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An abstract for each of the ten farmers interviews are presented below. The abstracts are ordered by the date of the interview. Five farmers were interviewed in May or June 2002: Marilyn Ivings, Jane Bowler, Clive Hawes, David Orpwood, Charles Peers. Another five farmers were interviewed in December 2002 or January 2003: Chris Freeman, Daphne Saunders, Christopher Lewis, Mark Howard, Michael Soanes.

The interview form or record for each farmer gives further details about each farmer and where they farm. The farmers were interviewed in semi-structured interviews using a questionnaire.

Marilyn Ivings

Marilyn Ivings didn’t come from a farming background; her family lived in Bristol, her father was a plumber and her mother a dressmaker and home maker. Marilyn says she wanted to work outside and went into farming as ‘at school I didn’t pass my Latin ‘O’ level. I wanted to be a vet’. She answered an advert in Farmers Weekly and became a live-in herd’s woman on a farm two miles from where she farms now. The Ministry of Agriculture gave her a scholarship and she went to agricultural college in Somerset. Upon leaving she returned to the farm and met her husband Ted, a local farmer, while planting kale. Marilyn worked with her husband as a farmer, growing cereals, keeping pigs, cattle and a dairy over the years.  These days they grow cereals for bread, biscuits or feed and keep cattle which are sold directly to a supermarket. Marilyn also keeps some chickens and ducks, selling the eggs at the door and locally. She also enjoys life off the farm, singing in amateur opera productions and has also served in the local branch of the National Farming Union.  She says of farming ‘I’ve been very fortunate, you know I’ve loved every minute of it so, it’s worked’. However Marilyn doesn’t expect her grown-up children to return to farming: ‘They've got good jobs, as I say, with good money, and really they're better off, doing what they're doing. None of them is temperamentally suited to coming back, and slogging for nothing’. What will happen to their farm in future? She says ‘well when we pop our clogs I have an idea that the whole lot will be lotted up and sold, and we shall have some very rich children’.

Marilyn was 61 years old when interviewed in May 2002 at Mill Farm, Church Enstone, Oxfordshire.

Read the transcript of Marilyn Ivings interview

Read the interview form for Marilyn Ivings interview
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Jane Bowler

Jane Bowler was born into a farming family. Her father had a mixed farm with a dairy and he was a coal merchant during the winter months. She left school age fifteen to milk the cows. But her father didn’t want to borrow money to modernise the dairy and so he sold most of the farm. Its land was divided by the increasingly busy road between Oxford and Wantage. Jane’s father retained the smaller part of the farm; just twelve acres. Jane then worked outside the farm but continue to rear pigs. It seems it’s something she’s always been doing, in fact she says ‘there’s a photograph at my dads with me when I was about two, bottle feeding a, a little piglet’. Jane and her husband built a bungalow on part of the farm as their home. They found that despite their best efforts it was not possible to produce pigs profitably as the sale price was less than the cost of raising the pigs. Jane was one of the founders of Ladies In Pigs, an organisation which set out to promote pork and network pig producers. Jane and her husband started to produce pork from pigs fed on feed free from growth promoters (antibiotics). Initially she sold the meat to local butchers and advertised it in the local papers using the phase ‘I’m Free’. Their pork is now sold at their farm shop, converted from what was their garage. She is a keen supporter of farmers markets and local food initiatives. Jane has two children, one of which, James, is the butcher in the farm shop. He husband works on the farm and formerly worked for a feed company.

Jane was 50 years old when interviewed in May 2002 at 
Dews Meadow Farm, East Hanney, Oxfordshire.

Read the transcript of Jane Bowler’s interview

Read the interview form for Jane Blowler’s interview
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Clive Hawes

Clive Hawes parents were farmers and he remembers being taken milking with his mother at about three years old.  At that time they had a mixed farm. His father kept pedigree cattle for which he won County prizes. Clive kept sheep, having his first sheep at age seven and about a thousand by the time he left school. He’d also work as a shearer on local farms. Clive’s father died when he was eighteen. The dairy was closed and he concentrated on arable and sheep farming. He developed other business interests including livestock trading. He’d visit the livestock markets often and says they created ‘a very healthy community, that's what I used to enjoy, that’s to me what it was about, you know, mixing, interacting’ and he regrets the closure of most markets. Clive has diversified into various non-farming activities including managing property development on his farm holdings and a nursing home which he runs with his wife. The M40 motorway now runs next to his farm and he says the village of Little Chesterton where he lives is now ‘suburbia’. Clive’s sheep at Grange Farm were infected during the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak. They were killed and burnt on a pyre at the farm. He also had sheep in Lincolnshire which were culled to prevent them starving due to movement restrictions. People sent letters of support to him during the outbreak and the local metal detecting club, who used his land, held a collection for the family. Clive and his wife Carol have two children. He hopes his sons may continue farming but recommends farming in France, which he visits regularly, and where he keeps some sheep.

Clive was 48 years old when interviewed in May 2002 at  Grange Farm, Little Chesterton, Oxfordshire.
Read the transcript of Clive Hawe's interview

Read the interview form for Clive Hawe’s interview
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David Orpwood

David Orpwood used to worked on a farm as a teenager to earn pocket money; he recalls South Oxfordshire and  ‘one of those old fashioned Easter holidays, when it was cold and snowy and everything, and it was a horrendous bloody job, but in the last few days, weather was fantastic and ... [it] just got me’. After attending agricultural college, David worked at a farm running an outdoor pig herd and set up his own in 1979, buying two hundred sows. The size of the herd increased to about thirteen hundred in 1993. He had also joined a marketing company, Thames Valley Pigs, as a director. However changes in the pig market including, he says, an over supply of pig meat and collapsing international economies, lead to reduce prices and he lost out. David stood for election in 1999 to the National Farmers Union for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and was appointed its President. The foot and mouth crisis of 2001 were for him ‘the last straw’ adding to his former losses. The restrictions on the movement of livestock meant he couldn’t sell his pigs. He therefore decided to leave farming. Instead he used his experience and contacts to set up a company Local Food for Local People. David’s wife is a chief who’s cooked for, amongst others, the royal family, MPs and senior businessmen. David met her while she was setting up a local restaurant and living in the farmhouse on the farm where he kept his pigs. They met in the farmyard one day and ‘it went on from there, really’. They have three children, the oldest sixteen, and the youngest twelve.

David was 49 years old when interviewed in June 2002 at Woods Farm, Watlington, Oxfordshire.

Read the transcript of David Orpwood's interview

Read the interview form for David Orpwood's interview
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Charles Peers
Charles Peers says his forbears came to Oxfordshire in the 1700s; they made their fortune in the East India Company. They were members of the cloth and benefactors for local schools and churches. His father was a farmer, the first in the family, at their seven hundred acre estate at Little Hampton, near Stadhampton. After National Service, Charles studied agriculture at the County Institute in Northamptonshire, where he also met his wife. He worked on his father's estate and took it on in 1966. Finding substantial debts, Charles decided to sell up and move to a smaller farm, but one with better quality land. He has a strong sense of place saying that he wouldn’t have considered leaving Oxfordshire: ‘I couldn’t move out of Oxfordshire that would be … heresy’. Besides farming, Charles ran an agricultural contracting business at one time and he has now diversified into holiday accommodation, and office accommodation; presently let to the local branch of the National Farmers Union. The farm currently produces beef cattle, cereals –wheat, oats and barley, and eggs from chickens. One of his two sons works on the farm and they have now formed a family partnership including his wife. Most of the farm is now farmed by a former farming colleague, who rents most of it, with Charles giving some advice and direction. Charles started farming cereals organically in the late 1970s/ early 1980s, finding that it was more profitable than conventional crops. Later he started to rear beef cattle organically. He has served as a parish and district Councillor, a school Governor and at the time of the interview he was the Chairman of the organic certification body, the Organic Farmers and Growers. He says the public needs to realise that if they want farmers to conserve the countryside then they need to pay for it: ‘because I have to live’.

Charles was 63 years old when interviewed in June 2002 at Views Farm, Great Milton, Oxfordshire.

Read the transcript of Charles Peers interview
Read the interview form for Charles Peers interview
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Chris Freeman

Chris Freeman says he had no hesitation becoming a farmer and he’s committed to farming for the rest of his life.  His father farmed and ran a coach and haulage business. One of his Chris’s sons works with him on the farm as the herdsman. They milk the cows twice a day at five o’clock in the morning and the afternoon; there’s also feeding, clean out, and bedding up to do. Chris is very proud of his herd of three hundred and twenty pedigree Holsteins which won him six prizes in 2002. He’s artificially inseminated his Holsteins, importing semen from abroad, mostly Canada or America.  He now undertakes contracting work and studied reproductive techniques at Bristol University. During the Foot and Mouth outbreak he quarantined the cows as best he could; he recalls leaving the farm only once in four months. The herd is feed grass and fodder maize, which Chris grows. Contractors plough and then plant the maize and Chris harvests it. One of the changes Chris has seen in dairying is the size of the herd needed to be economically viable: ‘in ‘70s when I started farming, sixty cows you could make a living out of, you’ve got a job with six hundred now, you know’. Perhaps this explains why Chris is selling his farm, where he farms 260 acres, to farm eleven hundred acres on a tenant farm in Sussex. Chris has been active with Farmers for Action and attended demonstrations at supermarkets and their distribution depots. The village where Chris farms, Goosey, has seen a spate of family farms being sold; they can’t make ends meet. The farms are ’being bought by London business men, with city money’.

Chris was 48 years old when interviewed in December 2002 at
Goosey House Farm, Goosey, Oxfordshire.


Read the transcript of Chris Freeman’s interview

Read the interview form for Chris Freeman’s interview
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Daphne Saunders

 Although Daphne Saunders's parents were farmers, she started her career as a researcher in irradiation and entomology. She met her husband, Pat, at a dance organised by Faringdon Young Farmers when she was nineteen but it wasn’t until four years later that they ‘got together’. Her parent’s welcomed Pat’s farming background: ‘my father was immediately talking prices of calves and prices of wheat and everything else and it just seemed so natural’. Step Farm, Faringdon, where Daphne and Pat farm belongs to the National Trust. They farm one thousand five hundred acres organically, growing cereals, vegetables and rearing beef and dairy cows. They’ve received a dedication from the Soil Association for their twenty years of organic production. Daphne’s particular skill is marketing but four other people, besides the Saunders family, are employed on the farm.  In the summer there are extra labourers, from abroad, provided by an agency. Finding agricultural labourers is difficult says Daphne, between Swindon and Oxford ‘there’s not a person who wants to come and work on the farm, who wants to get his hands dirty’. Daphne was first approached by a supermarket in 1990 to supply organic milk. She was incensed by their unfair buying practices and organised an organic milk producer’s group that became OMSCO, The Organic Milk Supplier’s Co-op. However, today over supply in the organic milk market means that their milk selling price is less than production costs. Daphne’s neighbouring farmer Chris Lewis, is growing a Genetically Modified crop: ‘it’s a great worry’ she says, ‘I don’t see why he, should just decide where he’s going to put his crops and then … we can’t possibly grow the same crop … because we might have cross contamination’.

Daphne was
62 years old when interviewed at her home at Wood House, Faringdon, Oxfordshire.


Read the transcript of Daphne Saunders interview

Read the interview form for Daphne Saunders interview
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Christopher Lewis

 After a couple of years of military service in London, Christopher Lewis decided to farm as he didn’t like city life and he didn’t want to work for anybody else. He’s been farming for forty two years and his present farm is six smaller farms which have been amalgamated into one. He farms two thousand acres, of which he owns five hundred as a family partnership. His step-son is the head of the farm, which employs four people. Part of the farm includes land next to the river Thames which works well for grassing and attracts a grant for conservation measures. About seven or eight years ago a pig unit on the farm was losing increasing amounts of money and was closed; some of the empty buildings remain today. The pig unit was highly mechanised and in the top ten percent of producers for efficient pig production. Christopher blames foreign competition for his loses, especially from subsidised pig farming in Denmark. He’s sceptical about diversifying his farm production further. He’s disturbed by people trespassing on his land and refutes complaints about smells or noise from neighbours in the village. Christopher volunteered to be part of the Government’s Farm Scale Evaluation of Genetically Modified crops after the Royal Agricultural Society of England was approached; he was one of it’s Council members. He grows GM maize and oil seed rape. At a village meeting people were very angry and he says ‘I felt a little bit like a Jew with a shop in the middle of Germany in the late thirties … being vilified for all the wrong reasons’. There have been several occasions when anti-GM protestors have damaged his crops at night.

Christopher was
68 years old when interviewed in Jaunary 2003 at  Glebe Farm, Hinton Waldrist, Oxfordshire.


Read the transcript of Christopher Lewis's interview

Read the interview form for Christopher Lewis's interview
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Mark Howard

 Mark Howard returned from studying agriculture at university to take on his father’s farm in Wendlebury. When Mark took on the farm, twenty four years ago then they employed a total of six people; now there are no employees, and contractors do most of the work with Mark pitching in as needed. Mark raises beef cattle, fifty at present, from three months old and sells them at two years old as fat cattle at Thame Market. He says ‘the farm now feels very empty’, at one time the farm had a dairy herd but ‘once the dairy cows go, it does feel, very much like a ghost farm, because there is a lot of activity with dairy farming … with the whole of agriculture, there is this, this change where, where people, where living things are going off the land and certainly in Oxfordshire here, I mean it’s becoming almost like a livestock desert … it’s becoming very quiet, which is almost eerie’. Marks has diversified by letting some of the farm buildings for either storage or a running small business; being next to the M40 motorway and A34 junction helps with this but the ‘tranquillity has been spoiled’. In the middle of the farm is thirteen acre ancient woodland that is a county wildlife site. Mark bought a farm in France between Bordeaux and Toulouse twelve years ago. It grows asparagus, carrots, sugar beet and tobacco. Mark visits every other month and he’s employed a local farm manager throughout. They converse in French, but he finds it difficult to communicate on occassion. Mark is studying for an MBA in agricultural and food industries.

Mark was
42 years old when he was interviewed in January 2003 at Weston Park Farm, Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire.

Read the transcript of Mark Howard’s interview

Read the interview form for Mark Howard’s interview
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Michael Soanes

Michael Soanes farmed 300 acres with his father at Royal Oak farm, Beckley. They reared sheep and free range chickens and grow cereals. Prices were falling and interest rates increasing. When his father retired after ill health Michael bought his father out. They converted a disused building into a farm shop. They sold the farmhouse and farmland which helped meet some of their bank debts. Michael now works in the farm shop and part-time at a supermarket, mainly cooking. Michael’s wife Natalie sells home made cakes at farmers markets. They have three children, the oldest is nine. Michael recalls when he was a boy ‘I was out with dad when I was six, seven years old, all the time, you know, five in the morning milking, go in doors, have breakfast, go to school, come back out, straight back on the farm’. But childhood on a farm is different now ‘they’re much more dangerous now cause … it’s not hand work, it’s all machinery ... small children are not allowed to get near’. In Michael’s lifetime the village of Beckley has changed ‘the village has always been about five or six hundred people … I bet there isn’t more, than, twelve or thirteen village families left, whereas there would have been, seventy or eighty’. New people have come to the village ‘the village families which would have been, mainly country workers … their sons and daughters have had to move to the cities, to get work … then the professional people have come out from the city … their salaries were good, and they’ve come and bought all the houses … some villages look lovely, cause there’s money in them now, whereas there wasn’t before’.

Michael was
49 years old when interviewed in January 2003 at  Royal Oak Farm Shop, Beckley, Oxfordshire.


Read the transcript of Michael Soanes interview

Read the interview form for Michael Soanes interview
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