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Home > Farmers > Interview Daphne Saunders

Interview with Daphne Saunders, farmer




Interview date: 9 January 2003

Interview location: Wood House, Faringdon, Oxfordshire. SN7 7NL. 

Interviewee: Daphne Saunders

Interviewer: Eka Morgan

Transcript key: EM: Interviewer Eka Morgan; DS: Daphne Saunders




7.0.           DS: Well Iím sure youíre, be able to stop, if you


7.1.           EM: Ha, ha, okay, Iíll just introduce, this is Eka Morgan, interviewing Daphne Saunders, on January 9th 2003, so Iím going to start, Iíve got a lot of questions for you Daphne, as you know, and Iím going to start by asking you, ah, telephone


7.2.           DS: Iím


7.3.           EM: Are you happy to leave that


7.4.           DS: Yes, happy to leave that


7.5.           EM: Umm, how did you actual get into farming


7.6.           DS: Well I suppose, umm, I was nineteen and I went along to, the Farringdon Young Farmers Club, umm, I was taken there by err a local farmer, umm, from our village, and um, I dressed up very nicely I thought, and umm, went to this, err, dance in the Crown Hotel in Farringdon, and umm, I had a good time


7.7.           EM: Which means you met your future husband


7.8.           DS: Yes, I think I did, umm, but it was err, a long, long time before we, err, got any where near, thinking about going out together, because err, I had a, thoroughly enjoy my life, I was, had lots, lot of friends and err, quite a lot of academics as well, and umm, although I met him, in the first, one or two meetings, I Ďm umm, we talked but thatís about all, but that was as a big group, but I did meet him then, yes, but umm, it was a long time, and I think it was four years, before we really got together


7.9.           EM: So, you, you say how you got into farming by that dance


7.10.       DS: Hmm, Hmm


7.11.       EM: Was more that you liked the atmosphere of all the farmers

7.12.       DS: Yes, yes, and I, I think it, it became very obvious because, as I say, although I had, academic err boyfriends, umm, I took them home and, we often went into some room and listened to classical music, I found my parents, found it difficult to relate to them, and it was when I took Pat home, which I think he was, the one and only farming boyfriend I had, umm, my father was immediately talking prices of calves and prices of wheat and everything else and it just seemed so natural


7.13.       EM: So in fact, your, Iím just going to move the microphone a little bit closer actually, if thatís okay


7.14.       DS: Hmm


7.15.       EM: Just, so, umm, so, actually, you got into farming in a way because your fath, you did grow up on a farm as well


7.16.       DS: Oh yes, yes, yes, absolutely


7.17.       EM: So, you have seen, incredible changes, presumably, then, over all your lifetime, youíve, the farm you grow up on, I assuming wasnít organic,


7.18.       DS: Umm, no, I donít think it was, although father, was always, very, very natural and umm, he had this land at Uffington, which is not far a way, umm, itís now been made into an SSSI, umm, itís wet, boggy land, and it has err, Yellow Rattler and the very rare Black Streak Butterfly, in fact weíre the most westerly site in the British Isles for this butterfly, we still got blackthorn, we have to keep the blackthorn for the butterfly, umm, so my father thoroughly enjoyed nature, and farming, as it was because he came through the stages when there wasnít fertiliser, umm


7.19.       EM: What kind of farm did he have


7.20.       DS: He had a dairy farm


7.21.       EM: And how many people would have worked on that, in those days


7.22.       DS: Err only him and one other, yeah he had one to, umm,  help with the cows and umm, but I think marketing was still important in those days, although it might have been small, umm, certainly marketing, he gained more, I think by striking a good bargain


7.23.       EM: How, how large was that farm


7.24.       DS: Umm, probably about two hundred acres, sorry I donít really know


7.25.       EM: No, no, and that, what was that called, the farm you grew up on


7.26.       DS: That was Bagmere


7.27.       EM: Bagmere

7.28.       DS: Farm at Charney Bassett


7.29.       EM: Bagmere


7.30.       DS: Hmm, so


7.31.       EM: And thatís now, SSSI, owned by


7.32.       DS: No, the Uffington land is the SSSI, umm, Bagmere he gave it up, it was a Council holding, but he had left his family farm, umm, at Grove, when he got married, so umm, he was basically starting a fresh


7.33.       EM: And that was the Uffington


7.34.       DS: Hmm


7.35.       EM: So you grew up on the Uffington farm or Bagmere


7.36.       DS: No, I lived at Charney Bassett, yes


7.37.       EM: Iím getting a bit lost, ha, ha, ha


7.38.       DS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, no, this was, Uffington was some land he bought, umm, in his early days


7.39.       EM: Right


7.40.       DS: But this is, the really spectacular wet boggy land that is err, been looked-after


7.41.       EM: Right, got you, so


7.42.       DS: And thatís, has been left to Miles, my son, when my father died, so Miles now looks-after that land


7.43.       EM: Right, okay, umm, youíve been farming for forty years


7.44.       DS: Umm, Hmm


7.45.       EM: Umm, can you remember, but at the moment youíre less hands-on than you were, could you describe a, a typical day in sort of the height of your, your farming days


7.46.       DS: Oh gosh, yes, I think, Pat and I, probably worked as a team, some people say a good team, heís very practical, extremely brilliant with mechanics, and umm, so, the farm was never what I call high-tech, umm, his all, also very good at mending anything, so, if we had a breakdown, he would get under it, get over it, and umm, put it right, and we would go on again, so, he was spent a lot of farm time with the cattle, and also machinery, and he was also making things in the workshop, and working there until, very late, ten, eleven, often even later, at night, umm, because he had a bee in his bonnet about making something, so I think heís, a brilliant inventor, and weíve had some very great successes, having said that, Pat was not very good with the paperwork, umm, and having made these lovely machines, he often left it to me to try and market it, so my day I suppose with the children young, umm, was to do all, all the things that housewives have to do, but when there was a free moment to, dash off into the office, umm, and order some more wheat or, you know, coupe with all the paperwork that we had have to do and umm, occasionally try and market what we were, what we had, we realised in those very early days that, umm, because Step Farm is a grade four soil, we were not going to compete with the farmers in East Anglia and even, you know, farmers, had along, Longworth Road, and towards Oxford, with much soils than we had, so there was no option really but to try and cope with the marketing, and in those very, very early days, I remember watching the umm, Chicago stockmarket and if there was a ship loaded with wheat that was going to err Russia, in those days, umm, we were quite happy because that really meant that the Americans were not dumping more and more wheat on our, on the UK, and so you know then you had, an inkling of when to sell, but if, if the ship, or if American and Russia were having a disagreement and the ship, was stopped from going to Russia, we knew it was going to come to Europe, then we thought that the prices would drop, and so thatís the way we tried to do some marketing


7.47.       EM: So you had to be quite canny, umm how did you keep in touch with those kind of events


7.48.       DS: Just by listening to the news and reading papers, we didnít have email of course, which would be easy now but umm, no, marketing


7.49.       EM: Sorry


7.50.       DS: On Step Farm was the umm


7.51.       EM: Sorry, is that too close, sorry


7.52.       DS: Itís fine by me


7.53.       EM: No, yeah


7.54.       DS: Yeah


7.55.       EM: Sorry, while, when I was


7.56.       DS: Is that okay, is it going alright


7.57.       EM: Absolutely, absolutely great, itís absolutely great, Iím fascinated, I just going to, ha, Iíve got a hundred things to ask you just from thinks youíre just said, Iím just going


7.58.       DS: Oh dear


7.59.       EM: Poured it, oh thereís it, umm


7.60.       EM: Umm, just while weíve had the pause, Iím going to, umm, okay there are a few thinks I want to pick-up there, there, but umm, weíll actually, before, as there are so many things, what Iíd actually love, if we also begin with, is maybe you could just describe the farm, to someone whoís never been here


7.61.       DS: Yes, okay, umm, the Step Farm is the holding which belongs to the National Trust and we are fortunate in being tenants of the National Trust, umm, thatís the farm that we, Pat and I started with, itís just on, just under six hundred acres, and it was the farm that Patís parents farmed all their lives, umm, itís mostly grade four, itís in a bowel at the bottom of Farringdon to, the land runs right up to the, housing estates and to Farringdon House on the north side of Farringdon, since then weíve acquired other land and the, thousand, one thousand five hundred acres, really runs from the folly, now, right round the north side of Farringdon House, umm, which is again a rented farm from, Farringdon House Estate, touching Step farm and then on to some land we bought, Wood House Middle Hill and Willow Farm at Inglesham, and then of course weíve got his land, the SSSI land at Uffington, and a little bit more at Charney


7.62.       EM: In the grading of land how many grades are there altogether


7.63.       DS: I think the grading changed a little bit, and I Ďm not completely conversant with the new grades, but I thought at one time that it was one, two three and four and


7.64.       EM: So in a way, yours is the worst grade


7.65.       DS: We are the worst, itís heavy, very heavy, blue, Denchworth series clay, and so umm, itís, another word for it is mans land, as opposed to boys land, itís old farming jargon, umm, it means really that in summer the clay bakes very hard, and so you really canít do anything on it, umm, cultivations on it or anything, in the summer, in the winter itís just bog, itís heavy, wet muddy, and so you canít do anything at all with it in the winter, so youíve got those two slots, youíve got the time when the winter changes into spring, and the time from when the, autumn changes back into winter, when you can get on, and cultivate the land, so you need, lots of good machinery, and you need to work very hard at those particular times of the year in order to get the cultivations done, itís hopeless trying to do it any other time, and so thatís why, you have to be very, good, um, and do it, just when the conditions work


7.66.       EM: Thatís extraordinary, I mean, being organic, which weíll talk about later, youíre an organic farmer, doesnít that make it doubly hard to be an organic farmer on land thatís difficult


7.67.       DS: Iím sure, Iím sure it does, and itís just come home to me, umm, in these later years now, that umm, whereas we were organic and we fond it was the right thing to do, umm, lots of reasons, why it was the right thing to do, but also the fact that, we are not able to compete and I come back to the marketing, umm, with farmers with better land, because umm, of the hassles weíve had to cope with, but on the other hand, if we put a lot of fertiliser on this sort of land, we didnít see the benefits that other people did, so organic was a good idea for us, but just recently and only last week, talking to a friend, umm, in the Spalding area umm, wonderful land heís got, you know, grade one, black silt, and he hadnít been very keen on organics because he was making enough money farming conventionally, but now umm, heís changed, and heís put potatoes in, and heís produced the most marvellous potatoes and, really heís got a good market immediately having just changed to organic, whereas, thereís a lot of farmers around here, whoíve been trying to grow potatoes, every year, organically, and theyíre lost the markets because of the quality of, this guy in Lincolnshireís potatoes compared with, with the ones here, and so it just shows that soil is so very, very important


7.68.       EM: Could you tell me about the time when you did decide to convert to organic and what were, you mentioned one reason why, but could you describe that time


7.69.       DS: Umm, yes, weíve been organic for twenty years, the Soil Association umm, gave us, a very nice oak tree only a little while ago at a presentation, umm for our efforts, for the last twenty years, umm, we, it was 1977 umm, five years before we took the first, umm, certification on forty acres of land here, umm, Pat and I were playing around, umm, he came to it from a very, monetaristic, thoughts, that if he didnít have to put fertiliser on and didnít have to put spays on, and in those days, we were paying about forty thousand pounds in sprays and fertilisers per year, and then he felt that he didnít have to make so much, produce, and umm, this would work out very well, umm, and in the, and again, I, I think perhaps most farmers still having the same old struggle, because they have, a cash flow, they umm, produce their wheat, and they sell it, around October, November time, and they have some money in the bank, umm, Januaryís tax time, so some of that money goes in tax, and also January is the time, that you pay for the next tranche of fertiliser costs, etc, so then you havenít got very much money in the bank, right through the spring, and through the summer until you start selling wheat again in that time, so it was silly game really, thatís youíre, youíre, thereís nothing very much, farmers, umm, donít appear to have very much money in the bank, all those months, and so we thought well if we didnít have that fertiliser bill, and perhaps we could keep some of the money, umm, having said that, I know other things about organic farming, we didnít have enough barns, umm, for the umm, extra land we took on, umm, but if youíre an organic farmer you donít produce so much produce and then, of course, you donít need the barn to keep so much produce, so thatís a good idea, and that helped to, umm, then of course we donít have to transport the err, produce umm, because itís a smaller quantity, umm, around the world, or to places where, the wheat, the barley, etcetera will be err, processed in, into biscuits, bread, umm and that of course, if you think about it, makes it, a good idea that weíre not using so much fossil fuel in, as an organic business


7.70.       EM: And how much did you have to change the livestock and the crops, when you converted


7.71.       DS: Umm, I think weíve kept things, as best we can, umm, weíve been unfortunate in that when we became organic, umm, we had, umm, just, the, cropping was, umm, we found it difficult to have fifty-fifty umm,  fifty per cent cereals, and fifty percent err, grass land for the cattle, umm, it was much easier, for the rotation, to umm, do it, when we, when we were conventionally farming, umm, the rotation needs to be, sort of, four to five years, grassland and then only two years of cereals, and so the problem then was that, thatís not a fifty-fifty swap over, umm, so, we have been, if you like umm, made err, organic farmers are at a disadvantage, because they canít grow as much cereals as they would like to, and the cereal prices have been very good, simply because of lack of supply, now umm, organic milk is, thereís too much of it around, and some of itís being imported and umm, I just bring you to the attention of, of the Blenheim water that youíre drinking, itís umm, two pound a litre, fizzy water, and, umm, organic farmers, at the moment, are getting somewhere between twenty, twenty two or maybe even eighteen pence per litre, so a huge difference, for, especially for all the work weíve done, in rearing the cattle, and the calves, and umm


7.72.       EM: How come you do buy the water and not drink it out of the tap then, ha, ha, is this shocking, the shocking comparison


7.73.       DS: Oh the reason why I have Blenheim water here, in front of me is because, umm, we have visitors, umm, a lot of visitors and err, WIís and school children and bank managers and, students, agriculture students and others and umm, some of the Oxford schools, they come and look at the farm, and I think itís probably the best thing to do, is to make sure they go home feeling, you know, nothing is, un-towards


7.74.       EM: But do you drink tap water here happily


7.75.       DS: Yes I do, yes I do, yes, yes umm, thereís no reason that we shouldnít



7.76.       EM: Umm, okay, well that, there are, there are so many, err, again, so many things to pick up on, but umm, one thing Iíd like to know is, is, when, when you did convert back then twenty years ago, what was the reaction of neighbours and farmers in the area


7.77.       DS: Probably the same as what they are now, except, err neighbours and farmers umm, do take a bit more notice of organic farming, umm, in those early days, err, there were some adverse comments about what we were doing, umm, and one of two people said see you in the bankruptcy court, thinking that err, you know, we were not producing the produce and therefore we were not, umm, being able to err, to look after the family and umm, my big priority was the education of the three children, umm, I think education is so, so important, and at an early stage, you know, thatís the time when youíve got to, to umm, give them as much time as you possibly can and talk to them about everything


7.78.       EM: And you wanted to educate them privately


7.79.       DS: We did, umm, privately because I think, Pat was privately educated, and his parents presumed it was the right think to do


7.80.       EM: So you, was that a struggle financially


7.81.       DS: We didnít think about it, we really didnít think about it, I think if we had thought about it and worked out the costs, Iím sure we wouldnít have done it, but never the less, I think umm, err four or three, we, weíve done different things with them, umm, Miles went to boarding school at eight, all be it all just down the road, and so he was able to come back and we saw him a lot, umm, but he broke his leg skiing and err, from then onwards, he became a day boy, umm Neil was much more a quieter type, umm, and he was a day boy, at umm, a private school, umm, and it seemed to suit him very well, and err, Harriet, my daughter, she was very fortunate in getting a place at Oxford High, and she went a year early as well, so umm, but that was, an agreement between us, that um, she was dead keen on horses and she wanted a pony and she didnít want to go away to school or anything else, we didnít even discuss it, she said, Oxford High is where I want to go, we had a look at it, and she was absolutely thrilled, itís what she wanted to do, and, things happened


7.82.       EM: And in those first years of organic conversion, how, where there a few years where finances were shaky and, I mean, was, was it, was it immediately profitable, or did you have


7.83.       DS: No, no


7.84.       EM: to hang on in there


7.85.       DS: No, it, umm, I think weíve been fortunate because weíve had, to be, we were in the right place at the right time, but we had some real problems umm, the cereal market was okay, and, as I say, you know, err while Pat has, been up there, got the combine going, got the, wheat in the barn, and made sure it was clean and tidy, etcetera, umm, I probably picked up the phone and tried to do a deal with the produce we had, but umm, the cattle were, was another problem, and the first ten years of that twenty years, it wasnít until 1990, that we were able to find a market for organic milk, so, and it wasnít until that happened, there was not a huge difference I think, because we were not really feed the, the cattle organically, umm, because we had no market, so we were able to, with the soil associations permission, to umm, be slightly different in, but the ground, all the ground had been converted by 1986 as fully organic, so the whole of the land was fully organic in production, but it was just that we couldnít find a, a market for the cattle, for the milk, was market for beef, and the sheep and umm, we had, well Miles had a few pigs, a few Gloucester Old Spots, but umm, it was, it was a problem and umm, Helen Browning and myself, here in this area umm, looked at, every possibility you can think of, as to where we could get the milk into, an organic production and delivered to the housewife


7.86.       EM: And, and that, how long, and that was ultimately successful


7.87.       DS: Yes, it, itís still, umm, it is successful, thereís a lot of people that are able to have organic milk, but thereís a lot of people still not able to have it, umm, delivery is not easy, easy, itís, itís very umm, sporadic, round the country, and also, umm, a lot of the smaller shops, cannot yet stock, organic milk, because itís not available, through the distribution system, I think the distribution system, still needs a lot of work to be done to it


7.88.       EM: And you said that when you first went organic, that the opin, opinions, havenít changed much, to today, I would have thought


7.89.       DS: Well, itís certainly, as split, there are quite a lot of farmers and some of them are friends, who wouldnít touch organic with a barge pole, they just cannot see thereís any need, they cannot see umm, a reason for doing it, they find it easier, and that, indeed, conventional farming is probably quite a lot easier, umm, to manage, you know, for instance, umm, youíve seen our hedges, theyíre, thick and theyíre bushy, umm, itís cold at the moment, it would be an ideal time to get the hedge cutter out and go and cut the hedges, but we donít intend to, until the spring comes, because, itís places for birds to have umm, feed in the way of nuts and berries and itís also a place for them to, umm, have nests later on, give a month or so, we shall have nests all over the place


7.90.       EM: Iím going to ask you later about the wildlife, on your farm, but umm, there wasnít, Iíve interviewed a few farmers now, and one of them described organic farming, organic farmers as fruitcakes


7.91.       DS: Ha, ha


7.92.       EM: I mean was there that kind of, you, you mentioned Iíll see you in bankruptcy


7.93.       DS: Yes


7.94.       EM: Court, but what about the kind of, the wacko


7.95.       DS: Yes, umm, amazingly umm, I think some, some people still like to think of organic farmers as umm, umm, sandal type people with long hair, having said that, weíve never done that, weíve behaved and dressed normally and I think, err, lots of people have said, isnít it nice to see a normal person, so umm, you know, there was err, perhaps the very small organic beginnings might have come from that, but I donít recognise that amongst any organic farmer now, umm, a huge amount of well dressed and umm, business people, business farmers just like any other farmer


7.96.       EM: Do you feel the respect amongst the farmers in the area has increased over the twenty years for, for your approach


7.97.       DS: Yes I think so, umm, I think, probably of all, weíve had a lot of umm, farm meetings and umm, discussion groups down here and, weíve done lots of trailer rides around the farm of allsorts of, people and a lot of farmers and I think, probably the majority of the farmers have come down to see what weíre doing, umm even if theyíve gone away and, said nothing, thatís umm, no thereís a lot of others whoíve err, they now respect what weíre doing, just as much as we respect what theyíre trying to do, we are all in the same world, we are all trying to market our produce, weíre all trying to educate our children, so there isnít much difference between us


7.98.       EM: Ho much, Iím going to ask you a bit now about contact, contact with other farmers and other, other people and, and new ideas, ho, how much do you keep in touch with whatís happening in the UK and abroad


7.99.       DS: A lot, we keep, I personally keep in touch, specially through the email now, umm, with, huge amount of farmers, umm, I have enjoyed writing letters in the past and umm, photocopying out some, and moving ideas around, umm, weíve been very fortunate, umm, both Miles, Neil and Harriet have been round the world, umm, staying with farms and specially in their gap years and umm, weíve made lots and lots of contacts, umm, we were in umm, in Cairns in Australia, Northern Australia and driving down we picked up a magazine and saw that err, a chap called Graham McNally in Brisbourne had two thousand acres of organic farm, made a phone call, could we see him, he was delighted, we chatted and had lunch with him, and thatís been a wonderful friendship ever since, all three children have been out there, Miles umm went out to Bisbourne and gave a, well, a series of talks at the World Sustainable Agriculture Conference at that time, which was a wonderful opportunity for him, and umm, because he was on, umm, radio in Australia, umm, several of the guys weíd had as students, umm, at Step Farm phoned him up and made more contacts and a lot of the students weíve had have gone back to their countries and still have Christmas cards and letters and they want to know, what the prices are here, and I want to know what the prices are there, umm, so itís Australia, New Zealand, umm, America, umm, South Africa


7.100.  EM: And how, how do the, how does it compare, have, have, have, there been things also that youíve picked up, just sort of


7.101.  DS: Of course, yes


7.102.  EM: What kind of thing might


7.103.  DS: Weíve always learning, thereís always something to learn and umm, but I find the, the interest in trade, subsidies, err, etcetera in the States and what New Zealandís doing and, itís fascinating, I wouldnít say I have anything to contribute to it, but I find it just a fascinating idea


7.104.  EM: And there are specific practical tips you would have picked up and put into practice on the farm


7.105.  DS: Yes, I think, weíre always trying weíre fortunate in having enough land that we can, perhaps use ten acres or so to, try this or try that, and it isnít just a big deal if, if itís a complete failure, umm, whereas small farmers canít do that so easily, so we have been I think, innovative in, everything from seed mixtures we plant to umm, different types of things weíre doing, different grazing systems etcetera


7.106.  EM: And what about things like, Farmers Weekly, do you get the journals and really find the time to, to read, weekly


7.107.  DS: Umm, yes, my husband Fridays, itís his, first thing when he came, come home on a Friday night, to say, has the farmers weekly come, and he will read it, but umm, you probably donít know that Miles has been writing for four years in the Farmers Weekly


7.108.  EM: Oh right


7.109.  DS: Umm, heís kept a diary of what been going on, umm, some of it, slightly amusing that his mother doesnít know whatís gone on and I have to read the Farmers Weekly to find out, umm, and other things, heís, heís put in the highs and the lows of farming, over four years


7.110.  EM: Great, and what about Farming Today, do you listen to that on Radio 4


7.111.  DS: Sometimes, sometimes


7.112.  EM: Do you find that useful


7.113.  DS: I find it interesting, I wouldnít say useful, umm


7.114.  EM: Whereas Farming Weekly, you find actually useful would you say


7.115.  DS: Well of course we use it, if we want to advertise for staff, or, or various things, and umm, but I thing itís the trends, the ideas and the trends and what people think about, umm, how one should go and, and farming of course is in a terrific depression at the moment, itís, itís hugely difficult for a load of farmers to keep going, umm, I am not a great fan of world trade, I donít understand why umm people in overseas countries, and Iím talking about Africa, in particular, I think they would be far better to have people go out there, they need money for inst, infrastructure, yes indeed, but I think they could be, helped to produce their own crops, the crops they want to grow, not the crops we feel they should eat, and I think it would be better if, umm, that, push is made, rather than try and keep growing more and more wheat or cereals in Europe and then say, well we need GM crops to produce more umm, because thereís people out there, hungry, because really, I think theyíre hungry because they havenít got enough growth on their own land, theyíre got plenty of land, but if we could get the water systems right and everything else for them, they would be so much better off


7.116.  EM: Yeah, thatís it, again this is something else that I want to talk to you about, but, no, no, the crisis and also, but, but, Iím just going to on a bit more about contact, umm, what about other organic farmers in the area, do you visit them and cross-fertilise ideas


7.117.  DS: Oh yes, yes, well the Soil Association have been extra-ordinary good, over the years, umm, I only have to look on the email today and there will be umm, some update about something or who said something on, umm, radio or television or one of the magazines, so, the Soil Association keep us very well up to date, but we do go to their conferences, umm, we are one of the demonstration farms that the Soil Association have, and so we thereís a terrific lot of interaction between us and other farmers


7.118.  EM: Presumably that takes a lot of your time, I mean youíre busy as it is and then when youíre a demonstration farm you actually have to sort of


7.119.  DS: Host


7.120.  EM: Host people coming


7.121.  DS: Yes, we do


7.122.  EM: Itís not something you get paid for presumably


7.123.  DS: No we donít get paid for, at all, umm, but itís all part of lifeís tapestry, I think itís, itís enormously interesting to talk to people, umm, weíve had, Ugandans, weíve had Japanese, weíve had people from all over the country, all over the world, and umm, you know, weíre as much interested in them, as they are in us, and umm, yes, contact is brilliant


7.124.  EM: And those Ugandans and Japanese would be farmers


7.125.  DS: Not entire, not always, some are farmers but mainly there umm, academics who are looking to, umm, promoted organics in Japan shall we say, and umm, France or wherever, and umm, they umm, some of the people who umm, guide our destiny


7.126.  EM: What about the NFU, what do, are you a member of the NFU


7.127.  DS: Not at the moment, I have done some work with the NFU, Iíve been to several of their meetings, umm, thereís quite a lot of farmers in the NFU who donít see what weíre doing as diversification or anything else, they just as you say, umm, think itís a, a fad, perhaps


7.128.  EM: Do you, when you were a member did you feel well represented by it


7.129.  DS: Yes, I think so, yes I think so, umm, I have no, complaints at all, umm, Sir David Naish came down to see us and umm, several of the other umm, Executive members of the Nation, National Farmers Union have been down and as I say, Iíve been to several of their meetings and committee meetings, umm, I have, I just feel that perhaps we are, doing something slightly different to what the general run of National Farmers Union members do, but umm, it comes, still down to the bottom line and marketing, so that where it is


7.130.  EM: Okay, umm, about the, the depression, the crisis in farming that you mentioned, what do you feel is the cause of it


7.131.  DS: Umm, the cause surely has got to be umm, a bit of an inbalance throughout the world, umm, as I say, Iím not at all happy with free trade and looking back on history and I like reading, and I like reading history, umm, and Iíve followed the depressions of umm, agriculture, which has been coming backwards and forwards from 1500, I couldnít believe it, and there was rape, rape seed, you know the yellow stuff in the 1500s, I thought it was a new crop, but it isnít, itís been around along time, and so you know thereís, been world trade, being the cause of these depressions, umm, itís just the imbalance, and certainly umm, a book I, I read, the diary of an Oxfordshire farmer, umm, the diary starts about umm, 1870 and finishes in 1890, and he records the umm, the market prices, he takes animals to market, and he records, not another drop, not another drop, and as twenty years go through, umm, things that really worried me were the umm, the agricultural labours, because the farmers couldnít possibly umm, provide work, well they could provide work but they couldnít pay for the work, umm and there were agricultural workers standing in, market places of our local, like Farringdon, like umm, Bampton, Whitney, wherever, and they were waiting to have a days work, and of course, you know, when you think about it, it was the strong and the healthy and the biggest who were given that days work and not the small guy, and you know, without umm, National Health, in those days, I canít see it very much different than the slave trade, it really worried me, about what world trade was doing to, populations who you might say were affluent, and so itís splitting the rich from the poor, and making, people very umm, unhappy about the, the area theyíre living in


7.132.  EM: What about the World Trade Organisation now, you mentioned world trade earlier


7.133.  DS: Hmm, but umm


7.134.  EM: Well you know, I think fair trade is the right thing to do, and the Soil Association is just bought that out, a fair trade organic initiative, and I shall be very interested to see how this goes, because I think that is important, itís important that any farmer who does a good job and produces a nice crop should have a market for it, it shouldnít be allowed to err, have to plough in potatoes, vegetables, etcetera, having grown them all, just because of market distortations, you know, umm, so I think world trade, as I say, I came back to the, in my idea, that the African countries, who are short of food, should be, given that help, to produce their own food, umm, certainly not err, thereís a lot of things that they grow, that we probably wouldnít want to eat, umm, and neither should they be, forced to sell it on the market err, to pay their debts, when they really havenít got enough of their own


7.135.  EM: So err, when, when I asked what do you think is the cause of the depression, you were saying that you, in history youíve read of all these other dips and troughs, and, umm, does that mean you think it perhaps, is not as, as much of a crises as, itís just another dip, and


7.136.  DS: No I donít, umm, unless they change their ideas about world trade, umm, you see weíve got too many big countries, Canada, America, big, vast areas where wheat is grown, umm, they havenít got anywhere to sell it, theyíve got too much, and so theyíre dumping it on, other countries, and the other countries are quite glad to buy it, but on the other hand, it doesnít help their agriculture because itís just, umm, itís just, being able to umm, if they uy it then theyíre got a debt, and the circle gets bigger, Iím not at all happy about world trade Iím afraid, Iíd much rather see everyone produce and look after their, their err, own, on a more local ste, scale, Iím sure it would be better


7.137.  EM: What about the role of supermarkets


7.138.  DS: Yes, another story isnít it, umm, I just wonder, umm, today I believe Safeway and Morrisonís are talking about a merger, and Iím just wondering maybe, maybe if there were less supermarkets, and I think they have five in the UK at the moment, if we had less supermarkets, they wouldnít be quite so keen to compete against one and other because I think thatís the whole problem, umm, Iíve been to umm, discussions with supermarkets and basically theyíre, they seem to me completely neurotic about each others prices, and they must have, people who spend all their time looking at the price of a, shall we say a tin of bake beans, in one supermarket and a tin of bake beans in the other, and, in order to feed their super, their shareholders, with a sort of umm, money that these shareholders think they should have, umm, this is the cause of it, umm, so Iím just wondering if we had less supermarkets if we have,  couple more mergers may they wonít need to compete with one and another, umm, to that extent, maybe they, of course they would have umm, a big clout in the market and have more say, but umm, perhaps, this, competition between them, I donít think, is helping anybody at all


7.139.  EM: And how much have they affected your farming life


7.140.  DS: Iíve learnt a lot because, [cough] in umm, 1990, we were approached by one supermarket, and umm, offered a premium if we supplied them with our organic milk, umm, and we, they came down to the farm, they had a look around and they decided that they were quite happy with us, umm, we agreed a price, a premium, and we were then, I, I suggested we write this down and they said, well they donít have agreements, donít have agreements with anyone, but sorry there wouldnít be an agreement, and it wasnít very long, and we hadnít yet started to send them milk, that they then said, that they could find someone down the road, as they put it, that umm, they could get this milk cheaper, and that was before we started, umm, I was so cross, really angry, and I hadnít got any, umm, way of really knowing, who wad down the road, and so when I got home,  I decided that I would find and make a list of all the organic farmers in the UK, I was fairly determined they werenít going to find anyone down the road, I was certain they hadnít found anyone that they were conning me, about what they were doing, and why the price should be lower, umm, but we did stay with them for eighteen months and then, sadly, umm, because there is, if I go back to the organic farming, you have to produce organic milk, you have to feed you animals organic food, and because in those days there wasnít the err, infrastructure, as there is now, that um, we were able to have, as much of the proteins, it was beans that we were short of, protein for the cattle, and so we umm, tried to find virtually every organic bean in the UK at that particular time, and weíd got all those in store when the supermarket gave us one months notice, and we lost the market completely, so we were down to err, having organic milk, in our vats, but no market, no one to take it, and we were like that for four years, it wasnít until í96, í95, í96 when, umm, they were beginning to be talk of other people taking organic milk


7.141.  EM: So for four years, your organic milk had no market


7.142.  DS: Thatís right, yes


7.143.  EM: Where did it go, it was


7.144.  DS: It went into the ordinary tank


7.145.  EM: And was, had no premium


7.146.  DS: No, no premium, people were drinking it, but they didnít know it was organic and they paid a non-organic price for it, and, we were very, very close to, collapsing as to, if we could, unless we could find a market, and so the marketing again is coming, to be a very important in our lives


7.147.  EM: So if you were to enter into a contract, having had that experience, now, with a supermarket, would, is it within their rights to only give one months notice, would you make sure that they


7.148.  DS: I would certainly try, but I donít think they do contracts, thereís one or two umm, Sainsburyís has been extremely good in umm, making an organic contract, but err, never the less, thereís more dairy farmers now, in the UK, supplying organic milk thatís Sainsbury and the supermarkets can take


7.149.  EM: So what part do you feel that supermarkets have played in the current crisis


7.150.  DS: Well I think maybe, umm, there is, a need to work with us, a great deal more than they have been, you, you, have this sort of strata, you have the farmers, which are the primary producers, umm, and then thereís the processors, because we have to have big-ish diaries to process the milk and put it into everything from yoghurt, ice cream, as well as liquid milk, cheese of course, umm, and then youíve got the, the buyers and the supermarkets above that, so the farmers really donít get anywhere near the supermarkets, thereís that big gulf in between the processors, and itís the processors that deal with the supermarkets


7.151.  EM: And which supermarket was it that gave you one month notice that time


7.152.  DS: Iíd rather not say just at the moment


7.153.  EM: Well, err, it, that in itself is quite fascinating, isnít it, that


7.154.  DS: Itís horrifying


7.155.  EM: That farmers


7.156.  DS: It taught us a big lesson


7.157.  EM: But also that farmers feel they canít disclose who these supermarkets are, who have put them in these precarious positions


7.158.  DS: Hmm


7.159.  EM: Err, I remember seeing a, a programme on television quite a few years ago now about supermarkets, and nearly all the farmers felt they had to be anonymous


7.160.  DS: Thatís right


7.161.  EM: I mean, do you feel, how, do you feel that they have umm, an in balance of power


7.162.  DS: I think they probably do, and what I think is so very sad is that the, the bosses of the supermarkets, appear to me to very, very nice human beings and they have quite an understanding of what is, the relationship of, they know that, they have to get this food from the primary producer, and so theyíre very happy, but I think thereís a big gulf, thereís umm, perhaps inefficiency in the, business that theyíre running, for instance, the supermarkets donít seem to have complete control of their managers, the managers in the stores Iím talking about, because you can go and see the manager and he would say to you, I donít have to stock this product, I havenít got, an order for this, and I say, why not, and they said, well because somewhere above me, this is not the boss, hasnít put this in the store, if we could get all our milk on the, on the shelf then that would be a help, but thereís a big problem in getting the milk from the processor, ordered by the store, so that when the housewife comes in, there is milk available, they donít seem to, theyíve got a system of ordering produce three days later, itís happened so many times with me, Iíve gone into try and get cream and Iíll give you one example, we had a, a party, we wanted forty five pots of cream, and my American friend who was staying with me said, oh well, no problem, and she suddenly realised, she tried all the supermarkets, thatís Waitrose, Sainsburyís, Tescoís, in an area from Swindon through to Oxford, and eventually after quite a lot of hassle and she came back to pick up the phone and said, I canít keep running round, Iím still not going to find four pots here and three pots somewhere else, umm, she finished up with about thirty five pots, weíd never got the lot, and the thing that worries me is that, although I collected thirty five pots, think of all the housewives between Oxford and Swindon and Whitney and, Newbury, who didnít have organic cream for their Sunday lunch, I cannot believe it, how bad, the supermarkets are in getting the food onto, the produce, theyíre so afraid of having waste, they leave it to the farmer to have the waste, not the supermarket


7.163.  EM: Thatís an interesting point of view, that they leave it to the farmer to have the waste and not the supermarket


7.164.  DS: Hmm


7.165.  EM: And how much control do you feel you could have in an ideal world in setting the price


7.166.  DS: Itís the cat


7.167.  EM: Itís the cat


7.168.  DS: Do you want me to stop


7.169.  EM: Does it bother you


7.170.  DS: No, but heíll keep going


7.171.  EM: Will he eventually stop


7.172.  DS: No, I donít thing so


7.173.  EM: Ha, ha, okay as we stopped


7.174.  DS: Is that okay, are we


7.175.  DS: Price really, I think, a lot of itís got to be a sensible price, I donít think one wants to over, over out-price the market, it would be crazy to, in fact I think that


7.176.  EM: Let me ask, let me ask you, so weíre, weíre just picking up again on umm, how much control do you feel you could have in setting the price, of your product


7.177.  DS: I think what weíre looking for, is a fair price, weíre not looking to err, take anyoneís market away, umm, I think if, the producer, the farmer, the processor and the supermarket gets a fair price then thatís all we can ask for, umm, but itís got to be a price that makes it possible that all three can live in the market place and as I say Iíve come back to it, I think the farmer needs a decent price so he can have, money to, look after his family, educate his family, which is to me, important, and also to have some money left over for the umm, investment he needs to make in, in having, I wouldnít say new machinery, but even second hand machinery, youíve go to be able to have the where with all to pay the larger insurance bills that we have now a days and all the other extraís


7.178.  EM: Do you feel that joining the Euro would be good for farming


7.179.  DS: I have no view on it really, Iím not at all sure, Iím rather pro-British, umm, I think Britain is a lovely place and I think if we did what we should be doing and that is to err, look to all our, our good things, as a country then I think perhaps, we can stand alone, and to be looked after as being rather special, I think Switzerland is another example of, of being a very special country, whose managed their own, economy, well, you know looking outside farming youíve got, wonderful places, wonderful, beautiful buildings, lovely landscapes, umm, Scotland, err Wales, Cornwall, where ever you look itís beautiful, and weíve got wonderful places to see, weíve got wonderful things to do, weíve got some wonderful museums, weíve got Shakespeare, weíve got everything else that you could want, Wordsworth, umm, itís a wonderful place to come, surely tourism we could really work on this and make this a special island, so Iím not so sure


7.180.  EM: And what about, would you prefer not to export


7.181.  DS: I think ideally, the first thing one must do is to have a comfortable community, living happily within itís self, not too much wrangling, umm, I come back to local food, local food is so important and I think perhaps itís one of the few ways that we can really get back to talking to, the person who buys our food, itís time we did that, Iím amazed when some of the people we have, come to the farm, they havenít a clue, what happens and how it happens, umm, sad things like shooting baby bull calves because there is no market what so ever, umm, I appreciate and understand why err groups are so keen not to have calves exported, umm, I feel very much that way, I donít want to see any form of cruelty or unkindness, or stress, thatís what an organic farm is about, but never the less, weíre in that situation, that we have to make a phone call to our local kennels and the kennel man comes and Iím afraid shoots the bull claves because we have no market, we canít afford to keep them and if we kept them we would have no market for them, they, the err Fresian bull calves are of little value for meat, and so itís, it, it tears at everyoneís heart to have to do it


7.182.  EM: Has that been the case throughout your, organic farming life


7.183.  DS: Sorry


7.184.  EM: That you had to shoot the bull calves


7.185.  DS: Oh, no, no, umm


7.186.  EM: This is just


7.187.  DS: The reason why bull calves have been shoot, because thereís no market, and why is there no market, because theyíre not, sent abroad to err,  be fattened into veal, this country has very little veal, umm thereís no, very little desire to have veal and I couldnít believe it, I went into, umm, one of the big Oxford Streetís, umm, food stores and there were big, big chunks of veal on the table, and they were white, I immediately knew where they come from, but I wonder whether many Londoners when they buying their veal, have every asked where it comes from, but it was nice white, veal and I said to the err, butcher behind the counter, I said have you got some pink veal please, and he said, why, why do you ask, and I said, I donít want that white veal, and he, said, well no we donít have pink veal, no one wants it, and I said, why not, I said, do the know where that, white veal has come from, he said, they donít ask and they donít care, but I knew that it came from an animal that was stuck in a veal crate all itís life, and that worries me, too, so thereís lack of education in many ways, but there again I understand perhaps if you had pink veal and you put it on a plate and the sauce you put round it, was covered and it looks a little bit pink then perhaps some people might not like it quite so much, but I think restaurateurs are also guilty of not, err, explaining where this food is coming from


7.188.  EM: So since when have you not had a market for your bull calves


7.189.  DS: Probably, since the, stopping of export, so I would think probably four to five years ago


7.190.  EM: As a result of


7.191.  DS: There is no market, we unfortunately have to have a baby calf from the cow in order to produce milk and unfortunately, probably fifty per cent of those baby calves are male


7.192.  EM: But was it connected with BSE that


7.193.  DS: No


7.194.  EM No


7.195.  DS: I donít think so, I, I think itís more to do with the kindness of what happens on the continent, and so unfortunately there is a, we are, taking a lot of food into the UK, which is not produced in any way, that is what the, the people who are umm, working towards kindness for animals, Compassion in World farming, etcetera, umm appreciate whatís really happening, I would live them to really get on the band wagon and say, wouldnít it be better if we had local food, umm, because itís produced in a much better kinder way, then this stuff thatís imported


7.196.  EM: Do you feel that there should be, as much on a premium on local food as, organic food


7.197.  DS: Possibly, again, itís fair trade isnít it, umm, local food, should be just the same in that, umm, the person whoís buying it knows where it comes from, knows how fresh it is, knows that the farmer is, having some money to err, look after his family as well, and I think, a lot of people donít even care, umm, I have been in supermarkets and Iíve been standing at the bacon counter and you see these packs of Danish bacon and you see packs of British bacon, some supermarkets are better than others, at putting this forward, umm, wouldnít it be better to have, umm, a sign up saying, if you buy British, you are supporting the British farmer, and the British farmer is one of you, rather then saying nothing, because the supermarkets donít do this, and our local supermarket, umm, hear in Farringdon is very bad at, umm, putting any form of British Bacon on the shelves, Iíve been in to see them several times, Iíve written to them, they did actually acknowledge my letter and sent me a five pound vote, voucher as a ,sorry, but they havenít changed their ways


7.198.  EM: What about the Red Tractor scheme, have you entered into that at all


7.199.  DS: Not as an organic farmer, no, umm, yes, anything that a, has a red tractor, itís what I want, I do buy, I buy on the whole organic food, but err, you know, if it isnít there then I buy, Iíve certainly searched for the red tractor, I will not buy overseas food, when I know that the British farmer desperately needs some help


7.200.  EM: So as a consumer, letís say, you mentioned that your other son, Neil grows celeriac, as a consumer would you, choose local non-organic celeriac, or celeriac from Holland letís say, organic celeriac from Holland, if you were given the choice of local, fresh, non-organic, or organic from abroad, which would you


7.201.  DS: Well certainly I, I buy, English stuff, food in every way, umm, I think your question is a little bit misleading in that umm, we are producing, organic celeriac on a big scale, and I think we are probably the only people in the UK doing that, so if youíre buying, organic, Iím not sure, at all sure, whether you would find, overseas celeriac, or organic celeriac in the UK


7.202.  EM: It was just an example


7.203.  DS: Yes


7.204.  EM: I mean we could


7.205.  DS: Yes


7.206.  EM: be any vegetable


7.207.  DS: Yes


7.208.  EM: Letís say carrots


7.209.  DS: Yes


7.210.  EM: Would, I just, out of interest as an organic farmer your self, Iím interested whether you place more of a err, premium yourself, on the fact of it being local and fresh, than the fact of it being organic


7.211.  DS: If there were carrots, for instance, and theyíre overseas carrots coming into the UK in a big way, umm, if there was a choice, I would certainly have English


7.212.  EM: Non-organic


7.213.  DS: Because I know the market pretty, well, as well as we as farmers do, I know the market, entirely, but certainly umm, having been in it long enough, you do question, and umm, I find it sad that, umm, importation is umm, necessary in such a big way, umm, because if we had, umm, whereas, letís say umm, bananas, avocados, etcetera, we know we canít grow them and so Iím quite happy for them to come in, and I donít see why we should not have them, but, if we can grow, umm, all the root vegetables, Swedes, turnips, the potatoes, in the UK, in a good well, quality state then I donít see why we shouldnít, itís no reason to undercut the market, I think itís very cruel, umm, unnecessary and as I say, it only umm, causes distortations in the, in the, umm, world economy


7.214.  EM: I have, I have a question to follow on that, but it just, it just occurred to me, I was just thinking about it, but I didnít ask you, err, and I donít want to forget it, why the supermarket that gave you only a months notice, what was their reason for suddenly dumping you as a, supplier


7.215.  DS: Well, Iím not at all sure, again, umm, but Iíve seen it just recently umm, whether it is, umm, a way of changing things, I understand, that if the shelf, the shelf space that is available for any product isnít, producing as much per square foot as umm, space next to it, that is selling very well, then they do, quite ruthlessly decide to take one thing off the shelf and replace it with something that they thing might sell better, and I think this is one of the problems, that umm, umm, most supermarkets, as I say, they are neurotic about, making money and for their shareholders, I think this is a great shame


7.216.  EM: And also, back on that err, issue, just because I didnít ask you at the time and it occurs to me now, when they had said, they could get a cheaper price with a farmer down the road


7.217.  DS: Hmm


7.218.  EM: Did you ever get to the bottom of that story


7.219.  DS: Yes I did


7.220.  EM: And, and


7.221.  DS: Yes, umm, I never tackled the supermarket again because I realise that they were not having the whole truth by any means, umm, this of course is, is like, any other barginner, but it was our first experience with the supermarkets, umm, what I did I, I found everyone umm, and phoned them up and made this big list, of, of all the farmers, so I was fairly confident and no one was ever going to say that to me again, and we, set up this group, I think there about seventy two organic dairy farmers in the UK at that time, some quite small, but umm, that list put us in good stead, so when we eventually found the market in err í94, í95, we had a list there and so we were able to, umm, keep them up together, umm, get everyone organised as best we can, some of course were too far out, Scotland, Cornwall, and we had to try and get a umm, market going that we could afford, umm, so at a particular time there was one lorry that came, came to Helen Browning first, down the M4, and then came onto us, and then turned back towards Tetbury, umm, Bristol and back down, until where the processing plant was, in Somerset, so thatís how it started


7.222.  EM: And that wasnít a Soil Association body, that was


7.223.  DS: No, no, no


7.224.  EM: What was it called that


7.225.  DS: This is, was the beginning of OMSCO, The Organic Milk Supplierís Co-op, which is still in, umm, now I think theyíve got somewhere like three hundred and fifty farmers supplying milk to them


7.226.  EM: Hmm, okay and, okay, letís get back to umm, back to where we were, because that was just a bit of a re-tracing


7.227.  DS: Okay


7.228.  EM: Which Iím glad to have done in fact, umm, and how much do you feel Government policies are helping, farmers like you


7.229.  DS: Umm, Iím not terribly happy with the, fact that I donít really know what is spin and what is not spin, Iím weíve seen too much politicians, umm, causing and saying things and turns out not to be quite as true or as umm, economical with the truth, and umm, so I feel you know, what has the Government done, this Government particularly has, said, how helpful itís going to be, umm, how helpful they have been and certainly they have done a few things, one of the things that umm, brings to my mind, recently, is that err, this Government has err, allowed organic farmers to graze their animals on set-a-side land, I expect you know that err, every arable farmer has to se ten per cent of their land aside, each year and not take any production off of it, but umm, like every piece of grass land or umm, cereal land is not cultivated, grass still grows and this Government has made an arrangement that organic farmers can let their animals grass this land, umm, which is good, and itís tremendously helpful for us, and we claim, like every other farmer, a amount for this ten per cent of land that is certified as umm, set-a-side, what they havenít said, having made this big err, thing about the grazing system is that if you then, we as, as Step Farm, have been fortunate, weíve got extensification payments, because we have not, we are producing an organic system and weíve not, err, over done the amount of animals per acre, so each organic animal on our farm has bigger space to live and sleep and lay down, and everything else, and umm, so we, were able to claim an extensification payment for these animals, but now, on paper, this land is, is not a, youíve taken away the umm, Soil Association umm, organic certificate on the set-a-side land, there, it looks on paper that we only have a little bit of land available for grazing, and dividing that up, it means that err, the animals are,  you would feel, highly intensive, so weíve lost all the payments on extensification  and weíve got payments for having set-a-side, do you understand me, so itís give in one hand and taking with the other, but the Government will only say, how great they are in helping us with the err, set-a-side land, and they havenít mentioned away that theyíve taken all the extensifacation  payments away


7.230.  EM: Have you made a hullabaloo about that, or


7.231.  DS: Not yet, if I have time, I, I will send a few more letters out, but I havenít done so yet


7.232.  EM: And how much, are other farmers sympathetic in the area to this, is it a common complaint


7.233.  DS: Well certainly umm, any, any farmer whoís got dairy and arable will have the same situation


7.234.  EM: Also, what did you think about the recent recommendation of the food and farming commission to switch from subsidising production to environmental subsidies


7.235.  DS: We could contributed to that debate, we sent a letter umm, I think, I think what theyíre doing is, right, I donít like to see over production in any way, umm, because it causes a huge amount of other problems and I, I think perhaps the organic farmer may possibly be in the right place, but even if, other farmers, umm, are able to be encouraged to keep their hedges, to umm, make the countryside better for wildlife, etc, then surely this has got to be a good thing, and so I think Don Curry, his report, is going a long the right lines completely, so Iím very much in favour of what theyíre doing


7.236.  EM: Great, okay, Iím just going to move this actually so itís slightly more, okay, great, and umm, youíve, youíve mentioned a little bit already about um, the birds on the land, but


7.237.  DS: Hmm


7.238.  EM: I donít know if you can remember back to prior the twenty, prior to these twenty years of organic farming with I mean, has there been an increase in birds since you


7.239.  DS: Umm


7.240.  EM: Converted


7.241.  DS: Yes I thinks,  I think there probably is, although I think weíve seen a bit of a change, umm, in the early days, there were a lot of err, peewits, lapwings, but, on the higher ground, and I think those sort of birds, are definitely, a higher ground bird, so we havenít probably seen any more, than we would have done, in those cases, umm, but we did this sparrow and starling research for DEFRA, thatís just been published, and umm, delighted to see that thereís, thereís masses of sparrows here, where there seems to be a big loss of sparrows in other places umm, weíve done the grey partridge survey, and we were fortunate in having a lot of partridge too and it was lovely to see them, umm, weíre part of the barn owl survey, and umm, also the sky larks, but the sky larks really come into the same category as the lapwings in that they much prefer the higher ground, and thatís, survey showed that there wasnít a huge amount of difference between us an other farms, were as, umm the birds, the small birds and the tits and umm, bullfinches, everything else that is here, umm, you know, happy with err a woodland, lowland, wetland, environment, I, I am absolutely convinced weíve grown in numbers


7.242.  EM: Did you say the spa err, the sparrow and the starling survey


7.243.  DS: Hmm


7.244.  EM: W, w, what was the starling side of it


7.245.  DS: Umm, well virtually the same


7.246.  EM: So has there been a shortage of starlings


7.247.  DS: Yes, yes there is


7.248.  EM: I always think theyíre plentiful


7.249.  DS: Hmm


7.250.  EM: Right


7.251.  DS: Hmm


7.252.  EM: And in, and where they on you land as well


7.253.  DS: Yes


7.254.  EM: And thereís


7.255.  DS: Thereís plenty, thereís plenty, I donít know if youíve seen the umm, the hundred sparrow boxes weíve got about here, umm, there quite fascinating, I think theyíre just beginning to start breeding already, so, theyíre certainly using them, umm, so a hundred sparrow boxes attached to the farm buildings


7.256.  EM: Wonderful, what about other forms of wildlife


7.257.  DS: I think we have everything, yes, we have umm, fox, deer, badger, muntjack


7.258.  EM: Hedgehogs


7.259.  DS: Hedgehogs, yes, I, I, lots and lots of squirrels, lot of grey squires about here, umm, and of course weíve got pheasant and other animals, and, I, weíve got a lot of hare, quite a lot of rabbit, itís, itís a balance we need isnít it, itís umm, you know, I, I like to know that thereís foxes about here, because I think the fox does a wonderful job it, every night itís out, every night of the year itís out, and itís cleaning up the countryside, umm, so thereís not so many umm, dead birds, dead animals, or, suffering animals, because every animal has to die like the rest of us, and, normally old age is pretty painful, one way or the other, and umm, so you know, there are animals out there that are struggling to survive, and the fox does a wonderful job in tidying up the countryside, I have a real problem, not understanding why the ramblers canít see this as what they really want because they like going for a walk, umm, an they like to see the countryside in a, a good as shape as possible, but I am concerned about, the hunting debate because, when youíve got an fox, he struggles just as much as, anyone else whoís old, he has a big problem in umm, in feeding himself, he canít hunt, he canít pick up the rabbits that are dying or catch, moles, whatever, and starvation is, long and hard, and painful, and so, somehow or other, an old fox has to be brought to the end of itís life, and Iím certainly concerned, because I know what old foxes do, they get into ditches, drains, dykes, etcetera, and starvation comes long and slow and painful, and sadly even when thereís still alive the maggots will get in and feed on the skin and, the whole thing will be really very, very nasty, Iím concerned that perhaps, if it happens to be in a ditch, that fox will end up producing most of the, the juices into the water course, and Iím not sure whoís job it is, to fetch that fox out, and clean the whole thing up, I think there will be an enormous problem, in the cleanliness of water supplies if, we donít get rid of the foxes when they need to be, just the same as err, cattle or anything else that dies, umm, I canít imagine anyone will really want to spend their day fetching these animals out and putting in a grave


7.260.  EM: So where do you, I, I actually tend to not enter into the foxing debate, ha, ha


7.261.  DS: Fair enough, yes


7.262.  EM: Just because, but where does, where does that mean you do stand on it, just in brief cause


7.263.  DS: On the hunting, umm, if I, as an organic farmer I am very, very keen and Iíll stress again on kindliness, to animals care and, looking after them as best we possibly can, just as much as you expect hospitals to look after their patients as much as we can, umm, but, at the end of the day, thereís got to be some decision as to what happens to, these animals and the fox is at the end of the, the top end of the food chain, as far as theyíre concerned, so there has to be control, there has to be control, umm, and I am not happy about guns in this country, at all, I hate seeing people, apart from sport, I hate seeing people with guns, Iím not happy with any of the other forms of trapping, snaring, or poisoning, so I donít know, I go to, I think perhaps hunting is the best way


7.264.  EM: And yet you like foxes clearing, clearing up


7.265.  DS: Absolutely


7.266.  EM: The dead, animals


7.267.  DS: I think we need foxes, so we need that balance, but youíve got to balace in the soil, the Soil Association farmers, try and look after the soil as best they can, thereís a balances, bacteria that eat bacteria, and top of the tree, in the soil, and the same outside, umm, thereís got to be a balance in our lives, umm, weíve got to have a balanced food diet, weíve got to, have a balanced food diet, weíve got to have a balance in everything we do, and if


7.268.  EM: Okay


7.269.  DS: And if, you know, in behaviour as well


7.270.  EM: Yeah, yeah, okay Iím going


7.271.  DS: Okay


7.272.  EM: And ask you a little bit about umm, growing and rearing, and, and how you decide which varieties to grow and that kind of thing


7.273.  DS: Okay


7.274.  EM: H, how do you decide for a starter, which varieties to grow, what to grow, how do you decide what to grow


7.275.  DS: Umm, youíre talking about varieties of, of wheat for instance


7.276.  EM: Yes, all your arable side


7.277.  DS: Right, okay, umm, I suppose that at the end of the season, when ones err, taking a harvest, you look at umm, the sort of crop youíre producing, but you come back to whether you can sell it or not, if youíve got a good market, and weíve been very fortunate in having some very good markets, thatís umm, perhaps you will do it again, there are certain cereals that umm, you look at on the err, new sites, the varieties available and the varieties you can buy and new ones that are coming on, and you would like to try something, I think again itís balance because we tend to, keep some of the old favourites going, and some of, and try a bit of the new as well, umm, I think progression, that is farming, progression, always has been, try different ideas, a little bit, but umm, donít go over board, and put all your eggs in one basket


7.278.  EM: And is there anything that youíd like to grow that you donít, for any reason


7.279.  DS: Yes, umm, we find maize, not umm, terriblely easy to grow because it takes up so much of the nutrients, umm, we need to put a lot of muck on, under the, under the umm, soil, for maize, umm, and then at the end of the harvest, itís taken too much out of the soil, so unless you put it back to grass, umm, and into a clover ley, etcetera, then thatís a problem, umm, so I think, perhaps maize, but on the other hand, on this farm, you would only really be putting maize on the lighter land, itís not really very good for the heavy wet land, and itís also harvested in October and, like this year weíve, weíve caught, caught it badly wrong and we didnít get all our wheat in and our crops out, so umm, yes, thereís a few things and I think perhaps as new seed varieties coming on, I donít know how sunflower, I was very keen on just to try a little bit of sunflower, certainly it grow very well on the top part of the land, not so much umm, down on the wet bit we have, umm, it was very pretty to look at, umm, weíve cut it, weíve harvested it, weíve got seed in the barn, umm, an err, itís been amazing to see the amount of birds out eating the sunflower seed that have dropped on the ground, itís been terrific, really wonder full, umm, everything, all over that, because we havenít yet ploughed it up you see, so itís umm, just stubble and sunflower seeds


7.280.  EM: And where do you buy your seeds


7.281.  DS: Where do we buy them, umm, we look around, we keep quite a lot of them, umm wheat for ourselves, umm, that we donít feed to the cattle, umm we sell some wheat for bread and we keep some, wheat, for next year


7.282.  EM: So is wheat the only one you save


7.283.  DS: No, no, no, no, no it can be any of, any of the cereals, the oats or the barley, etcetera


7.284.  EM: And how do you buy the seed, do you buy it over the internet these days or over, what


7.285.  DS: No, we havenít done that yet, no


7.286.  EM: Where do you


7.287.  DS: Where do we buy it


7.288.  EM: Where do you choose the, is it Farmers Weekly again that you choose the best err


7.289.  DS: No, not so much, no, umm, there are organic seed producers around, and err, we would no doubt, well we would be expected by the Soil Association to give them the first opportunity


7.290.  EM: And you shop, would you shop around quite a bit for prices


7.291.  DS: Yes, like any other farmer, we would look at, all prices, price means a lot to us


7.292.  EM: And is that seed, is it a, important to you that, that seed is from the UK


7.293.  DS: I suspect it has come from the UK, I donít think Iíve asked, I certainly, umm, donít know of much imported seed, but weíve not been in that category, because as I say, you know, we, weíve had umm, Avalon, for many, many years, umm, itís because the baker liked it, he made some very good bread, and it was, a variety that seemed to stand up well on this land and we were happy with it, and from Avalon weíve moved on through the other seeds, the other varieties of wheat, umm, but there seems to be a trend now, that I find a baker up in, err, Yorkshire who said he only wanted Avalon bread, and so as a farmer and as marketing, we will do what we feel the customer needs all the time


7.294.  EM: What about Integrated Farm Management


7.295.  DS: Oh my


7.296.  EM: Have you got into that


7.297.  DS: I have a friend who is doing this, and umm, I have to say I think we differ, I, I can see where heís coming from, in having satellites, expensive stuff, trying to prove that heís got more fertiliser on this patch and none on the other, and this is what is needed, umm, I find it umm, high tech, very good for the err, the people who make their money out of umm, high tech and expensive equipment, I have to say Iím not at all sure that, umm, Integrated Farm Management is, is the right approach, because, although there might be places that are, donít have any fertiliser and spray, and that there, that leaves really the insects and err the wildlife to err, live in that patch, umm, they must find it very difficult to move out from that field into another patch, and find thatís not got the tastes what theyíve been used to, I canít understand it really, umm, I donít think, itís, the right way to do it, Iím quite convinced that organic farming, if done properly, could feed everyone, I donít understand, the rational at the moment, of trying to produce more and more, when our prices are so low, I think we are actually, hurting our self, far more than we need to


7.298.  EM: Can you just give an explanation of Integrated Farm Management, as a farmer


7.299.  DS: Well


7.300.  EM: Because Iíve read explanations but I havenít heard it straight from the farmers mouth, kind of


7.301.  DS: Well, Iím not entirely sure because umm, I guess theyíve probably have moved on from where I came from, but I understand thereís umm, a satellite in the sky, umm mapping these fields, and they map to them to the extent that they see exactly the err, the amount of food produced from one particular area, and if they see that this particular area, is producing the amount desired and that particular area is not, then they can say to the farmer, you go and put some more fertiliser on that particular area, the smaller area where thereís not so much, umm, production, same time you can say the same thing with weeds and control, and normally usually, if umm, the weed, umm bank is so much higher then you can be fairly certain that youíre production of your crop is going to be so much lower


7.302.  EM: And how long has that been around as an idea


7.303.  DS: Oh, itís umm, I donít know, probably, certainly umm, the last five years and certainly thereís farmers that are, think itís, itís the right thing to do, and to some extent it is reducing fertiliser in one place but increasing maybe,  fertiliser in another place


7.304.  EM: Okay, so now, now Iím going to go on to the business side of things


7.305.  DS: [cough] Oh dear


7.306.  EM: Umm,  weíve covered some of this already, umm, but just, just to re-iterate with, who, at the moment, who are you selling your crops and your animals to, are you not, yes, yeah, who are you to


7.307.  DS: Umm, the crops, we, this year, we have produced umm, some clair wheat, which is umm, a biscuit making wheat, and a lot of it, and that has gone to a local miller, who is umm, making some very nice, biscuits, bread and flour, umm, I donít know entire his business but heís certainly supplying all the supermarkets, umm, and he, we like a lot of other organic farmers sent samples to him, umm, umm, of the produce we had in umm, September, October time and he phoned up and said he liked our samples and he would like to buy, thatís how itís done


7.308.  EM: You send a sample of the actual


7.309.  DS: Wheat


7.310.  EM: The grain


7.311.  DS: Yes


7.312.  EM: He grinds it


7.313.  DS: He, he takes it, he samples it, he looks at the protein, he looks at the Hagburg which is the rising


7.314.  EM: The hag


7.315.  DS: The Hagburg, HAGBURG, I believe, umm, itís, itís the amount of rising agent in that wheat


7.316.  EM: So the gluten is it, or


7.317.  DS: No, it, itís


7.318.  EM: Itís the actual rising


7.319.  DS: It rises up when, when the bread is made


7.320.  EM: Hmm


7.321.  DS: So thatís how we sold it, umm, but I did say, send samples to virtually all the organic umm, buyers, so I think we know most of them, umm, as far as the animals


7.322.  EM: Sorry can I just stop you there, and find out, find out about, and h, how happy are you with the price youíre getting for that at the moment


7.323.  DS: Weíve been fortunate, he liked our crop, and heís paid us a decent price, umm, Iím very concerned about next year, because err, the prices seem tobe dropping, umm, because of more importation


7.324.  EM: What is the current price of


7.325.  DS: Of wheat


7.326.  EM: Of that, of that, of the bread, of the biscuit making


7.327.  DS: Umm, anywhere between a hundred and forty, and a hundred and sixty pounds per ??tonne??, and thatís quite a big jump, compared with umm, the conventional farmer, umm, and I think thatís something between fifty and fifty for feed wheat, and umm, perhaps, eighty, umm, I donít know, but, about eighty pounds for bread making wheat


7.328.  EM: So it can be twice as


7.329.  DS: [cough]


7.330.  EM: Twice as much


7.331.  DS: Sorry


7.332.  EM: No, bless you


7.333.  DS: [cough]


7.334.  EM: And then the animals


7.335.  DS: Hmm


7.336.  EM: Where do you sell them


7.337.  DS: Where do we sell them,we sell mainly on this farm milk, so, milk is, is, is the thing that goes away from the farm, we have our own herd, umm, in 1927 Patís grandfather came to Step Farm and the animals we have are almost entirely different generations down from that, so we call ourselves, a closed herd, and umm, although weíve, the only thing one brings in, is the bull to produce a different umm, genetic umm, stain I suppose, but theyíre usually all pedigree fresian, fresian bulls that come in as AI, and those that we donít use umm, as Artificial Insemination umm, we have, umm, two bulls, which are beef, beef bulls and their cross calves are a cross between the fresian diary cow and the beef bull, are kept for beef, so we rear all our own, beef, and umm, we sell it, depending on what umm, market is available really


7.338.  EM: And how, how is the prices for each of them, at the moment


7.339.  DS: I think re, the word might be reasonable, at the moment


7.340.  EM: for both milk and for


7.341.  DS: No, milk is very, very down


7.342.  EM: Hmm


7.343.  DS: But umm beef, is reasonable, umm, it could be better, but umm


7.344.  EM: Again, could you quote roughly what youíre getting for organic compare to conventional


7.345.  DS: Something like ten percent more, err of a beef animal and, as an organic beef animal, about ten percent increase, not so much as wheat, the cereals market, but it is crashing at the moment, so


7.346.  EM: And with the animal use, itís sold as a whole


7.347.  DS: Yes


7.348.  EM: Sold as a whole


7.349.  DS: Yes


7.350.  EM: And what would you roughly get per animal at the minute, that you would, that a conventional, what would that


7.351.  DS: As I say about ten percent more, which would probably, umm, again I donít know the market very well umm, I would imagine, umm, something like five hundred pounds per animal conventionally and, ten percent more, six, six hundred, seven hundred


7.352.  EM: Per organic


7.353.  DS: It very much depends on each animal is, is a very different price


7.354.  EM: Hmm


7.355.  DS: Depending on their


7.356.  EM: Thatís good


7.357.  DS: On their confirmation and everything else


7.358.  EM: Itís good to know roughly and then the, the milk, which is the


7.359.  DS: Yes


7.360.  EM: Which is the worst price of all


7.361.  DS: Yes


7.362.  EM: How does that compare with conventional, prices at the minute


7.363.  DS: Well I think that some conventional prices are higher, sadly, itís, itís a great pity that umm, weíre in very much an over supply market, but unfortunately, you see the Government have again given money for farmers to err, convert their land, and as a result, and then they made a fast track way of doing it, whereas we took umm, quite a long time, probably ten years to get our land converted, that umm, thereís now, weíre now in an oversupply situation and that means that, the market hasnít caught up, there is still an increase in demand for organic produce, but itís a much slower upward graph than the amount of err, milk available at the moment, what the Government didnít do and weíve asked them so many times, because, in Europe, as I understand it, thereís only one other country that doesnít support itís organic farmers in the way theyíre farming, umm other countries have given their farmers, money to continue farming organically, and that means that, they have been able to have a decent lifestyle, they donít have to ask quite so much for their organic produce because they an subsidy, and so theyíve been able to produce more, and therefore imported into the UK, therefore undercutting the organic farming in the UK, so itís importation again, and free trade muddled up with it


7.364.  EM: And with your, err, your milk you sell per, what quantities do


7.365.  DS: We sell something like, one million seven hundred thousand litres, which is a lot in a year



7.366.  EM: Is it price per litre, that you


7.367.  DS: Yes


7.368.  EM: Quoted there


7.369.  DS: Yes


7.370.  EM: So what would be the current price per organic, milk litre compare to conventional, to non-organic


7.371.  DS: Weíre at the moment getting just on twenty pence per litre, umm, the organic milk is umm, paid to us at twenty nine pence per litre, and people who are buying it are aware that, thatís a price they are paying, umm, for it, the problem is that thereís too much, and that means that umm, only about forty percent of this err co-operative OMSCOís members are, thereís only about forty percent organic milk being sold through the Co-op and so the rest of it, although itís organic is going into the conventional market and then the price, is diluted down so as I say, we at Step Farm are just paying, being paid about twenty pence per litre, so quite a lot of our milk, going in organic is below that figure, you understand


7.372.  EM: And then the beef cattle, do you know where they go for slaughter, are you sort of, in touch


7.373.  DS: Oh yes


7.374.  EM: With what happens to them


7.375.  DS: Oh yes, yes


7.376.  EM: What does happen to them


7.377.  DS: Ye we umm, send them to a soil association certificated abattoir, thatís where the kindness comes in, and the gentleness, even at the point of death, umm


7.378.  EM: Where is that


7.379.  DS: Thereís several about here


7.380.  EM: Theyíre quite local are they


7.381.  DS: Not particularly local but they are, yes


7.382.  EM: Are they Oxfordshire


7.383.  DS: Yes, yes, yes


7.384.  EM: Because the abattoir is a whole other issue of


7.385.  DS: Of course


7.386.  EM: Of, of


7.387.  DS: Oh yes


7.388.  EM: And the journey to it


7.389.  DS: Absolutely, yes


7.390.  EM: But youíre reasonably happy with the distance


7.391.  DS: Yes we are, yes, yes, although there have been problems, err, certainly in the Foot and Mouth time, umm, some of our sheep, you see the Ministry say where they have to go, umm, that was done to Devon, and my son Miles, he had to get up at something like two oíclock, he had to load the lambs at, by three oíclock, and then drive all the way down to Devon, he had, because heís organic, umm, the killing line has to be done first, so that they then donít have to clean down when they move onto err, conventional stock, whereas, umm, thatís why they have to be first in the morning, so itís quite a long journey and by seven oíclock he had unloaded his lambs and err, come away, soon after he came away, they err, we had a phone call to say that the stock, wonderful lambs they were, were a little bit too big, for the supermarket trade, were we prepared to take them fifty per cent less, or, we have a choice, we can come down and fetch them, and thatís what we did, well Miles decided, that he wasnít going to accept the price they offered us, because although the lambs were quality, the leg of lamb was just that little bit bigger, and so we went down, he went down and fetched, all these lambs dead back, and we had them chopped put in the deep freeze, and we sold them, from the door step, from here, itís not possible for everyone to do that, I have to admit but, do hate being treated like that


7.392.  EM: Who do you think does have the most control over farming say, do you feel itís the EU, politicians, supermarkets, landowners


7.393.  DS: Who has most control, I think it, itís got to be, the umm, supermarkets perhaps who, think, that maybe they do it through umm, research etcetera, but they think, this is what the housewife wants, so the housewife is not really given a choice between, a big leg of lamb, or a small leg of lamb, they are given standard bulk product, same thing happens with celeriac, itís got to be the same size, and if itís outsize that size, itís not wanted, and that goes, therefore that the, you know, that these vegetables then go on to the, the umm, market stalls, that we see, and itís usually the things that are outsize that a criteria that supermarkets have stipulated


7.394.  EM: You mentioned at the very beginning that you, youíre, you were often the one to do the paper work, how, how much, what proportion of your week, would you say was, being spent on paperwork


7.395.  EM: Probably fifty per cent, itís huge, itís huge, I donít do the passports of each of these animals and as you can imagine, weíve got a lot of passports floating around, and there seems to be a problem with a lot of them, in that thereís, one digit missing, changed, anyone whoís a bit dyslexic probably canít be a farmer anymore because err, you certainly canít be allowed to have, one number infront of the other, or upside down, itís a complete nightmare and I think, as it getís bigger, now thereís horses who have to have passports in January, sheep are going to have to have ear tags and everything else, I just cannot imagine it being completely fool proof, itís a lot of work, umm


7.396.  EM: What do the passports involve, letís say the cow passports


7.397.  DS: Well, keeping tags on everything from the day theyíre born to on the day they are moved off the farm, so umm, you have to know what youíve got


7.398.  EM: Itís a number and a description


7.399.  DS: Yes, itís usually


7.400.  EM: Not a name


7.401.  DS: Itís, no, non, no, no


7.402.  EM: Ha, ha, ha


7.403.  DS: No, umm, thereís duty to, to umm, one is the, the herd number, and umm, and then, then thereís another one with the, a big yellow tag, that umm, we need to have as well, these yellow plastic tags that the Ministry, expect us to have umm, are often falling out, not easy to keep in


7.404.  EM: Umm, what about the subsidy issue


7.405.  DS: How important do you think subsidies are to farmers, can you think of a system that would work better


7.406.  EM: Gosh, youíre asking me some very difficult questions


7.407.  DS: Umm, I think if we donít have, these subsidies at the moment, I donít think there would be a farmer surviving at the moment, so itís going to have to be a very, very slow change, if indeed, maybe this subside change will be a payment towards environment, a bit more than a payment towards high production, maybe that will okay, I am very concerned, about, the Welsh farmer, the hill farmer, the farmers that are small, because I think that small farms have lots of hedges and thereís lots of charming places that umm, I would hate to see the UK completely covered in just large farms, that really havenít got any feel for them, I do like err, if you go for a walk, you want to see all sorts of err, flowers and, and things in the hedgerow, and the bigger the farm, the less chance you are of going to have this, especially contractors, cause contractors want to move over the ground pretty fast


7.408.  EM: And what would be you ideal scenario with subidies, subsidies, particularly organic farmers


7.409.  DS: I donít see, I think if the population understood the amount of work that an organic farmer has to do, umm, to produce whatever, where as, if itís animals they need ot have more space, they need to be bedded up more, they need to have better food, everything costs a great deal more to do that, if youíre looking at vegetables, those vegetables donít have any sprays on them, they have to be hand weeded or weeded with machines and there arenít very good machines at the moment, certainly you can weed up and down the rows, but you canít weed in and out the rows, umm, so thatís all down by hand, that is all big cost and until that happens, that we can do something a bit more better, then I think we need those subsidies to err, keep the farmer on the land, I would hate to see the time, the 1920ís, I donít know much about it because I wasnít born then, but my father tells me, and other folk have told me that, there was huge tracts of land, that they couldnít even give, the landlords couldnít get a farmer to take it, because the farmer knew he would, loose money by trying to, to farm it, huge tracks of land went for a pound an acre, weíre talking about somewhere between two thousand five hundred and three thousand per acre at the moment, and I think perhaps, the time will come, if land is available for sale, then it will be the big institutions, the big, companies that will want to buy, the farmer, the local farmer will never be able to buy that, out his, heís got to make money in order to be able to have money to buy, umm, so it wonít be the farmer whose doing it, it will be, umm, insurance companies, etcetera, who will have the money to buy land, and they will not farm it, like an ordinary farmer will farm it, they will farm it with, big tools, umm, maybe the inter, intercrop rotations and they will not, really, care for the land, just as what I would say, an everyday farmer does


7.410.  EM: One of the, one of the farmers that, who I interviewed said that he would rather, he feels like a leaper, he says, because of subsidies, he feels people treat him as a, a subsidy junkie, and he would rather, he feels that the tax payer pays either way, he would rather see the food at a higher price and have no subside, what do you think about that


7.411.  DS: Yes, I think thatís, I think thatís possibly the way weíre going, umm, Iím not at all sure about the whole thing, because I think itís a muddle, and I, I come back to local food, because I think this is got to be the answer, in, err, the locality will see, how itís grown, and see the state of the farms, etcetera, umm, because so much food comes from away, and we donít know what sort of farm it ever came from, we have no idea, umm, whether the land has been farmed properly or not, umm, subsidies in New Zealns have disappeared, and for a short while, the farmer appeared to be doing very well, but now I understand, umm, their prices are dropping, dramatically, so subsidies are not, the farmer if not doing very well and again itís back to, the big power of buying corporations, umm, back here, umm, subsidies, could go, if they went, then something else must, must replace, and it must be, perhaps in an increase in food prices, but then when you look at France, for instance, theyíre already, their food prices are still lower than the British food price, so then of course, you would have importation, again, and so youíre going round in vicious circles, so I donít know if thereís a proper answer at all.


7.412.  EM: Okay, yup, Iím going to move on, Iím nearly rounding up now, but there are a few still umm, well one big one and after that a few sort of rounding up questions


7.413.  DS: Okay


7.414.  EM: The one big one I havenít asked you yet is you opinion of GM


7.415.  DS: Oh right, okay, GM, umm I went to Arkansa umm, by invitation of their National Farmers Union, umm, to give a talk on Genetically Modified food and I have to say it was quite a, quite a, quite a, an interesting venture, umm, before the meeting started and weíd arrived, we discovered that the people that had asked me to come over and talk had got cold feet, partly because Monsanto had decided they wanted to come to the meeting as well, and they thought there might have been a fracas, but there we are, umm, so I, I told them about things that we are very concerned about, not only GMs but about the, the hormones that theyíve put in their cattle, and so everyoneís eating hormone treated beef and why we in Europe donít want to take it, and why weíre now being fined, quite a considerable amount for not taking it, and GMs would be another problem, umm, I talked about the wildlife etcetera, and as far as GMs are concerned I cannot see why we need to do it, simply because we, the world is producing too much food, and if we produce too much food then the crops come down, and so whatís the reason for evening bothering, umm, if, if the argument is, is to feed the world, itís not quite a sensible argument, umm, weíve got a farmer, umm, Chris Lewis, heís now moved even nearer us, umm, heís only about a mile away and itís a great worry, I donít see why he, should just decide where heís going to put his crops and then we have to look at our farming and decide that we canít possibly grow the same crop as he, because we might have cross contamination, umm, so Iím very concerned about the, why he feels that heís superior to us, I would liked him to have come and phoned us up and said, I want to do this, are you happy, but he hasnít, so local, on a local scale Iím not happy about this either, umm


7.416.  EM: Just, just, yeah


7.417.  DS: GM crops are, we, we donít know what were doing and, if I can tell you a little bit about my research work before I was married, we thought that we were highly intelligent young folk as, as young folk always do, and we used irradiation on our insects and we did a lot of, I think probably good research, but at lunch time, we would go and have our lunch, we would have taken our packed sandwiches, and we would have sat round a lab bench and there was benzene and toluene bubbling away in the lab and I think, we must have been stupid, we had no idea no stupid we were, because these substances are not only carcinogenic but umm, theyíre well and truly kept in umm, rooms with big notices on, do not enter, so thinking we were bright, we were very, very stupid, and I think perhaps you can put the same analogy for GM crops, we really donít know what weíre doing, I would like to see a lot more research done in laboratory behind closed doors and if we are putting GM crops out into the open, we donít know whether weíre going to end up with a blue buttercup or whatever, I still feel a little bit old fashioned, that I would like my grandchildren to be able to see a yellow buttercup and know that itís what there grandparents thoroughly enjoyed watching as well, umm, so Iím quite convinced we donít know what weíre doing and I am quite convinced having done research and looked at other people big corporations and their research, a lot of it is not done properly


7.418.  EM: And in the local scenario with a GM farmer a mile a way


7.419.  DS: Hmm


7.420.  EM: Have organic farmers and non-organic farmers in the area kicked up a fuss, have you made your feelings know to him


7.421.  DS: Certainly, yes we have and


7.422.  EM: Whatís his reaction to your


7.423.  DS: He doesnít care, he doesnít care two hoots, heís feels very much that he is feeding the world and as I say, I donít think he is, so we disagree entirely


7.424.  EM: And have you been to elaborate your, your point of view


7.425.  DS: Oh yes, yes


7.426.  EM: In what context have you elaborated it


7.427.  DS: Weíve had discussions by email and weíve had discussions by telephone and umm I quite prepared to have any  sort of discussion, but umm


7.428.  EM: And some of them, phe, philosophising about feed the world or not


7.429.  DS: Hmm,


7.430.  EM: That


7.431.  DS: Oh yes,


7.432.  EM: Kind of degree of


7.433.  DS: Oh yes,

7.434.  EM: Discussion


7.435.  DS: Yes, yes


7.436.  EM: So, had, you had, are you still in a situation where you actually have to wait to know what heís planting before you decide what youíre planting


7.437.  DS: Well we only hear through the media, thatís the problem


7.438.  EM: What heís planting


7.439.  DS: Yes, yes


7.440.  EM: Would he, would he, could you persuade him to tell you what heís planting


7.441.  DS: Yes, heís open enough about it, but I just feel that, itís not fair that he can say Iím going to do this, or whatever and we will have to alter our farming in order to comply with our regulations, because today we have a, Soil Association inspection and those inspectors could say, weíre not happy, question mark, about your produce, if they wanted to


7.442.  EM: What about the non-organic farmers in the area, have some of them been unhappy with it


7.443.  DS: I suppose thereís a whole range of folk, who sit on the fence, thereís a lot of farmers and thereís some very bright err, young folk, my sonís work with, who are very unsure, about the future, umm, I can understand in countryís where thereís problems with tetse fly I would have no qualms about getting ride of tetse fly or any, some of the other diseases, umm, if GM is the way to do it, I think thatís fair enough, you know, as long as there is a balance, but even in Africa, itís not a balance with big hordes of locus, etcetera, umm, if thereís a way to stop, at the moment weíre talking about vaccination a lot to control us, but would it perhaps be better to be able to control the locus, umm, tetse fly  all the other diseases that we have, better, than rather than have to keep putting vaccines into the human population, umm, I think, you know, but Iím not very happy about eating food that weíre not sure of, what is in it, and what geneís, we just donít know, and thereís lots of things that come in over the err, internet, I understand theyíre not producing their quantity of produce they think they are, in the states, but as I say, itís terribly difficult fro anyone to understand because thereís too much spin from different companies, that umm, we donít know whether theyíre really telling us the truth or not


7.444.  EM: My final question about GM, has he, your local GM farmer, not then, been made to feel unpopular enough, it hasnít got to a point where


7.445.  DS: Ha, ha,


7.446.  EM: All the farmers have collaborated in saying look, we donít want this, or is he someone who wouldnít


7.447.  DS: I. I


7.448.  EM: Even if he was made to feel unpopular he go on


7.449.  DS: I know this gentleman very well, umm, I suspect that nothing would change his mind


7.450.  EM: Okay, moving on now to my final questions, umm, you, youíve already mentioned that both your sons, have, have taken over the, the farm


7.451.  DS: Yes, thatís right, yes


7.452.  EM: Too some extent, one more, more than the other, and your husband and you still, are still fairly active on the farm


7.453.  DS: Hmm


7.454.  EM: Do you expect that his children too will


7.455.  DS: Will farm, umm, I would like to think so, but perhaps Iím dreaming about this, but umm, certainly, you know, when I, I, again Iím a little bit, nostalgic about the family, the family history, and the history of populations before us, and itís so very nice to feel that what effort youíve put into your land is going to be, handed down to someone who will treat as well, or as nicely, or even better, than we possibly could, umm, so I would love to think that they possibly could, I am concerned what would happen, if there arenít farmers around here, and I am concerned that, as I say, youíve only got to have three or four months, umm, of not looking after your land and youíll find thereís a good muddle, umm, crops have grown, theyíve died and they need to be trimmed off and what have you, the place wouldnít be at all what the population imagine, they would not imagine, what it would be like, until itís too late I think, but there would be a lot of bramble, huge amount of bramble, and Iíve heard folk say, oh, they wonít mind bramble, but I know what bramble would look like, and sadly, very sadly, there would be a lot of rubbish in that bramble, because as a country we are appallingly bad at tidying up, umm, the lay-bys, and places are tipped and what have you, and itís going to get worse, because we are charging for tipping as well, so I canít see if, if you got rubbish in brambles, if you donít go around and clean the whole lot up, itís going to look absolutely appalling, I donít think the population understand at all


7.456.  EM: And what advice would you give to someone going into farming today, would you advise someone to go into farming today


7.457.  DS: Many, many years ago, umm, when I was running the Farringdon Young Farmers Club, I asked umm, Caroline Jackson our MEP to come along to the Young Farmers Club, and itís the same question we asked her, and she sat there amongst a lot of, young people, fourteen, fifteen, eighteen year old, the same question, what advice, would you do, and she said, she sat there on, on the top of the, the table, amongst them all and she said, if I were you, I would enjoy my farm, I would love the countryside but I would go find a job elsewhere, and I think perhaps thatís the only thing we have to look forward to, but wouldnít it be nice to be able to have the job, umm, here in this house, and do it from home, and not have to go and fight the terrible train services we have, the Underground and the fights to stand up in a train to go all the way to London


7.458.  EM: And has farming put strain on your family at, at, many diff, different points


7.459.  DS: Yes I think so, I think so, I think thereís always strain, thereís always another question, what do we do, do we buy a mike, milk quota, do we lease milk quota, do we take the chance of getting fined heavily if donít have milk quota and it goes on and on and on, thereís some other question all the time, milk quotaís are complete nightmare to try and, it, it, itís a gamble whether youíve got enough, itís a gamble whether you havenít got enough, umm, fining I find very difficult to cope with, umm, whether you havenít put your tax return in on time, you get a fine, you get a fine if you donít send in your IACS payments on time, umm, you get a fine if you donít write the right things in, properly, umm, thereís fines for virtually everything and I think this is a great shame, umm, I donít see why, we should be under this sort of pressure, if you donít send your VAT return in, on time, the computer soon sends you a very dirty letter, with a fine notice, and it happens quite regularly, you canít be there all the time, every day of the week, every, doesnít give you much time for the small farmer who, has to not only get out and milk his cows, or feed his stock, umm, he comes home at umm, when itís dark having done the second round and then have to turn round and sit down and coupe with the paper work at night, lot of farmers are working very late at night with the paperwork, umm, and it seems to be getting worse, so


7.460.  EM: What do you feel that, it really is the last few, what do you feel is the current local image of the farmer, of you even, in your local community


7.461.  DS: Oh gosh, I donít know what they think of us, umm, thereís a lot of people out there, who say, oh itís lovely to be an organic farmer, how exciting, umm, I am interested and others will make the comment, which umm, itís how we used to do it anyway, isnít it, but thereís problems, certainly in this area, between  Ox and Swindon thereís not a, a person who wants to come and work on the farm, who wantís to get his hands dirty, as I say, you know, with celeriac, umm, we are having an agency, the agency collects young folk umm, from South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, etcetera, and we get them to drive out on a certain day, we put them up in the local hotels and they thoroughly enjoy it and they find Farringdon is a lovely place to be, especially in the evenings, something to do, umm, but can you get an English school child to give up their time, to come and help us weed the crops and that, as much as they say they enjoy organic farming and they want organic food, thereís no one out there, in this area who wants to, they, thereís umm, farm workers I know, who have left the land, they find it better income wise to go to our local supermarket and stock the shelves at night, they make more money than doing that, and itís a real crying shame, that again, Iím not decrying the supermarkets for paying a decent wage, but it means that the farmer out there, has got no one to rely on to do anything else, so we just cannot find labour


7.462.  EM: And when you do, is it much more expensive to you, to have to put them up in a hotel while theyíre


7.463.  DS: Yes, yes, these agencies are not cheap by any means, weíre talking about ten pounds an hour, umm, plus board and lodge, lodgings, and usually during the day, Iíve done a big casserole or something, so that weíve taken that down for them, for lunch as well, so you know, itís, itís not easy work by any means


7.464.  EM: And my last question, my absolutely last question, and you mentioned it, a bit, but do you feel, that you have been a custodian of this land, do you see farmers as, that as there responsibility, do you fell farmers should be custodians of the land


7.465.  DS: I think I would like to be seen or, my family would like to be seen as trying to have done the best under the circumstances, we have, I would like to think that we are handing the land over, in as good a heart as we possibly can, I know since weíve become organic that the soil is a great deal better, itís a lot more friable we can work it a little bit better than what it used to be, umm, so in that respect I think itís, itís been good that weíve done what weíve done, as far as people seeing us, I think they see us, hopefully as, trying, I donít know about succeeding, I think trying we have worked our socks off to do what we can within the circumstances, umm, certainly with marketing, certainly with trying to umm, help others to understand what weíre doing and why weíre doing it, and umm, keep the land as I would like to see England is, err, as good, pretty and attractive, and as welcoming for anybody who likes to come, umm, Iím a little bit concerned about the future, umm, Iím hopeful that Don Curry and his team have got it right, because I think that, there might be a middle balance, in what theyíre trying to do, and I hope that will be right, because we all have to be different in other ways because very boring if we were all the same


7.466.  EM: Well Daphne, thank you so much, I mean, I felt like, I know I could ask you much more, and thereís much more you could talk about, umm, I think we better call it a day because weíve been at it for nearly two and a half hours


7.467.  DS: I donít believe you, oh good lord


7.468.  EM: So umm


7.469.  DS: I canít believe that


7.470.  EM: Thank you very much, and Iíll just say the end, so thatís the end of the interview with Daphne Saunders conducted by Eka Morgan, thank-you very much Daphne, that was really, fascinating


7.471.  DS: Did it come off, over, alright


7.472.  EM: Fantastic


7.473.  DS: Did it


7.474.  EM: And Iím going to

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