re interested in, in factories and, and, and roofs and chimneys and things like that, and mass production, and, and mass labour, but when you get countries like, New Zealand, who haven’t got those resources, agriculture is the most important thing, you tell me which is, of the developed world, where agriculture is the most prosperous, New Zealand I guess, Australia’s the same, and then you go into the third world, where, what else can they do, other then scratch the land, so that’s apart from the strength of the pound, we’ve got a very strong economy, and we have had for some time, and that’s crucifying us, so you’ve got everything against you, you’ve got the climate, you’ve got labour, you’ve got the exchange rate, what else did I say, umm, and natural resource, and


5.455.  AW: It says that, it’s some, some people are saying that there’s a crisis in farming, do you think what you’ve said adds up to a crisis in farming


5.456.  CP: Yeah, I do, yeah, there’s no question about it, and I don’t see the answer, that’s what, that’s where it’s so critical, without, the general public, being made aware of why and how, and that what the price of food really is


5.457.  AW: Can I ask you, I mean, the crisis of farming might mean different things to different people, like for example, in the foot and mouth


5.458.  CP: Yeah


5.459.  AW: I don’t know if umm, that was particularly troublesome for you


5.460.  CP: Well, yes, of course it was, I mean, a, to see animals suffering like that, would be, and the carnage, and how it upset the farming population, and also the restrictions that I had to go through, it obviously cost me a bit, not as bad, as if I had it, err, although, if I’d had it, I would have been compensated better, and the total, total, I mean it was so disheartening, I mean what really hurt me was that, that, that it really hurt me, psychologically was, was the total disregard, that the, that the powers that be, that were dealing with it, for the feelings of the industry, you know, we were just machines, in effect, well that’s had an awful lasting effect on me, you know, I’ll never ever trust anybody else


5.461.  AW: Do you think you avoided some of the crises in farming, through the organic production, diversification, etc


5.462.  CP: it would be nice to think we have, admittedly by diversification and, and being careful, yes, I mean I have, I don’t think necessarily organic farming has saved me from anything, I don’t, you see although I’m very keen on or, on, on organic farming, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, I don’t think it’s the panacea that people say it is, frankly, cause I don’t think, as I already said, I don’t think, it, it delivers wildlife, in the way that people think it does, it’s farming and every time you cultivate the land, you destroy wildlife, you have to, that’s the way things are, whether it’s wildlife in the fact that it’s little beetles or whatever in the ground, or whether it’s the birds, it’s still wildlife, if you’re growing something, and making a, and trying to sell something, you’re taking something off the ground, and so something else is suffering from it on the way, it has to, as, don’t, I, I think, I think it’s a safer form of farming, yes, and I think it does deliver a certain amount of things because written into the rules of organic farming is, that you must do this, you must do that, and those are things like, err, conservation things, like you mustn’t trim your hedge more than once every two years, you mustn’t do, you know, all various conservation things which you have to look out for, umm, so, it does help, but it, it’s not the total answer, the total answer is, to manage the whole countryside without finance, you know, without, without, without trying to make any money out of it


5.463.  AW: Do you mean without subsidies, or


5.464.  CP: No, I mean with, with, you, you, you don’t plough a field because that will destroy something, you just let it go, then everything takes over, well we don’t want that, that’s just not on, because, because, err, you know, you look out there and it’ll all be scrub, and, and that’s not what we want from the English countryside, it might be alright in the middle of Africa, but it ain’t all right here, the public wouldn’t want it, so that’s where, you know, the, the public have got to pay, or somebody’s got to pay


5.465.  AW: What do you think of the recommendations of the Food and Farming Commission to switch from subsidy production to environmental subsidies


5.466.  CP: I think it’s right, people want deliver a, a, environment, absolutely right, but I think is wrong is the way it’s done, because I haven’t got the confidence to do it, cause I haven’t got the confidence in those who would actually pay me, to actually pay me, because they’re saying they’re going to modulate, you see


5.467.  [Door bell rings, dog barks, recording paused]


5.468.  AW: Yeah, I asked you, you said modulation by the way


5.469.  CP: Well modulation is we get, we get subsidies at the moment, and, and the idea of modulation, I’ll take you whole, through the whole, the whole of this, cause you’ll see why I’m apprehensive about it, what the Curry report, umm, suggested, and if it all works out, I’ve nothing against it, that, ten percent of production subsidies which we get at the moment, area payments and so on, should be siphoned off by the UK Government, right, ten per cent of we’re now getting, for environmental issues, that’s what they’re talking about, now any money that’s modulated, or taken, siphoned off, for modulation, has to be match funded by the member state, so if they take ten million, off the subsidies to put into the environment, Gordon Browne has got to put his hand in his pocket for ten million to match it, to pay us back out again, and that’s why I’m apprehensive, because our Government has a long history, not just the present Government, previous administrations, have done exactly the same thing, when it comes to actually match funding anything, they don’t do it, and so the farmer, looses out, because he’s, he get’s ten percent taken off his, modulated off his payment, so he looses that ten million, and the Government won’t put ten million into it, so he looses the whole bloody lot, so he looses twenty million, an example of that sort of, and where I think the Government is, is, is, has got environmental issues wrong, we had a Countryside Stewardship Scheme on, some of our land, doesn’t matter where about it was, or anything like that, for which I got, six hundred pounds a year, and that’s an agreement that runs for ten years, alright, that has come up for renewal, so in other words, I’ve had it for ten years, alright, they want me to renew it, they’re desperate that I want to renew it, I won’t, why, because they still going to pay me the same amount of money, we’ll you can’t tell me that six hundred pound is worth the same as it was ten years ago, they want me to lay a hedge, and I can understand why, it costs twelve pounds a meter to lay a hedge, and they’re going to pay e one pound a meter, that’s why I’m not paying, and that’s the problem, that’s the problem, they will not, we want this, we’re giving, we’re putting, and they always say and announce to the public, we’re going to put ten million into environmental issues, it ain’t any good if it comes down to, six hundred pound to me, they’re got to pay more, cause I make more than that, by not doing anything


5.470.  AW: When did you start doing the Stewardship scheme


5.471.  CP: We’ll this was ten years ago


5.472.  AW: Right


5.473.  CP: When they first started talking, and it, sort of made sense, and the rules weren’t very tight then, and, and I looked at it, and it was on some river meadows and, and what was behind it, as far as I was concerned, I though, well, if I, there was, we were farming organically anyway, it means that, it says no, no herbicides, no fertiliser on that land, well, I wasn’t doing that anyway, so that was fine, umm, seventeen acres, it’s, well you can work it out, not a lot per acre, that’s irrelevant, err, and you have to cut it, one year in three a section of, after, but not graze it after a certain date, so I though well, that is going to cause me, probably to graze one, one less cow, so six hundred cow that equates, so that’s fine, I was happy with that, and I like to do things for the environment for goodness sake, I’ve done things, without being paid, like planting trees and so on, just to try and enhance the wildlife, and that, think that’s why the wildlife is also better than it used to be, because have planted a lot of trees, and, and, bare corners they’ve left and, and, they’re more aware, more aware, does that answer your question


5.474.  AW: Hmm, hmm, it sounds like you support it, but, err, you’re not sure that they will act, actually implement it


5.475.  CP: Yes, that’s right, at the end of the day, and I think this is what people tend to forget is that, my farm, and the same with any other farm, that land, is my means of earning a living, and I’m as entitled to a living as you are, so long as I don’t sit on my backside, and so therefore, err, that, acre of land, every acre of my land has got to work for me in some way or another, and if, you, Mr Public, want me, to plant trees on it, and so therefore I loose a bit of income, you’ve got to make that income up to me, because otherwise I won’t do it, because I have to live


5.476.  AW: I think that’s all my, err, questions actually


5.477.  CP: Well I hope it’s alright


5.478.  AW: Yup, thank-you very much, let’s just stop this

Return to top of page