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Home > Farmers > Interview Marilyn Ivings

Interview with Marilyn Ivings, farmer


Interview date: 27 May 2002

Interview location: Mill Farm, Church Enstone, Oxfordshire, OX7 4NN

Interviewee: Marilyn Ivings

Interviewer: Andrew Wood

Transcript key: AW: Interviewer Andrew Wood; MI: Marilyn Ivings; Ted: Marilyn Ivings’s husband Ted


1.0.           AW: There we are, it’s working fine now.

1.1.           MI: Oh good

1.2.           AW: I’m sorry about that

1.3.           MI: It’s alright, no problem

1.4.           AW: We’ll start that again, okay. I’m going to leave this on my lap, just because then I can hear it.

1.5.           MI: Yes, yes. Okay, right

1.6.           AW: Let’s start again. It’s Monday 27th May. I’m interviewing Marilyn Iving, this is Andrew Wood and we’re at Mill Farm near Enstone, Church Enstone. Umm, first of all Marilyn, if you were to introduce yourself then what would you say

1.7.           MI: I always call myself a farmer, which can put people back on their heels a bit, you know, they think you ought to describe yourself as a farmer's wife or something, but I'm equally as much a farmer as my husband so, and he won't call himself a farmer's husband would he, so err, I always say, you know, I'm a farmer.

1.8.           MI: I would say I’m somewhat the other side when one can be young and beautiful, err, what else could I say

1.9.           AW: How old are you

1.10.       MI: I’ve been described as cuddly, yes, I’m sixty three, coming up sixty four, so

1.11.       AW: Let’s go back and, how did you get into farming

1.12.       MI: I got into farming because at school I didn’t pass my Latin ‘O’ level. I wanted to be a vet.

1.13.       AW: Where were you living at that time

1.14.       MI: I was at school down in Somerset and I was living in Bristol, and err to get to vet school you had to have Latin ‘O’ level so err that was out. So I decided that rather than take a typing course and go into an office or something I wanted to work outdoors so I went into farming. I became a herd’s woman on a farm two miles from here. Where we had jersey cows and umm, went there for about eighteen months, then went on to college and got my err qualifications for agriculture, then went back to the same farm.

1.15.       AW: So what age were you when you decided to, to get, to start a career in farming

1.16.       MI: Umm, sixteen and half, yes, I’d started in the sixth form but really could see any sense in going on to do ‘A’ levels, so

1.17.       AW: You were in a town and presumably there, was there a farm nearby that you visited

1.18.       MI: Goodness no. No I don’t where the farming instinct came from. No body in our farm has ever worked on the land or been in farming as far as I know, and umm it just seemed to come of the blue for some reason. But I’ve been very fortunate, you know I’ve loved every minute of it so, it’s worked.

1.19.       AW: And did you, how did you find the farm that you went to study on that was two miles down, what was the name of that farm by the way

1.20.       MI: That was called Westwood, and it’s between Heathrop Park and the Circus now, and Circus then was a wood yard and, umm they advertised in the Farmers Weekly for a student and so err I went and was interviewed and got the job and lived-in and err we worked, we milked I suppose about five o’clock in the morning, and you know it was quite a traumatic start I must admit, because I hadn’t realised the days would be quite so long and the work would be quite so hard, but I soon got into it.

1.21.       AW: And how, ho did you pay you’re way

1.22.       MI: Well, I was very lucky and I got a scholarship from the Ministry of Agriculture, and the people on the farm where I’d started working also helped, so err, I was very very fortunate in that, and umm with the scholarship of course came the tuition and the boarding fees for the college and also umm a certain amount of pocket money per week and travel vouchers for train journeys to and from, so I was very, very lucky.

1.23.       AW: What was the name of the college that you studied at

1.24.       MI: I went down to the Kennington College in Somerset. There isn’t one in Oxfordshire, so err

1.25.       AW: Was that, that’s quite a journey isn’t it/

1.26.       MI: It was quite a journey, yes, yes

1.27.       AW: You would go on the train would you, or

1.28.       MI: Yes, yes I went by train, umm, one didn’t have cars in those days, you know err, it was the done thing I think to go by train and err.

1.29.       AW: How often would you have had to travel

1.30.       MI: Well I went at the beginning of term of course and then there was normally a half-term, which was probably a weekend plus another couple of days, so I used to come home, come back to the farm for that particular time you know and then go back again.

1.31.       AW: And how long did that period of study last

1.32.       MI: Umm about eighteen months, so err, it didn’t take too long, and of course you had the long holidays as umm schools do, you know, so I was able to come back and work

1.33.       AW: And you would be working on the farm

1.34.       MI: I worked on the farm, yes, came  back and worked on the same farm during the holidays and, you know, then came back again when I’d finished because they were very good to me they err, they helped as well, financially and, you know morally and all the rest of it, so err I was very, very lucky.

1.35.       AW: Were there many women studying to be farmers with you

1.36.       MI: No, no, there was lots of different courses and I was on the dairying course, there was a dairying course, an agriculture course and a horticulture course and in the whole lot there were about thirty girls in about, err, six hundred fellas. So we had a lovely time. We used to play them off against each other, and err, you know, didn’t really cost us an awful lot for us to do anything, you know, there was plenty of fellas quite willing to take us out or pay for theatre tickets or cinema tickets or whatever, so we were very lucky.

1.37.       AW: Did you meet your err, future partner through this

1.38.       MI: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No umm, he was working here of course, and we needed some kale to be planted, and so umm, my boss asked him to come and plant it for us, and err that’s how we meet.

1.39.       AW: You met planting kale

1.40.       MI: Yes. Yes, yes. And most of our courting was done on a, he was sitting on a tractor seat and I was sitting on the mudguard, because of course they didn’t have cabs and things then and you could just sit on the mudguard and err yeah chat. Yeah. You can laugh!

1.41.       AW: Sounds idyllic

1.42.       MI: Yes.

1.43.       AW: What age would you be when you’d finished at college

1.44.       MI: I suppose I was about twenty, twenty one, in fact I was twenty when we finished because I was going to go back when I was twenty one, and was going up to Wellsborne to pick up a friend who had done the horticultural course and we were both going to go down to Cannington on my Lambretta  and I had an accident on the way to pick her up, so err, we didn’t get there, so err that was after my twenty first birthday, yeah, yes.

1.45.       AW: Has farming changed much while you’ve been doing it

1.46.       MI: Oh it’s changed, virtually beyond recognition. It would be quite nice to umm, get Ted’s grandparents back, to see. I don’t think they would have, they wouldn’t have a clue as to what was going on, now, in comparison with how they farmed in their day. Even his parents, you know, would have a job to appreciate computers and, you know, getting faxes and emails and all the rest of it.

1.47.       AW: So what was it like when you were twenty one and working on the farm

1.48.       MI: Umm we didn’t have very much in the way of machinery. We did have a tractor, a little grey Ferguson, when I was working; we had um a cutter-bar for cutting down the grass, one of those reciprocating mowers to cut err the grass down. We had a hay sweep to, gather up the hay, and I presume a turner of some sort but I can’t remember what that was like. And we I th, we had umm a box on the back of the tractor that we took the churns up, which we put on the side of the road for the lorry to pick up, to take to the dairy, so there’s nothing like these bulk milk tanks these days, and you know, coming and it all being done by err, machines and suction and all the rest of it. We actually had to man-handle ten gallon churns of milk, and err, very different.

1.49.       AW: Was that difficult for you as a woman

1.50.       MI: It was very difficult, yes. You didn’t get any favours by being a women, you know, you, you did the same job as anybody else would have done, so err, you soon learned, you know, they’re techniques and things that, assist in doing heavy work, so err, you soon learned to, not to hurt yourself. We used to make the hay on umm tripods. I shouldn’t think you’ve ever heard of one of those

1.51.       AW: No I haven’t, what are those like

1.52.       MI: No. It was three poles, that were held together at the top with wire, and then they had wire stretched round them, and you piled the hay over the wire to start with, and then piled the hay over the whole lot, and you put it there when it was fairly green and you let it mature, on the tripod, and then when it had dried to a certain degree, or when you had the time, you then had somebody come in, with a stationary bailer, and bail it up, you know, it was quite a, quite a consideration doing hay, of course there wasn’t any silage made much then.

1.53.       AW: So those, those err, those, when it was bailed up, it would then, what, into bails that would be stored in a barn

1.54.       MI: Yes you store them in a barn and then umm that would be your winter feed for your umm milkers, and so err, it was, it was you know, quite a, a consideration to have decent hay, to get as much milk out of it as you could, because if you could get your cows to produce milk from natural sources then you didn’t have to feed them as much cake, which was quite err expensive, umm, I think it was probably more proportionately expensive then than it is today, because the err, you know the price of wheat and such like has come down such a lot and that is a big proportion of what goes into making umm compound food that umm, today’s prices probably aren’t any more expensive than they were then, and that was forty years ago, hmm.

1.55.       AW: Have herd sizes, do you think, got larger

1.56.       MI: Oh yes, yes, yes, I suppose the most we had were about twenty cows. You can probably imagine somebody these days, they’d want two or three hundred, to err, probably make the same money, which seems crazy but you’d probably end up with same profit as today with two or three hundred cows as we made all those years ago on just fifteen or twenty, yes

1.57.       AW: So after you’d completed your studies at college, umm, did you settle, you settle down with you husband

1.58.       MI: Yes.

1.59.       AW: And how did you come to this farm here

1.60.       MI: As I say, he came to sow the kale for us, and eventually umm we decided to get married. Got married up at Heathrope Church there, and built the house up the road and were there for thirty odd years.

1.61.       AW: Was that land that he had in his family or that he owned

1.62.       MI: Yes, yes. Yes, so um and we were very lucky because we didn’t have an agricultural tie on that. So when umm we had the opportunity umm some, what, five years ago to buy my brother in-law out of the farm, we sold the house, came down here and umm, you know bought his half of the farm, so

1.63.       AW: What do you mean when you say ‘agricultural tie’

1.64.       MI: Um quite often, if you apply for planning permission for a house for agricultural worker, be it a worker or a farmer or whatever, there is a tie put on that house that it can only be sold, to someone in agriculture, which rather limits your choice, you know, when you come to sell it on, and it does mean that it devalues the price of it, so we were very lucky. Umm when brother-in-law built his house, he had an agricultural tie on that, so he had to retain a field so that it was still, so say, in agriculture. So if ever he sells his house, it still has the agricultural tie on it, which err reduces it value, probably by twenty, twenty five per cent, which is quite a consideration these days, yeah, so we were very fortunate we were able to sell it away from agriculture and, the people who bought it are very pleased, they’re very nice neighbours, and you know, all’s well      

1.65.       AW: So you settled down to farm with your husband to farm. Were you farming dairy then

1.66.       MI: No, umm, they had had dairy cows previously but they had umm given that up before I came on the scene. They had beef animals, they had pigs, they grew oats and barley and wheat. So it was quite a mixed farm and they also umm used to fatten umm cockerels for Christmas market and umm we used to have a few laying hens about. So err it was a typical small mixed farm. And then when I came on the scene I was sort of, you know, the boy, I did anything that required doing. I could drive tractors so that was fortunate. My father-in-law was umm quite amusing because he tried to drive tractors, and he had been bought up, of course, with horses and he got on the tractor and had no idea of what to do or how to operate it, and of course, tried to shout wow to the dam thing and it wouldn’t stop and he ended up in the hedge so that was his tractoring days finished. So he never did take to driving tractors, and so umm I was quite useful in that respect, because I could do anything. I’ve done all of the things one has to do on a farm to produce crops other than drilling, I don’t think I’ve ever done any drilling, but I’ve ploughed and harrowed and cultivated and.

1.67.       AW: What was the name of the farm that you lived in initially     

1.68.       MI: It was called Westwood.

1.69.       AW: And that was near here was it

1.70.       MI: That was two years, two, two miles from here, yes, yes, so and then of course when we got married I came down to live here.

1.71.       AW: This farm here

1.72.       MI: Yes, yes, yes, so

1.73.       AW: So at that time it was a mixed farm

1.74.       MI: Yes

1.75.       AW: That, that was, you told me, err, about the beef and the sucklers that you have and the wheat you grow, that seems to be err fewer crops

1.76.       MI: Yes

1.77.       AW: Or cattle and less of a mix

1.78.       MI: Yes, yes

1.79.       AW: That’s a change is it

1.80.       MI: Umm, also when they built in IACS, the Integrated, oh gosh, what’s IACS, integrated, I can’t think what its called at the moment I ought to know

1.81.       AW: Integrated farm management of some form

1.82.       MI: Integrated Control something or another, umm, they umm allocated fields as either being IACS eligible if they growing crops at the base year or non-eligible if they were growing grass or something else in the base year. And so that has tended to umm focus farming in a very different way, because before that came in, you had crop rotations, and umm you could grow grass for a couple of years, and then you’d plough it up and grow umm beans or peas,  pulses of some sort and then when they had come off you’d grow a crop of wheat and then a crop of barley umm well now a days, if a field is non-IACS registered, it um, doesn’t bring any subsidy in if you do grow a crop, and really at the moment the cost of producing a crop is probably more than you would get would back for the actual corn, so the subsidy makes a crop either profitable or you know, worth doing,  and so umm land that isn’t IACS registered can only really grow grass, which limits your rotational ability. You either, umm give up your subsidies for that year and just grow grass, or you keep cropping it, because it will bring in a subsidy for you.

1.83.       AW: So do you, the IACS has changed the mix of

1.84.       MI: It’s changed the way you can farm, yes, yes. It’s a silly idea really I think they’re far too rigid. If they had umm some way of rotating eligibility then you could, you could then, you know, rotate your crops round and you won’t loose out by doing that but of course at the moment if you try to grow corn on non-IACS eligible land then you’d get no subsidiary for it and you’d just be pouring subsidiary for it and you’d be just pouring money down the drain, you might as well do nothing, so umm, it really has had a stymie effect on what you can grow, yes, I don’t

1.85.       AW: Do you recall when that came in

1.86.       MI: The base year was 1988 and umm any thing that was growing crops in that year is eligible for subsidy and anything that wasn’t growing crops in that year is not eligible for subsidy, so umm if you grow crops on there, you just get back what you can get for your corn, and umm, as I say at the moment you wouldn’t even cover the cost of production from that, so err, you know, yes it has made quite a difference, and it also of course has changed the value of land, because anything that is eligible for subsidies is worth a lot more than land that isn’t eligible, because you know, you can’t, you can’t make as much on it.

1.87.       AW: This makes a difference to you, does it

1.88.       MI: Yes it’s made quite a difference to us because it meant that umm really you’re growing umm cereal crops or pulses on the same land, year after year after year and err at the moment we’ve got some down in what we call temporary grass, it goes on the IACS form as temporary grass and umm they are now I think beginning to put a limit on what temporary grass is. So at some point you’re probably going to have to plough up all your temporary grass and turn it back into umm corn crops in order to retain it’s eligibility for subsidies. It’s a stupid way of doing it, and it just means that everybody is tired-in to what was happening in 1988.

1.89.       AW: So it has affected the way that you farm here on this farm

1.90.       MI: Oh yes, yes very much so, yes.

1.91.       AW: Were the, where the size of the dairy herd err smaller when you started on this farm, what date would that be

1.92.       MI: Yes, that would have been 1961. I actually sort started on here and umm yes most farms in grass areas had a certain number of dairy cows, you know, you probably didn’t have all that many and it helped, again, because the rotation of the grass and of course they put umm you know, fertiliser, back on the ground and you can then plough it in and grow grass on a different field and they can graze that one to produce their milk off and umm the number of people who have gone out of dairying between then and now I would think probably, ninety five per cent of dairy farmers then are no longer doing dairy, and the numbers are decreasing rapidly the whole time, because the price of milk at the moment isn’t covering the price of production

1.93.       AW: So at that time, where, the neighbouring farms

1.94.       MI: Yes

1.95.       AW: They were dairy too

1.96.       MI: They were dairy farms, yes.

1.97.       AW: Are they now

1.98.       MI: No, no, no, there was one across the valley there, they had Freshen cattle and umm they had an extremely good, well thought of herd. They produced masses of milk with very good butter fat and umm the cows, the dairying cows are scoured, I’m not absolutely sure how it works, but their scours were very, very high anyway and yes they gave up I suppose about seven or eight years ago, they sold the herd off and they now have a few Aberdeen Angus suckler cows. So it’s very sad really because one of these days your going to drive round the countryside and there aren’t going to be any cattle in the fields at all, which is going to make an awful difference to how people see the Countryside and what they see and, how different it will be from when they were children and that sort of thing.

1.99.       AW: And where will, where will the milk come from

1.100.  MI: Oh we shall import it, we import at the moment, umm, I think about a third of what we actually use, the liquid milk that we actually use. It comes from France, it comes in from Holland, oh yes

1.101.  [25 minutes]

1.102.  AW: And do you think that affects you, here, as a dairy farmer today

1.103.  MI: Well it would do if we were dairy farming, yes, oh yes, because you see the supermarkets can buy in umm milk from abroad, with the strength of the pound as it is, they can buy it in far more cheaply than we can produce it in this country, and err that is what they’re doing at the moment. It’s brought down the price that dairy farmers are getting for their milk. I think the price at the moment is something like sixteen pence a litre, something like that, and it’s just not covering the cost of production, so, err, dairy farmers are taking it for so long and then they have to do something drastic and most of them, they either sell-up or they umm share farm or something and allow a young person to come in who umm, ha, ha, hasn’t learned yet that you can’t make money out of dairying, so err

1.104.  AW: When do you thing you gave up keeping dairy cattle here

1.105.  MI: We gave up ourselves umm, when about 1980, something like that

1.106.  AW: So that would have been about what, you would have been farming for, how many years, err, did you say

1.107.  MI: What here

1.108.  AW: Yes

1.109.  MI: I came down here in ’61, yes, yes.

1.110.  AW: So you would have had err dairy for nineteen years

1.111.  MI: yes

1.112.  AW: After you

1.113.  MI: After we got married, yes

1.114.  AW: And you farmed here

1.115.  MI: Yes, yes. Yes, umm I took over some of the Jersey cows in Bristol where I’d been working and err I used to make cream, I had a separator and made cream and sold it and made butter. I had an end-over-end wooden churn and made butter with that, used to make fifteen pounds of butter a time, make it and put it in the freezer and of course when you didn’t have spare milk, then you still had your store of butter. So err, it worked very well.

1.116.  AW: Did you make cheese or any other dairy products

1.117.  MI: I made a certain amount of cheese. I used to make umm sort of coulommier type cheese, you know, in umm err it’s a sort of soft cheese, that you eat within about a fortnight of making it. So I used to make those, I never sold those, used to make them at home, eat them at home, but um, and of course cottage cheese, you know, that’s easy enough to make, you just err, mix it up with rennet and then put it in a muslin and hang it up, the wyes runs out and what drains out is cottage cheese.

1.118.  AW: So at that time when you started you would have had dairy, beef

1.119.  MI: Yes

1.120.  AW: And arable

1.121.  MI: Yes, and pigs

1.122.  AW: And pigs

1.123.  MI: Yes, and um

1.124.  AW: Would those be for yourself or would sell them on

1.125.  MI: Oh they would go off, yes, and be sold. In fact we used to rear them and sell them for someone else to fatten, in those days. And umm, so they were sold as stores and they used to go umm all over the place really. We would buy them in fairly young, and rear them and umm, yes we never had any ourselves, and umm when I used to make cream and butter my father in law had the butter milk and wyes and used to feed that to his pigs and umm my husband and his brother had umm, a whole lot of pigs they used to fatten, about four hundred a time, which was quite a sizable number in those days.

1.126.  AW: Was that a neighbouring farm was it, or

1.127.  MI: Well it was part of the same farm, but it was up at the buildings, which are about a quarter of a mile from here, and err

1.128.  AW: And you would grow arable, what would your crops be then

1.129.  MI: They used to grow oats, which most went for animal feed for horses, that sort of thing

1.130.  AW: They still had horses when you started here, on the farm

1.131.  MI: Not on the farm, no. But these would be for umm you know leisure horses, for riding stables and that sort of thing. They used to feed horses on oats and then we used to grow umm, winter wheat, mostly for bread making and then umm barley, they used to grow umm either feed barley or malting barley if it passed, as it had certain standards that it had to pass to become malting barley, and if we could get err that, you got a premium for err malting barley and for bread making wheat, and so if we could grow it to those standards then, you know, that was worth doing.

1.132.  AW: And malting barley that was used in

1.133.  MI: Beer making, whisky making, yes, oh yes

1.134.  AW: Whisky

1.135.  MI: Oh yes, yes, yes, whisky making, yes, oh yes, yes. Oh a lot of it used to go up umm either to Nottinghamshire to umm the beer producers or to umm up to Scotland for whisky making, yes, so, that was quite good, and the bread making wheat, quite a lot of it went to Tewksbury, there was a mill called Healings at umm Tewksbury where they ground flour and again it had to pass certain umm tests and standards to be able to make bread that would actually form a decent loaf, cause it had to have err so much gluten and such like

1.136.  AW: The strength of the flour they call that don’t they

1.137.  MI: Yes, yes, and anything that didn’t pass for bread making had to go into feed and of course you got a lower price for the err feed making wheat, but umm when I first came around here you would probably be getting a hundred and fifty, a hundred and sixty pounds a tonne for bread making wheat, and umm the feed wheat would probably have been umm worth ten to fifteen pounds a tonne less than that and umm this year, they managed I think they managed to get up to about eighty pound a tonne for bread making wheat, and the feed making wheat is down now to fifty, fifty eight I think it was last week, and so an awful lot of people are producing wheat without being able to cover the cost of production, and this is where the subsidies come in, because it actually means that you can, produce it without loosing too much money, and if you’re efficient enough then you can make a profit, on it, you know, but with a small farm like we’ve got we’re not anything like as efficient enough

1.138.  AW: The first prices you gave, that would be the early sixties would it

1.139.  MI: Yes, that would have been true probably, round about that sort of figure, some years it would be less and I don’t think it went anymore than that, but that would have held true until the late eighties, and then it started to come down when BSE started and then of course, when the link was made in 1966, 1996 between new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and umm BSE, everything then tumbled, and it hasn’t come back since. The price then of cattle tumble, the numbers of course went down an awful lot, and when people go out of dairying and beef production, then that it the market gone for the wheat and the barley being produced, because an awful lot of it used to go to feed cattle, and if the numbers aren’t around then the markets gone for it, so.

1.140.  AW: Did you used to feed the err cattle, at that time, when it was a mixed farm, did you used to grow your own feed, whether that was hay or silage

1.141.  MI: Yes, we used to hay then, we actually started silage making, I suppose in the late eighties, when it umm, when they started making big bail silage, and then we put it into bags. You would have umm your bail of umm silage wrapped round the netting and then you would hold it on a spike and pull a, a plastic bag over it and then tie, tie the end as tightly as you could, and that’s how you’d mature your silage. Now a days of course they use a wrapper which wraps it up in two or three layers of plastic wrapping and it does a much better job as if you had a hole in a bag then air got in and got round the whole of the bail and so umm, because umm, the silage is normally matured by anaerobic bacteria as soon as air got in it just went bad rather than maturing nicely. Whereas these days, if you get a hole in wrapped silage then the hole is just on the place where it’s made and it might go bad for perhaps an inch or two inches round that particular whole, the rest of the bail is fine, so its made quite a difference to the actual quality of the silage.

1.142.  AW:  Is that because its such a tight bail is it

1.143.  MI: Yes, and of course, umm, because it’s wrapped its, umm, each roll of the bail is wrapped independently, whereas if you’ve got a big bag in it then the whole of the bag is one, just one piece of plastic, and so if air could get-in then it could get- in round the whole of it, and of course in the sun air expands and so the umm it would just sort of expand the plastic bag and draw in more air, and it just used to go bad. It was horrible, just horrible, horrible smell. Hurr.

1.144.  AW: So before that, it was all hay-making was it

1.145.  MI: Yes, yes, yes, yes

1.146.  AW: And that would be dried in the sun, is that right

1.147.  MI: Yes, yes, umm there was a few experiments done where people tried to dry it, umm, in barns, umm, they made a sort of platform with umm err weld-mesh holes as it were, in the floor and they would sit a bail over the weld-mesh, and then they would blow warm air through, but it wasn’t really very satisfactory. It, umm tended to be umm far too labour intensive, because you had to keep turning every bail over in order to get it err evenly dried, so err, it didn’t come to anything

1.148.  AW: Did you try that on this farm

1.149.  MI: No we didn’t, no. No, but a neighbouring farm did, yes

1.150.  AW: So you would, dry the grass, the hay, in the sun

1.151.  MI: Yes

1.152.  AW: And then collect it up into

1.153.  MI: Yes, yes, umm

1.154.  AW: Would it be bailed

1.155.  MI: By the, by the time I came to this farm we were actually using a a bailer behind a tractor and umm, yes, it would pick it up and bail it and then the bail would come out of the back of the bailer. There weren’t things like, umm, the sledges that we these days, the automatic sledges where eight bails are put into a, a block and then are let out, umm, you had a, we’ll we, Ted had a sledge that was behind the bailer and he used to stand on that with an iron bar, and umm there was a slot in the bottom of the sledge and he would pile the bails up, behind this, this slot and then when he’d got so many then he’d dig the iron bar in, which would stop the bails from coming along and they would go off the back of the sledge and then he would start to umm stack the next lot

1.156.  AW: And then all those bails would be stored in a barn

1.157.  MI: Yes, you had to come and pick them up and umm put them in a barn, yes, and they normally umm went in, wetter than we do these days and matured in the stack, so err, you had to be a little bit careful it didn’t catch fire. Yes, you put it in a too wet and it would get too hot and catch fire

1.158.  AW: And you would, that would be used as cattle feed during the winter

1.159.  MI: Yes, yes

1.160.  AW: Would you feed them on anything else

1.161.  MI: Occasionally if you wanted to umm give them a little bit of extra quality feed, if the hay wasn’t very good,  then you would have to buy in umm, compound foods, which was a mixture of umm, all sorts of different foods, proteins and umm, err cereals, and such like and they mixed it all up and then they put it through an extruder and it comes out like pellets, and err, you fed those to the cattle, and of course the hay as well if it was good stuff would also go to umm to feed horses, and we sold quite a lot of, of decent horse hay and umm one or two grand national winners have actually been feed on our hay, so err, that was quite a feather in our cap. Tim Foster, umm, used to buy our hay for his horses and err, he won the grand national a couple of times.

1.162.  AW: Do you remember the name of the horse

1.163.  MI: No I don’t. No, I wish I did, but, err, it was some time ago. Quite a time ago, probably twenty five years ago, so err, ha ha

1.164.  AW: Do you, do you, umm, now, err, do you think silage has largely, silage has largely replaced hay

1.165.  MI: Yes

1.166.  AW:  on this farm

1.167.  MI: It has on most grass farms, yes, yes, because umm, silage isn’t anything as like err umm critical for it’s conditions. You can, umm, put silage in a clamp when it’s an awful lot wetter than hay, umm, you can put silage in bails, when it’s a lot wetter than hay, and if you were going to bail hay, you would have to wait twenty four hours for it to dry out, whereas if it comes a bit of sun, then within half an hour you can be back umm either getting in silage into a clamp or bailing it again so err it’s nothing like a difficult to make as hay is, and of course it can be done under, under our conditions in this country, you know if you get umm a week of really good umm sunshine and wind and make hay then you’re very, very lucky, those years are very few and far between, and if you don’t make good hay, then it’s probably an awful lot worse than mediocre silage, because umm hay can get an awful lot of moulds and  umm dust in it, and horses now can be allergic to that sort of thing. And umm it doesn’t do cattle any good either, not the mums, the younger ones don’t have the time to build up the allergies but the older ones I think are beginning to err.

1.168.  AW: I can ask, do you, you miss the time when there was more mixed farming

1.169.  MI: Oh yes, yes, because umm there was always something that was making money. Umm if, if corn wasn’t making money then, there used to be a saying that umm it was either corn or horn and umm, if, if, if your cereals weren’t making money then your animals were, or vice-versa. And at the moment it seems as though everything is in the doldrums. I suppose simply because it’s so easy to import and we have an awful umm lot of extra conditions put on us for welfare and for cleanliness and for standards, which are fine, I’ve got nothing at all against that sort of thing, if, import, importations we’re, umm bought into the same standards, but of course they’re not. You know, you get umm chicken reared in this country, you get chicken reared in Brazil and you get chicken reared in Thailand. Well, I’m quite sure that the conditions for the imported stuff aren’t anything like as rigorous, if there are standards there, they’re umm probably nothing like as rigorous, rigorously enforced as they in this country, which means, you know, you’re batting on a loosing wicket the whole time and the same here. We’re bring in Argentinean beef to err, assist the Argentinean Government. Now Argentina has endemic foot and mouth but err they’re still allowed to sell their beef here. And in fact I think at the moment I think it’s coming in from fifteen different countries, where foot and mouth is endemic and yet, err, we have had all these extra rules and regulations, since the foot and mouth, moving cattle and umm you know, retaining them on the farm and that sort of thing, which can hit people’s umm, methods of farming and err, here we are, bringing in all the stuff from countries that, you know, have no foot and mouth restrictions at all.

1.170.  AW: I’m going to ask you about that in a moment.

1.171.  MI: Right.

1.172.  AW: But umm, you also said that err when you started in the early sixties that you were rotating the, the crops,

1.173.  MI: Yes

1.174.  AW: And moving the cattle round etc. to fertilize

1.175.  MI: Yes

1.176.  AW: err, the fields where they’re grazed. Um, do you know, do you think that there’s been a err, that, has it increased or decreased the yields of the arable crops in subsequent years, I mean, do you think they’re as good as they were or

1.177.  MI: Oh they’re much, much, umm, higher yields than ever they were, because an awful lot has gone into the breeding of umm, cereal varieties, and of course we now rely an awful lot on umm bag fertilizer, nitrogen and, such like, you know to produce these cereals. We’ve been lucky because we’ve had these cattle and they’re in, in the winter and of course they produce an awful lot of umm manure, which we can put out and it holds the soil structure a lot better, but umm some farms that have no livestock and have no umm err organic material to put into the land, are finding that the soil structure is is being lost because there’s nothing to bind it together anymore and err in East Anglia, for example umm they’re getting an awful lot of blow-offs, where the top soil is being blown off by the wind and of course if you, you loose you’ve top soil then you’re loosing your umm your productive area of soil. It’s very, very difficult to replace but umm it just means that your using a lot more artificial fertilisers than umm  was ever necessary. But, oh yes the yields have certainly gone up because they are breeding umm much better varieties. They are producing sprays that umm mean the plants are a lot healthier, they use umm err growth regulators which means that the corn will only grow to a certain height, probably two foot six or something like that, which means that all the goodness that used to go into producing a crop that was eight foot tall, now just goes into growing a crop that’s two foot six tall, and all the goodness goes into producing a crop that’s eight foot tall now just goes into growing a crops that’s two foot tall and all the goodness goes into the ear and into the grain which umm produces a much better sample.

1.178.  AW: In the, in the sixty’s when you started here, in the early sixty’s were artifical fertilisers, sprays, pesticides, etc where they being used here

1.179.  MI: Umm, they were just coming-in, I think artificial fertiliser had been used for some time, but nothing, in nothing like the quantities that have subsequently been used, and sprays were just beginning to umm, to be used. I can remember seeing, umm, sulphur sprays, where the operator, I mean, they, they had none of the stuff they have to wear these days, none of the protective gear, the operator the umm, the spray and the tractor were all a bright yellow, where they’d been spraying the sulphur in the crops and I don’t know what they used the sulphur for but, it err, it was probably for folia diseases or something, and umm I mean at least, we’ve, we’ve come a long, long way since then, but they were just beginning to come in, and when my children where little, we used to have err aeroplanes spraying the crops and umm, you know, that was an event on the farm, you know it was an event on the farm and you put them in the push chair and took them up there to see the plane spraying, you know, and you’d, you’d miss it by a mile these days if you could, but we didn’t think anything of it. I don’t think we’ve come to any harm through being sprayed over by err planes, but err

1.180.  AW: Was that a difficult transition, for the farm here, umm

1.181.  MI: Probably, because it’s always been one of the smaller farms, and umm, all of these improvements have cost an awful lot to bring in. Once you’ve got the improvements, you know, the better tractor, the better sprays and such like then the cost then tends to tail off. Bu the cost of machinery that was brought in, I suppose, between the sixty’s and the eighty’s was enormous in comparison to, what you were actually producing in the way of profits and such like, so err, it was quite a costly time I think. But it, you know, it’s ment food is now plentiful, it’s cheap and umm, really, it’s what, what the Government has asked farmers to do, you know.

1.182.  AW: And was there any Government assistance when these err, err, when, when the sprays, etc, came in, umm

1.183.  MI: I don’t know about when sprays came in, but umm, there was certainly grants and things for umm, well, well to start with, there was enormous grants for taking out the hedges, to make the fields bigger, so that the bigger machines could operate in the fields. I mean now, they’ve reversed it and you get paid for planting hedges, but err, in those days, you know, it was, it was the done thing  

1.184.  AW: The sixty’s was that, was it

1.185.  MI: Yes, the sixties and the seventies, you know, it was the done thing to make perhaps a couple, or three or four or five little fields into one big field, so that, you know, you can get in there with a tractor and these big machines and do the work in a day that might have taken two weeks to do

1.186.  AW: And when you were studying at agricultural college, I mean, you started in farming after, after, having studied at agricultural college, had you studied, the most modern farming techniques if you like, the use of herbicides

1.187.  MI: Some and some I suppose, umm, yes they were, I think at the time that I went, umm, these innovations were just coming-in and no one was quite sure of whether they would be kept going, or whether it was a nine day wonder, or whatever, and so we did sort of skirt the new things that were coming in, but an awful lot of what had been going on fifty or sixty years was taught, umm, some of the tutors were obviously umm, more on the ball than others, not necessarily the younger ones, some of the older ones could, I think, see that the innovations that were coming in would be here for good and would be improved upon and kept going and umm, it was actually quite a good time to be umm studying because you got the, a taste of both worlds and umm, because I’d done things like umm making hay on tripods and such like umm, I was, because I was one of the older ones in, at the time I went there, most of them went straight from school because they would have been farmer’s children, and they had had, you know, the necessary experience that I was lacking

1.188.  AW: But you were about eighteen, is that right

1.189.  MI: I must have been eighteen, nineteen, yes, yes, but you see, umm, you had to have so many years experience, before they, practical experience before they would take you as a student at the college and umm if you’d been bought up on a farm you get that experience from, virtually, you know, day one but umm, if you haven’t been at umm brought up in agriculture then there’s awful lot that you don’t know that umm if you went to do the courses before you had had the experience it wouldn’t have done you anything like as much good, because err you needed to know what they were on about before you could gain anything from it

1.190.  AW: Was that difficult for you

1.191.  MI: Umm, it was probably difficult in that I hadn’t had a lot of experience other than dairying, but umm you soon pick it up, you know, and err they where they had quite a good library and of course there were other students who umm knew about things, so you could quiz them and, you know, fill in, fill in your gaps, but umm probably there were one or two umm smiles when, you know, you made mistakes and talked about things or didn’t talked about things that err, you know, you didn’t know a thing about, ha, ha, probably the holes that you dug were getting deeper and deeper and deeper, you know, before you got out of them, but umm, no as I say it was quite a good time to be at umm college because it was right on the umm, you know, the cusp of change, and umm it was good to know how things used to be done and that way you could see the, the immense value of some of the innovations that where bought in, some of the changes that were being made, and how they would benefit, agriculture really

1.192.  AW: So you said hay tripods, you mentioned, so err that was an innovation when you were at agricultural college

1.193.  MI: No

1.194.  AW: Is that right

1.195.  MI: No. No, no that was an one of the old ways of doing it, I mean, an awful lot of the people at college had never heard of tripods because they had been brought up on farms where umm bailers had been used and, you know that was, as far as they were concerned, the only means of making hay, or you know, maturing hay, but umm as I say I was up on this umm quite small farm just up from here and we had anything much in the way of machinery at all, so it just meant, you just kept going in the old ways, you know, so err I was able to teach them a bit and they were able to teach me a lot, you know, so because of course the, the better ways of making hay and such like, umm, came in very very quickly err I would think probably tripoding, other than perhaps in the umm err more far fetched islands and things up round Scotland where I think they probably do it because they don’t have the umm the settled conditions for making hay on the ground umm there there probably hasn’t been tripodding for what, fifty years, so, you know, it’s very different now, yes.

1.196.  AW: Let me ask you about the farm, here, umm, did you farm, husband Ted, he he’s also a farmer, he obviously, he helps on the farm, you work together

1.197.  MI: Yes, yes we work together

1.198.  AW: Do the other members of your family

1.199.  MI: err, no

1.200.  AW: work on the farm here

1.201.  MI: We’ve got three children, umm the oldest one, went into the army and, umm was invalided out, having had a brain haemorrhage, and he now works in computers, umm the middle one, is the daughter, she did a masters degree in umm agricultural sciences and umm she became umm, err, scientific research person and is married to a researcher and umm the younger one is a self-employed accountant, so, they none of them were interested enough to come back and take over the farm, they like the idea of growing up on a farm, but umm they don’t like the hours of work or the, effort that has to be put in for the err umm low returns that you get, so I mean they’re making heaven knows how much money, they have secure jobs, they’re, they know their hours of work, when they come home they’ve finished and err, it’s a very, very different life from the one we’ve lead.

1.202.  AW: What is a typical day on the farm for you here

1.203.  MI: Now, we don’t do anything as much as we used to, because we used to get up very early, and if we were milking, you know you have to get up early in order to umm get everything done, umm now a days we don’t get up until, quarter to seven, something like that, where as perhaps we used to get up at half past five or quarter to six or something like that, and umm Ted goes off up to the farm up there, to the buildings and umm, he comes home for his lunch. I do mostly round here where I’ve got the chickens and the ducks and things. We used to a lot of calf rearing, which we don’t do any longer and umm, we have quite a lot of an easier time now than we used to, but err, I suppose this is one of the things about having these umm enormous, umm tractors and machines and things, it doesn’t take anything as long to do the different jobs as it used to take and if you haven’t got stock to do, then, you know, you can be doing other things, like at the moment Ted is making a way of operating our bail sledge so that he can do it on his own, because umm it’s quite difficult, the backend swings up and over to go on roads and things and umm when you get to the field you then have to put that back over again in order for it to operate properly and, he’s made a system whereby he, he can ratchet the back up, so that I don’t have to be there to help him, and that sort of thing, which probably umm he won’t have had time to do, you know, in times when we had a lot of stock and such like, because err, they toke an awful lot of, umm, cleaning out and bedding down and feeding and watering, and

1.204.  AW: But you’ve still have, what is it a hundred

1.205.  MI: No, we just have thirty eight, no twenty eight animals at the moment, and of course at the moment, they’re out on grass, so you take, umm, perhaps twenty minutes in a day to go and err, have a look round them, and that’s all you need to do, if they’re out on grass, so

1.206.  AW: Do you think the use of machinery has made the working-day is err, shorter than it used to be

1.207.  MI: Umm, for us it is, but for an awful lot of people, they’re doing a lot more land. Umm, we have instances round here were people are share farming and umm, you know you see them going out at four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, with umm, a trailer load of fertiliser in the fertilizer spreader, so for those folks, you know, the, the week isn’t like anything like as long, long enough, but umm, we’re semi-retired and so, we don’t have to do that sort of thing, but umm I think this is the way things are going to go, that, small people aren’t going to be able to keep going, and so their land is going to be, either absorbed into neighbouring farms or share farmed, or umm, people are going to rent it or something, and umm it means that the people who are doing that have got to work, that much harder to incorporate those acres, into what they’re already doing

1.208.  AW: Now on this farm you rent, umm err, land from neighbouring

1.209.  MI: Yes

1.210.  AW: Estate or farmers. Is that something you’ve always done

1.211.  MI: Umm, yes, we haven’t always rented his, but umm we’ve, we’ve usually rented grass keep, because, umm, as I was explaining, the IACS umm err intervention, made grass have to be kept as grass or, it doesn’t make have to kept grass but, it wouldn’t be economic to do anything else with it, and umm, it means that people who aren’t producing animals themselves, can’t do very much else with that land and so they rent to somebody who’s umm in need of some grazing land and because the rest of our land is eligible for subsidy, under the IACS rules, umm, it doesn’t pay us to put that, to keep that down to grass, so, we plough up our fields to grow corn on, and rent in grass land from our neighbour because he can’t do anything else with his grass. So err it’s a shame really that it’s so umm set in stone, if they could be umm a little more flexible, it would make life an awful lot easier, even if they umm, rotated the eligibility of, of fields, you know, if you had the same acreage on a farm that was eligible and you could rotate it round your different fields then that would help a lot, because, I mean, on our neighbours farm they’ve got umm probably three hundred and forty or so acres of eligible land that they grow crops on and then there’s twenty four acres that is just grassland, which could be rotated round. It would do the land a lot more good and umm, it would mean they could make more use of it, because they could then grow a, a green crop that they could plough-in which would, you know, bring the soil structure, back to err, something like it used to be, but err, because it’s so inflexible, you can’t do that sort of thing, and I think that’s where err they made a big mistake really, in how they organised it and how they bought the rules in

1.212.  AW: And what sort of time did the IACS rules come in

1.213.  MI: Umm, in 1988

1.214.  AW: Right, I remember you saying now

1.215.  MI: Yes, that was the base year     

1.216.  AW: Umm, let me ask you about umm occupational hazards

1.217.  MI: Yes

1.218.  AW: Have you, are there occupational hazards for you working here on the farm

1.219.  MI: A farm is a very, very dangerous place, oh yes, yes, umm, ‘a’ you’ve got stock that, umm, yes they’re tame enough, but they’re very, very unpredictable, we’ve had, umm, a loose steer around the village this last umm few days, and its, its on it’s own, and its become so frightened and so wild that it wouldn’t stop at a person, it would just knock them out of the way, you know, so that umm, and and with your own stock, umm they they probably wouldn’t mean to hurt you but they do tend to get excited and then they start bouncing around and kicking their legs out and that sort of thing, you know, so err you have to keep away, well you have to be aware that they can do that sort of thing, and with machinery there’s nothing more dangerous than farm machines, because umm, an awful lot of it is on three point linkage where it can be lifted up off the ground and lowered down again and that sort of thing, and umm, if pipes break, it just comes down clonk, if umm, if you’ve got something stuck and you don’t, umm, stop you’re tractor or you don’t umm err put something under your machine to umm stop it from falling then if you pull the obstruction out of the way then it can allow it to err, suddenly fall and perhaps trap a arm, or a leg, or a foot, or whatever

1.220.  AW: Have you had any accidents, err, here on this farm

1.221.  MI: We’ve certainly had um times, when my husband has been doing things umm with machinery like umm, well he’s been repairing, and he’s been welding or grinding or whatever and he’s got umm stuff in his eye, metal in his eyes, he’s had to go into the umm Radcliffe Eye Hospital to err check that, umm, he has also quite a, umm a err loud chest. So I would imagine that he probably umm has, umm some sort of err condition in there, where umm dust or umm moulds or something has effected his lungs

1.222.  AW: So he wheezes does he

1.223.  MI: He wheezes, yes, he’s a, yes, his, his bellows are quite noisy, yes

1.224.  AW: And does he cough at all

1.225.  MI: Yes, he’s, he’s got quite a cough, yes. He’s never been umm tested for farmers lung, but umm, I don’t think he would want to be. He’d rather

1.226.  AW: But that’s what you think it might be

1.227.  MI: I think probably he’s got a touch of it, yes, yes, if he hasn’t got it then I would be surprised, yes, umm  

1.228.  AW: And is that, do you think,  because of dust in hay making

1.229.  MI: Yes

1.230.  AW: Or some other

1.231.  MI: There’s, there’s dust all over the place, you know, and umm for an awfully long time, umm, people didn’t realise how dangerous it was, I mean now a days, if you have a dusty job then you put a mask on, and they’re wonderful things. They’ve, they’ve made them and refined them so well now that they do an excellent job, but if you’re not wearing one, then it can’t do a good job for you and course for years and years and years, he was feeding um hay, he was putting straw out and all that sort of thing, without any mask at all, and I mean you’d open the door into the barn and the whole of the air would be thick with dust and there he was, you know working in it., without umm, giving it a second thought

1.232.  AW: When do you think he became aware of the dust and

1.233.  MI: umm. Well even now, he has to be umm, shall we say err, persuaded, to wear a mask because he is one of the umm old school that, you know, they didn’t even consider taking any precautionary measures, against, umm, you know dust or moulds or, you know, he doesn’t even see dangers in machinery that I can see, so err, it was quite umm, late on that he, he’s cottoned on to the fact that err, well I think probably he’s he’s been persuaded to wear a mask from time to time, and he’s seen what collects on it, and I think that probably gave him an idea of just what he’d been breathing in, before he started wearing masks, so, he’s getting better

1.234.  AW: Do you think he knew about it when he started

1.235.  MI:   Oh gosh no. No body knew about it

1.236.  AW: Farmer’s Lung was not, was not common then

1.237.  MI: It was probably know about, but probably wasn’t recognised. And of course, umm, these days, umm, in the barn up at the farm there, we would have had, perhaps a hundred and fifty animals, whereas, umm, when he started, he would have had, I mean well twenty would have been a large number, you know, and um it would have been nearer fifteen, in a pen, and of course, if you have that number then you don’t need anything like the umm turnover in straw and umm feed and such like that you do these days, and so if your feeding a hundred and fifty animals, that’s quite a lot of umm material to be handling, whereas if you were doing umm fifteen or twenty or twenty, you know, you perhaps do it once a week or something, whereas with umm the larger numbers these days you have to do it every day, so umm you know, that’s a seven fold increase in, in your umm, vulnerable to these, dusts and moulds and things, yeah

1.238.  AW: When you, when you started working on this farm with your husband, where you err living with your err in laws then, or

1.239.  MI: No, we, we built a house up the road here and umm, Ted and his brother did a lot of the umm digging of the foundations and such like, and a local builder built the thing, and umm, we lived there for about thirty, thirty one years something like that, and umm then, by then Ted’s father had died and his mother had gone into a home and so this was vacant and so we came down here and let our house out for about five years, which bought in an income and then umm, about five years ago we sold it, in order to buy his brothers half of the farm, umm, so that we now own all of it.

1.240.  AW: Did, so would you say you bought him out

1.241.  MI: Yes, we bought him out. Yes , yes, yes. Yes, we  had bought his share of the business umm, his share of the tractors and the, you know the crops and everything, oh,  twelve years ago, because he’d decided he’d had enough of farming and err and went, went on, off on his own, and we rented his half of the farm until we sold up five years and err bought him out

1.242.  AW: So Ted’s relatives were farmers were they

1.243.  MI: Um, yes, yes. His father, well his father and mother I suppose, they came down here when he was two, so that was seventy three years ago, and umm when they took on the buildings and the land that surrounds them, they had that for two years without rent because it had been derelict, until they took it on and umm he was umm allowed two years to get some sort of umm, order into, umm, the land, you know, to start growing crops and things on it

1.244.  AW: How was it that it was derelict

1.245.  MI: Well in the umm, have you ever read any of A. G. Street’s books

1.246.  AW: I haven’t actually

1.247.  MI: You haven’t, no, no, umm, I think it was 1929 the Wall Street crash happened, and umm, there was an enormous downturn in agriculture then and they came down here, I suppose in 1929, and umm nothing had been done in agriculture for probably, ten or fifteen years it had been going down hill, and umm, vast tracts had been left umm uncultivated, and it doesn’t take long for scrub and brambles and things to umm to start taking over, and it’s quite a job to umm to clear it all again to get it back to cultivation, and so that’s why he had the umm the farm for two years rent free, so that he could get it back into some sort of order for growing crops again, umm an awful lot of the South of England and the South-west of England was just left uncultivated because umm a lot of farmers and farm workers of course had gone off to the first world war and hadn’t come back and umm, the umm, labour was starting to, to get expensive and conditions of course was improving for workers but umm, the income wasn’t there really to umm support that, umm, so farming was really in the doldrums and err, it wasn’t really until I suppose the mid thirties that things started to get better again, and err, that umm, you know, was, was quite a good time I think for farming, from then until, well really up to the start of the second world war and then of course umm, again a lot of the workers who went off and umm they had to recruit umm women to come in, which was frown upon by an awful lot of farmers, you know, these blooming women couldn’t do anything, in fact they were probably better than a lot of the men had been, but err no body would admit that and umm, they had to do an awful lot of umm, ploughing-up that really wasn’t the right thing to do for that particular piece of land and so an awful lot of waste happened where umm, you know, inappropriate umm crops had been grown where farmers knew they shouldn’t have been grown but umm, the people that were in charge in the War Ag. umm, had declared that all this land had to be ploughed up to grow food and so umm there, a lot of waste was happening, but err I think they got sorted out in the end, so, yes, it was, it was quite umm, quite a time for British farming back in the umm late twenties and early thirties and as I say A. G. Street has written a lot of books about how things were in that time and err, the things they had to do, to bring it back into production again

1.248.  AW: Now I notice umm you sell eggs here, and people call by

1.249.  MI: Yes

1.250.  AW: they come from the village do they, or

1.251.  MI: They come from all over the place. Umm, this area has quite a lot of umm second houses, weekend cottages and that sort of thing, and umm people come out of London, they always come down and stock up before they, they go back again, umm, I get people coming from, I suppose from about up to about twelve miles away, to buy eggs, because you know, we’re a WYSIWYG lot, What You See Is What You Get, and you know, you can see the animal, the chickens out there, and such like, so err they know that, those are the eggs that

1.252.  AW: And the ducks

1.253.  MI: And the ducks, yeah. Those are the eggs that they’re actually be buying, so umm and we’ve got quite a good name for our eggs I think, you know, they certainly seem to be very popular anyway, which is lucky, very lucky

1.254.  AW: Are there any other things that you sell directly to the public like that

1.255.  MI: Umm no, we have sold umm odd bails of hay and odd bails of straw to people for rabbits and, guinea pigs, and such like, but err no, not a, nothing like, you know, the quantity that we sell eggs

1.256.  AW: Is that something you’ve always done, sell eggs

1.257.  MI: No, no, no, we umm, my mother-in-law used have a few eggs down here, and she used to sell, to a few people, you know, her sort of regulars that would come, but umm, no, we decided that is was something I could do. I’ve had three hip operations and a knee replaced as well, so err, I’m nothing like as mobile as I used to be. So I can’t go humping, you know, bails about and that sort of thing, whereas I can potter around doing hens, so we decided that was something I could do, and um we looked into it, we actually have a place out there that umm, is our packing station, so we’ve become a packing station, which means that we can sell to retail outlets, because at the door it doesn’t matter what you sell but if you’re selling to something like a shop or a garage or whatever then you know there are rules and regulations that come in and you have to abide by them, umm we get inspected twice a year by the Ministry, and umm

1.258.  AW: What’s that like? A palaver is it

1.259.  MI: Umm, well it’s a bit silly really because, ha ha, we don’t sell, I mean normally a packing station would be dealing in millions and millions of eggs, you know, they will be getting eggs in from all over the place, by the box or whatever, you know, and umm they, they do literally turn-over millions of eggs, whereas umm with our few hens, you know, we’ve got what,  about four hundred hens or something, they, that’s all we actually deal with, is what they produce.

1.260.  AW: How many eggs, or boxes of eggs, do you think you sell

1.261.  MI: Umm I suppose, for the retail outlets we probably sell, umm, up to a hundred dozen a week, and then at the door, you know, I don’t know, some days we don’t sell any, and another day I’m constantly replenishing them where people come and you know, buy them and take them away

1.262.  AW: Do you mean a hundred boxes or a hundred eggs, or

1.263.  MI: A hundred dozen

1.264.  AW: Ahh, okay

1.265.  MI: Yes, which is two hundred boxes. Yes, yes, yes they’re the ones which we sell retail, sell to retailers, sorry

1.266.  AW: And, how do you find those retailers

1.267.  MI: Umm they’re very good, yes, yes, umm especially in the village shop, people come from, they are very good in the village shop, they, they really make an effort and they will provide things if they can get it. If somebody wants something and mentions it to them then they will go out of their way to stock it and umm in consequence they get people coming from umm, come out from Chipping Norton, about five miles away, they come from Hook Norton, umm, they come from, some come from Witney way to the village shop here where they know they can buy umm, locally produced stuff at a reasonable standard, you know,

1.268.  AW: Is that the shop that’s also a post office is it

1.269.  MI: Yes, yes

1.270.  AW: I can’t remember the name of it

1.271.  MI: It’s Adam’s Stores, yes, and

1.272.  AW: And that’s on the main road isn’t it

1.273.  MI: that’s on the main road, yes, yes, and they also do the lottery of course, and err, they sell an awful lot of cigarettes and such like

1.274.  AW: So, is that the main retailer, is that the retailer that you sell to or are there others

1.275.  MI: That’s the main retailer that we sell to. I also sell to a butcher in Chipping Norton and to a garage, and umm, various other places, but not as many, but the shop is my main outlet, yes

1.276.  AW:  Would you say that was an important, part of your business

1.277.  MI: Oh yes, yes, yes, well it’s keeping me going, you know and I think at the moment it’s probably the only bit of the farm that’s actually making a profit, because you know, because we’re small and umm I do them myself, we know the standard is high, and so I can charge quite a lot for them, I charge probably, half as much again as I would get from the prices in the Farmers Weekly, so I sell them, to umm, to the shop at one pound twenty a dozen for medium eggs, one pound forty for large eggs and one pound sixty for extra large eggs, so that err brings in quite a nice income, yes

1.278.  AW: Do you, when you think of that, do you think of it, because of it being fresh or do you think it being local, or something

1.279.  MI: I think probably it’s the freshness that is the thing and that fact that the chickens are outside, and so the yolks are nice and yellow, that’s what people like, and umm, I’ve had instances where people said ooh I, I went out to a restaurant last week and I had haddock and they did a poached egg on top and the yolk was nearly as white as the white and I thought, ooh I can’t eat that! No, so obviously, they are nice, you know, they must be

1.280.  AW: Where do you think that yellowness of the yolk comes from

1.281.  MI: Umm probably because they eating grass, because all the yellowness it really is, is chlorophyll and umm, you can’t really put that, you can put a certain amount into a feed, but I don’t know whether it would actually come through into the yolk and make any difference, umm so it’s just the fact that they’re outside and they’re um eating grass, they’re eating worms, they’re eating beetles, I mean when you think about it, you know, ha-ha,  you don’t realise really, but err it seems to make the eggs nice anyway, so we’re been told. We don’t eat many ourselves

1.282.  AW: Do you umm, do you feed them on the grain that you grow here

1.283.  MI: No. No, we buy-in umm a ready-made, umm, well it’s Layers pellets really, and umm, it’s err, you know, a processed food that supposed to have all the umm goodness in it. It has all the trace elements and the such like, that they’re supposed to need, so err, so that’s what we actually feed them on, but of course, when they’re outside, they get all sorts of things, and people come down with bread and carrots and apples and things that err and give to them, and umm when I go up to the shop, I also get all their old vegetables, and bread that’s gone past it’s sell by date or whatever and so they do have, umm, quite a varied diet around here, you know, they’re well looked after, yes.

1.284.  AW: Now, when you started on the farm here in the sixties, err actually at that time it would have been just up the road, wouldn’t it

1.285.  MI: Yes, well we were living up the road there, yes

1.286.  AW: Were you, umm, employing farm labour at that time

1.287.  MI: Umm, I think that finished just before I came on the scene and so there was, umm, Ted’s father,  and his brother and himself and I was, as I say the boy, you know, I just sort of did, umm, all the odd jobs, you know, filled in and such like, but umm

1.288.  AW: But you had also been to agricultural college

1.289.  MI: Oh yes, I was the only one who had been trained at all, so that has probably helped because umm, I’ve kept up more with rules and regulations and things, I have stopped, umm, things where umm perhaps rules where going to be ignored or umm, you know, modified or whatever

1.290.  AW: And do you think you bought with them, with you, your knowledge of the latest agricultural practices and

1.291.  MI: Some of them, yes, yes,  and also what’s and isn’t feasible, you know, umm, because I have a different, because I’ve done other things as well, you know, I, I, I mean I lead quite a varied life, umm I can also see things umm from different perspective. I mean Ted’s just done farming all his life, he’s never had an interest in anything else, whereas I go out, to you know local ammeter operatic society and, bee keeping, and umm geological society, umm

1.292.  AW: Do you have bees on the farm

1.293.  MI: Not now no, because I umm, I had anaphylactic umm turn when I was stung one day

1.294.  AW: Oh right, was that, was that, but you farmed bees initially

1.295.  MI: Oh, we had bees up to then, yes, oh I’d, I’d been very interested in bees, I’d joined the bee keeping club when I was at school and umm, so from about eleven I’d been looking after bees and when I went up to work up, up at Westwood there, we had bees up there, and then umm

1.296.  AW: Sorry, Westwood is another farm is it

1.297.  MI: It’s were I worked

1.298.  AW: Oh right

1.299.  MI: Before I came down here, yes, umm and at umm college, you know umm there was a bee keeping club as well, so err I joined those, and I’d been stung and stung and stung, you know, and never thought anything of it, until I had my first child and whether that changed my metabolism or something happened, anyway from then on every time I got stung umm I’d, I would have a big swelling and you know very itchy arm and whatever and then one day, umm Ted had been doing something with the bees and we went down to umm, for a riding lesson for the children and I got stung on the back of the hand and within about five minutes I couldn’t breath, but fortunately the doctor was in, he was down at Charlbury and he was in, he was a bee keeper himself and he knew what was happening and umm he was able to give me a heart stimulant and umm, you know keep me going, until it, gradually faded off again

1.300.  AW: Did you need to be taken to hospital

1.301.  MI: No, no, it was touch and go but I didn’t need

1.302.  AW: It was good that you had the medical treatment right there and then

1.303.  MI: yes, that’s right, yes, that I think made the difference, yes, oh yes. I might not be here now if the doctor hadn’t been there, it was err, just one of those things. So no if I get stung, you know, I shall probably pop-off, so

1.304.  AW: Oh, do you, do you carry any treatments or anything

1.305.  MI: Umm I used to have some antihistamine tablets but umm, they’re so out of date now that err, I really don’t know if err I shall bother anymore

1.306.  AW: When you started farming in the sixties were, err, you had bees then, you had bees then

1.307.  MI: umm

1.308.  AW: And that continued until

1.309.  MI: Yeah

1.310.  AW: the instance with the bee’s stings

1.311.  MI: Yes, I suppose that was umm probably about 1968, when that happened and umm

1.312.  AW: Was the honey sold at, here

1.313.  MI: We used to sell honey, yes people used to come to the door for it and umm, there was a thriving Oxfordshire bee keepers association then, and you had umm, you know, your name was umm, part of that group and anybody who wanted honey in those days would ask the secretary, you know, where their local producer was, and we also had a notice up, you know, outside the house, honey for sale and such like, so err, yes what we didn’t use or give a way we used to sell

1.314.  AW: It sounds like you used to quite a few things at the door

1.315.  MI: Yes

1.316.  AW: I mean during the ‘60s

1.317.  MI: Yes

1.318.  AW: Would that be the case

1.319.  MI: We used to sell eggs down here, we sold honey, umm, they used to umm, sell the odd pig to people, you know, who wanted a, a home produced, umm pig, but umm that, all we did with that really was to take it to umm the abattoir and then that was the responsibility of the person who bought it from then on, you know, they’d would umm, tell the abattoir what they wanted done with

1.320.  AW: Was the abattoir close

1.321.  MI: Umm, there was one in Chipping Norton then, there was also one in Chadlington, there was also one at Long Compton

1.322.  AW: This was throughout the sixties was it

1.323.  MI: Yes, yes, yes, yes

1.324.  AW: And where is the nearest today

1.325.  MI: I think probably the Long Compton one is still just about going, but err, I’m not sure about that, but umm, if our, umm, if our beef cattle go, they are umm, we are a Marks and Spencer’s preferred farm. So they, they came round and had a look and we had to answer a whole series of questions and such like and we passed, umm, their standards so our cattle can go as Marks and Spencer’s stuff, so they actually, hum pardon, hmm, pardon me, they go up to Nuneaton to an abattoir there, yes

1.326.  AW: And that’s one that Marks and Spencers specify is it

1.327.  MI: Yes, yes.

1.328.  AW: Did you apply for that scheme, or did they contact you

1.329.  MI: We sell our beef through a dealer, well he’s, he’s an agent really, he doesn’t like being called a dealer, and umm, he knew how we produced umm, our cattle and he had been approached by Mark’s and Spencers buyers and so he sort of put the two together, we and we know another person who sold through him, also passed locally, umm for Marks and Spencers so umm, you know, we were very lucky really, because err, I think they’re probably two in umm, in the Chipping Norton area, it’s probably, what, within, perhaps ten miles of Chipping Norton, something like that, so we were, very, very lucky that we passed, but umm, it means that you, you get a slight premium, and of course there’s a, you’ve got a, a certain market, you know, which is very good, because umm, if you sell to a, umm, an abattoir that doesn’t specialise then they are dependent upon people buying on that particular day and umm if they’ve got a lot of buyers then the price is up and if they’ve only one or two buyers then they have a lot of, what you might call, over production, and so the price falls, whereas with sending them to the Marks and Spencer’s place then you know what you’re going to get and, it’s not going to alter

1.330.  AW: So would you therefore, try and therefore time the selling to the abattoir to get a better price

1.331.  MI: No, we probably would fit-in with what they wanted within a week or two, in other words umm, we don’t specify that they have to go on this Monday if they don’t want them until Wednesday of next week then that’s okay, you know, we can accommodate that, but only that, small margin of time, you know

1.332.  AW: This is the Long Compton, is it

1.333.  MI: No, no, the Nuneaton one, yeah, yes. No we used to take umm pigs to Long Compton when we wanted one for ourselves or if we had anybody else wanted one done, but umm we not used them for a long time because we haven’t had pigs for quite a time.

1.334.  AW: When do you think you stopped farming pigs

1.335.  MI: Umm, we stopped farming pigs on their own account, probably ten years ago, something like that, it might even have been twelve years ago, but umm then we, in order to supplement our workers wagers, because the price of most agricultural commodities was going down and wages were going up, you know, the we did contract pig rearing, we umm, reared for ABM and they brought the straw pigs in, they would provide the veterinary services, the food, we would provide the straw and the water and the labour. They would pay us so much a pig a week and a bonus at the end of it if we got the umm fattening ratio proper, in other words if we could get them to produce umm sufficient meat on a lower enough input of food then the conversion rate would be good enough and we would get a bonus, and so we did that for a while to help pay our umm workers money, but umm we stopped that in February of last year

1.336.  AW: How long did you do that for

1.337.  MI: We probably did that for seven or eight years, yes, and we were very lucky, we had two hundred and forty baconers go, two days before they bought in the movement restrictions for foot and mouth

1.338.  AW: Really  

1.339.  MI:  So we were very lucky. If they hadn’t been able to go then, they were bacon pigs, very, very big, you know the biggest they would take and they would have just got over fat and would have been worth nothing

1.340.  AW: Two hundred and forty that’s quite a number, would that be the average which you kept

1.341.  MI: We had four hundred at a time and we would probably have about two and a half batches a year. So we would actually fatten about a thousand pigs a year, something like that, yeah

1.342.  AW: Was it difficult to fit that in with the arable or the beef

1.343.  MI: Umm

1.344.  AW: Did you rotate them around

1.345.  MI: We had an automatic feeding system. We had a big bin that the food went into,  and then at the bottom of that was an arguer with umm, err a motor and err spiral umm, I don’t know what you’d call it, a tube, inside the tube and it would start it up and the feed would come up, along the tube, down the first lot of feeders and would build up the pipe and so that would make it go on to the next lot, when it had built up those pipes it would go on to the next one and the last one had a sensor in it and the sensor would switch the motor off. So it was sort of umm automatic. So long as that end feeder was being used and the sensor turned the motor on, then it would umm, be filled up, automatically

1.346.  AW: And did you have to buy that machinery yourself

1.347.  MI: yes, yes

1.348.  AW: You did

1.349.  MI: Yes, we had to buy that. And umm, of course they had automatic water. They have ad-lib food and ad-lib water and then, we umm, we used to put straw in, about three times a week. With pigs you just put it in, in the bail and then they will snuffle it around and spread it around. It gives then something to do

1.350.  AW: Would the pigs be kept inside

1.351.  MI: Yes, no they were kept inside. They were reared outside; we kept them inside, mainly because if you’re trying to fatten pigs then they can keep their temperature, more or less without using too much food. I guess they would come in at, three months, twelve weeks, something like that, and then we would keep them for three months, and fatten them and umm in a batch we would get something like, three hundred and fifty baconers, because they’re like people, you know, they grow at different rates and umm the others would be, mostly cutters, which are between porkers and baconers, and umm then you’d get the odd little one or two, that would go as porkers

1.352.  AW: So at the time you had the pigs, you had cattle, beef cattle is that right

1.353.  MI: yes, oh yes

1.354.  AW: You had arable, that would be corn, wheat would it be, winter wheat

1.355.  MI: Winter wheat, yes

1.356.  AW:  And would you have any other calves or livestock and again they were rearing on a contract basis. Have you heard of Brian Buckingham

1.357.  MI: Oh, he is a dealer, he lives, well Bernard’s Gate, which is at Eynsham, and he used to provide calves, for the European market, they would go up into France and Belgium and Holland, to be reared as veal, and

1.358.  AW: What sort of period was that

1.359.  MI: That would probably be the mid eighties to mid nineties, something like that, and umm, we would have them in as baby calves, between about two days and ten days old and then, umm, we would rear them until they were, about eight weeks old, ten weeks old, then they would go on the lorries to umm France or Belgium or Holland for veal. I mean we don’t have a veal market in this country, but umm an awful lot of the umm dairy bull calves, I mean, these were Friesian they don’t fatten for beef very well at all. And umm if they, now they’re just shot because there isn’t a market for them and they’re not needed. But umm, that’s what we’re doing then and then he had the problem of people stopping them going on the ferries

1.360.  AW: Yes

1.361.  MI: They had quite a time with that

1.362.  AW: Do you mean the animal rights people

1.363.  MI: Yes, animal rights people were stopping them from going on the ferries and umm, in fact

1.364.  AW: So that affected you, did it

1.365.  MI: Oh it affected us, yes, tremendously, yes, yes, well it stopped the trade. So that err was the end of our calf rearing, and that was quite lucrative, that was, umm we had a whole lot of, he, he had a terrible time, he’d got two umm or three lorry loads that were going to Plymouth and they were going over to France, and

1.366.  AW: So they were from Oxfordshire down to Plymouth do you mean

1.367.  MI: From all over the place, yes down to Plymouth and umm they got there, and the animal rights people wouldn’t allow them onto the ferries, and so they took them back to what they call a leyerage, where they have to take them off the lorry and put them into err pens and umm feed them and umm, they would do that and then the next morning they would go back onto the lorry and go down to the docks, and they would be stopped, they would be taken back to the leyerage and this umm happened several times and in the end of course the calves condition and they couldn’t take them over and so he had to find somewhere for them to be umm reared, and we had umm, eighty calves brought to us in a hurry and we managed to rear twenty five of them and we were we did best of all the people that he took them to, I mean some people had fifty and didn’t rear one, so, err I mean these people at the umm docks had an awful lot to answer for, but umm, and the places in umm France, Belgium,  and Holland are far better than the conditions in they had in this country, than we have, they have wonderful calf rearing, they, they, they can really rear calves very well, they have very high buildings, they have hardly any, umm, oh what’s the stuff that you get in your chest, pneumonia or that sort of thing, so err they really have excellent umm conditions for, for rearing veal

1.368.  AW: So you took eighty calves

1.369.  MI: We took eighty

1.370.  AW: and twenty five made it to

1.371.  MI: And that’s right, they actually managed to umm, you know stay alive

1.372.  AW: And the others had died

1.373.  MI: the others died, yes, and umm

1.374.  AW: Why had they died

1.375.  MI: well because they were on and off lorries and, I mean, quite a lot of them needed umm to be fed rather than helping themselves and that sort of thing, I mean when you’re got a lorry load of calves you can’t go around and individually feed each one, you know, you’d be all day at it, so they just put in umm, milk in toughs and things, some of them help themselves and some didn’t and umm they were in a terrible state when they came back, they had diarrhoea, they had, I mean pneumonia was rife, that was terrible, and if only these people could have seen what they had done to those poor calves, but there you are

1.376.  AW: they died quite quickly then, actually

1.377.  MI: Oh yes, yes

1.378.  AW: So the ones that were the twenty five, within a few weeks they were the ones that were left

1.379.  MI: within about ten days, yes, and like I say, we had the best ratio of live to dead of any of the people that he took them to, and umm, you know, I know he took about fifty six to one person and didn’t manage to rear any of them, so umm, that was, was really terrible but we got umm err a lass up the village here, who umm she’s a Londoner and she’s got a weekend cottage there, and I was explaining to her about these calves, cause she’s a vegetarian and umm she was saying, oh good they managed to stop another lorry load, you know, and I said, well you come and have a look at these and there was one in particular that was umm obviously very, very ill and I said he’ll be dead by morning and so she went in there and knelt down and put her arms around it and gave it a good kiss and all the rest of it, you know, but she was still err, unpersuaded that it would die

1.380.  AW: Did it die

1.381.  MI: Oh yes, it was dead the next morning, yes, yes, that was heart breaking that was, yes, but that was only one incident you know I mean, it stopped completely now

1.382.  AW: Now you said that you took the pigs on to err pay the wages of some farm labour

1.383.  MI: To help pay the wages, yes

1.384.  AW: Would, how, would there often be someone working with you here, farmer labours

1.385.  MI: Until I came on the scene they had always had umm either one or two workers on the farm and obviously in those days there must have been enough money made to pay these people, but umm, they hadn’t anybody when I came, joined in the farm and umm all we’d had was umm a student for harvest, and there, there’s an agricultural colleague at Beauvais in Northern France and they are doing the equivalent of our masters degree in agriculture and umm their students had to do six weeks on a foreign farm during the summer and so we used to have one of those, we had one of those for about umm ten years, you know, one a year

1.386.  AW: How did, how did you get to know about that

1.387.  MI: Well, um, one of our friends, was the umm, vice principle at Cirencester and he was asked to find umm a farm for one of these err students and of course once you’ve had one then your name goes on the list and somebody, you know, chooses you every year then or

1.388.  AW: Is Cirencester and agricultural college

1.389.  MI: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, that’s the, one of the, one of the main agricultural colleges in the Country, yes

1.390.  AW: Do you think that’s been a useful route for you to learn about farming, err in the continent of Europe

1.391.  MI: Oh that was excellent, yes, oh yes, and I mean these students were umm, were pretty intelligent and umm I mean in France, agriculture is thought of umm as quite a, a high umm, err what, trade to be in, or well, whatever, but in this country agriculture is, is one of the lower, rated means of umm living, but in France, as I say, it’s, you know, it’s quite a good thing to go into agriculture and umm err, they used to come over of course and some of them had come from umm, quite primitive farms in France and hadn’t

1.392.  AW: You mean unmechanised or family farms

1.393.  MI: Yes, and hadn’t, hadn’t come in contact with much in the way of mechanisation at all, and of course at college, they’re, until they actually came to the farm to do the practical, it was more or less all theory you know they were more or less doing classroom work rather than actually working on any farm so umm we had one in particular who had umm broken three tractors in the first half an hour, you know and such like, so he didn’t go down very well, but most of them were excellent, and umm, my, I had only done French at school, you know, and it’s amazing what you can remember and what you can come up with

1.394.  AW: Did you ever travel to see any of the students that came

1.395.  MI: No, no I’ve been to France but I hadn’t actually seen any of them but we kept in contact with them for them err, still do, we still have Christmas cards, exchange Christmas cards you know and such like, with these err, some of them

1.396.  AW: And of course, you yourself was a student on a farm weren’t you

1.397.  MI: Yes, that’s right, yes

1.398.  AW: Do you think made you err, helped

1.399.  MI: It probably meant I understood, what reservations they had, umm it probably meant that I could understand umm, err how would you describe it, umm, they wouldn’t have had much in the way of umm, self confidence when they first came. I mean, you imagine, coming to a farm, coming to a different country, not quite sure of how you’re going to be received and umm what you’re going to be expected to know and what you’re going to be expected to do and such like and umm I mean some of them came they were very self confident and obviously knew just what to do and were quite happy but some of them were very diffident and umm you know needed showing and helping and that sort of thing and umm yes I think I probably understood a lot better than what Ted did, what err was happening with them and

1.400.  AW: So

1.401.  MI: And how to cope with them. Sorry

1.402.  AW: You said earlier, that err when you came to the farm, you were the boy

1.403.  MI: Yes

1.404.  AW: As it were, umm, but how, how important do you think your role and your farming knowledge was, in the farm

1.405.  MI: I think it was probably very important because umm I came in with a fresh eye, you know, when you’re doing the same thing, day after day, you’re doing the same land, day after day, umm, you probably get somewhat tunnel vision, and umm not only had I been to places and seen other things, you know, but umm I also came in with a fresh way of looking at things

1.406.  AW: So you contributed both in terms of the work you did

1.407.  MI: Yes

1.408.  AW: And did you play a part in decision making as well

1.409.  MI: Oh yes, quite a big bit, sometimes, you know I would be asked my opinion and no notice would be taken of it, which is what can happen, but umm no, quite often, you know I was able to stop something being done that wasn’t appropriate or umm or perhaps do something in a different way or what ever

1.410.  AW: Did you play a part in, in a, would you say, running the business, I don’t know if you do that

1.411.  MI: Yes up to a point, because I mean, my mother in law wouldn’t have a telephone for example, so we had the telephone up there, and umm I can, and you can see I don’t mind talking, you know, and quite happy to talk on the telephone, that sort of thing, and umm, you can quite often sort things out or err sort and order out or whatever more easier than if you talk to somebody on the telephone that if can in a written, umm letter or order or whatever, as if you talk on the telephone it’s instant whereas you know, if you’re waiting for letters or whatever to go backwards or forwards, whereas it can take quite a time to get something sorted out, you know, so I think I was probably quite an asset, I like to think I was anyway, and you know I backed my husband up and that sort of thing and we did quite a lot of building and such like when I first came, because umm we put up umm those round corn bins and that sort of thing, and umm, a big barn and

1.412.  AW: You say about the corn bins, how was corn stored

1.413.  MI: Before then

1.414.  AW: Yes, was it also bins

1.415.  MI: No, it used to be sacks and umm they were two hundred weight sacks at that, and they used to umm, start on the ground and then build up until they couldn’t reach any further, further up and then put them on one of those elevators and um you can imagine, you know, having a two hundred weight sack of corn go clonk onto your back, oh dear, when I think about it, and you were walking on top of the sacks that were already there, so you know there wasn’t very good footing or anything, the fact that nobody broke a leg or, you know, permanently broke or hurt back or anything was an absolute miracle

1.416.  AW: So were they sacks kept in a barn

1.417.  MI: umm

1.418.  AW: and would they be collected by lorry or something would they

1.419.  MI: Yes, yes, they would be taken, in the sack again and so you’d be patching, sowing on patches where the rats and mice had got into it and that sort of thing, you know, to stop it all running out before you err got it on the lorry, umm, oh yes, it was quite a

1.420.  AW: And there was space in the barn because it during the summer when hay hadn’t been bought in

1.421.  MI: Well you had a barn that was specially kept for corn, yes, yes

1.422.  AW: And would that all be taken away at once or

1.423.  MI: umm no, probably not, because umm, the lorries that were available then would only take what three ton and a six ton lorry was really something, you know, and umm it wasn’t until I suppose the seventies, that the bigger lorries started coming in that would take umm ten or twelve tons at a time and umm when we put these umm corn bins in, we had augurs that would umm fill up from the top of the corn bin, so it would all sort of go from the top and then spread out and fill up the bins and then there was a hole at the bottom where you augured it out, again on to the big augur and that could actually fill it, fill it into umm, lorries loose, and that was quite an innovation as well, because then they could just open the back and tip it and all of the handling that had been before when it was in the sacks was done away with, you know it was just moved in bulk and it was a great saving in time and effort

1.424.  AW: Did that come that come in quite soon after you started working at the farm

1.425.  MI: I suppose that came in at the end of the sixties, yes

1.426.  AW: And had you learnt about that at agricultural college

1.427.  MI: No, no, no, we umm we, we looked into it, umm we hadn’t a television or anything until 1960, no, 1979, I think it was, we had our first television and so umm you know you didn’t sit and watch television all night you actually did something, and umm we used to umm look at the different adverts for corn bins or whatever if that’s what we wanted, and work out what would be needed, because we had to put down umm a concrete base for them, and then you had to put down a plastic sheet and more concrete on the top of that to provide a, you know, a damp proof base for it and such like and so umm we used to work out what was required, how much of what we need, we put up a big barn, how many blocks we would need, how many bolts and nuts and, you know all the rest of it

1.428.  AW: So you saw adverts for them on TV

1.429.  MI: No

1.430.  AW: No

1.431.  MI: No, no, no in things like Farmers Weekly or other farming papers. No we didn’t have a television until the end of the ‘70s

1.432.  AW: Was that out of choice

1.433.  MI: Umm, probably out of choice, yes, and umm I mean we were on quite low umm returns then. Ted was only treated as an agricultural worker so we didn’t have much in the way of money so, you know we had paid for our house so we didn’t have a mortgage but err we didn’t have an awful lot to live on, so umm, you know, that was why we did that

1.434.  AW: Let me ask you something about how farmers keep in touch with each other

1.435.  MI: Email these days

1.436.  AW: Is that right

1.437.  MI: Yes, yes

1.438.  AW: And that’s, that’s quite a recent innovation, isn’t it

1.439.  MI: Yes, yes

1.440.  AW: Would you say you’ve had email for five years

1.441.  MI: Probably, yeah, yes, yes

1.442.  AW: Do you think that has replaced any meetings that you used to go to

1.443.  MI: Umm, it probably has, has vastly increased the dissemination of knowledge, I mean you can umm err, get a Word document now that umm, you know, is a sort of an explanatory document for new rules or something that are coming in, and umm you can just email it to, three or four hundred people just by pressing a button so umm its an awful lot quicker to umm disseminate knowledge, no, we still have our meetings; we umm meet up in Charlbury now

1.444.  AW: That’s the NFU is it

1.445.  MI: Yes

1.446.  AW: That’s the local branch is it

1.447.  MI: Yes, yes, Whitney and Chipping Norton branch

1.448.  AW: Hello

1.449.  Ted: Hello

1.450.  MI: This is Ted

1.451.  AW: Hello Ted, I’m Andrew

1.452.  MI: Andrew Wood, yes, right

1.453.  AW: We, we won’t be much longer

1.454.  MI: I said you’re the one that ought to be interview

1.455.  Ted: Why

1.456.  MI: Cause you got a lot more knowledge than I have.

1.457.  Ted: I don’t know about that, ha, ha, ha

1.458.  MI: How things used to be, yes, yes

1.459.  AW: Shall we finish soon, I mean five minutes would that be alright Ted

1.460.  Ted: Yeah, that’ll be alright

1.461.  MI: Right

1.462.  AW: So you used to be one of the NFU officials, is that right, have I got that right

1.463.  MI: Oh I’ve done various jobs, I’m still Chairman of the livestock for Berks, Bucks and Oxon

1.464.  AW: And do you think that there’s a lot of knowledge, and new techniques that umm people learn through the NFU at those meetings

1.465.  MI: They probably do, yes, umm, whether they actually learn techniques I rather doubt, but they can certainly learn whether something is working, or whether it isn’t, whether it’s worth doing, or not, whether its umm cost effective, and that that’s quite a lot of the chat that goes on, you know, is whether something’s working, whether it’s worth doing or, what’s happening

1.466.  AW: Do you think that’s more important than say err Farmers Weekly or some other farming press

1.467.  MI: Umm, I think it compliments it quite nicely I don’t know if it would be more important or not, because I imagine a lot more farmers would get the Farmers Weekly than would come to meetings, because you normally get umm those who are interested that come to the meetings, whereas umm, you know, most farmers would have the Farmers Weekly and even if they didn’t read it right through they would read certain bits of it you know

1.468.  AW: Do you take that here

1.469.  MI: Yes, and the Farmers Guardian

1.470.  Ted: It has the crossword

1.471.  MI: It has the crossword in it

1.472.  AW: Ha, ha

1.473.  MI: Well I pay for it by wining the crossword so

1.474.  AW: Really

1.475.  MI: Yes, if you win the crossword you get ten pounds and that’s, that’s eleven umm editions of the Farmers Guardian, so as long as you can keep, ha, ha, earning the odd ten pounds, you know, it pays for itself.

1.476.  AW: And what about something like Farming Today, BBC Radio 4’s programme

1.477.  MI: We’ve heard that from time to time, it’s a bit early for us now, I’ve spoken on that from time to time. They ring up, you know, and say have you heard about so and so, what do you think about it, you know, they’ve used my comments in the programme

1.478.  AW: But it doesn’t sound like it’s the most important media, if you like, for you as a farmer

1.479.  MI: Oh no, no

1.480.  AW: What do you put first

1.481.  MI: umm, probably the media, the umm, Weekly and the Farmers Guardian, it’s probably where we get most of our ideas, isn’t it Ted

1.482.  Ted: Yeah

1.483.  MI: Yeah

1.484.  AW: Do you think that above NFU meetings

1.485.  MI: Probably, hmm, the NFU meetings are, are different, umm, you can learn specific things from the NFU meetings, whereas you get a, a, an overall picture from, you know, your papers, you get a more rounded view of things, you know, if you can see, all the different angles that they cover in these various umm papers

1.486.  AW: Do you thing the NFU represents farmers well today

1.487.  MI: Umm, that is a difficult one, they’re always going to find it difficult to represent farmers in inverted commas because, they are so diverse, so different. How do you represent umm a crofter in Scotland and a grain baron in the Eastern Counties, by the same, you know, person or group of people or whatever, I don’t know how it can be done really, what you’ve got to do is to take a happy medium I think and, you know, those that are either side of that happy medium, if they have specific problems they will have to be dealt with on an individual basis rather than a group basis.

1.488.  AW: Do you think they represented, do you feel they represented you in the recent foot and mouth outbreak

1.489.  MI: Umm probably yes, yes, yes. I certainly, umm, wasn’t at all in favour, at the moment, of vaccination because umm, it’s not reliable enough or umm doesn’t do the proper job

1.490.  Ted: Too many stains

1.491.  MI: Pardon, yes too many strains for one thing, it doesn’t last very long, it’s not a hundred percent effective, and until they get a test whereby they can differentiate between those that have been vaccinated and those that have had the disease I don’t see how you can, effectively use a vaccine, so there’s an awful lot of research to go into

1.492.  Ted: And it’s not a one-off

1.493.  MI: No

1.494.  AW: Do you think there is a crisis in, in farming in the UK

1.495.  MI: I think there’s been a crisis for quite a time, yes, and this particular Government doesn’t want farmers, they just want somebody to look after the countryside to keep it pretty, pretty, so that umm, you know, people who have time on their hands can use it as a leisure environment. I don’t think they want umm crops produced, or cattle produced, or sheep produced, or pigs produced, I think they’re quite happy umm to buy in food because at the moment it’s plentiful and cheap, from abroad. I think probably there will need to be umm an enormous hike in oil prices for example to make the cost of importing things a lot more expensive than they are at the moment before things alter

1.496.  AW: So things are going okay in other parts of the world but not, not in Britain.

1.497.  MI: Yes umm, I think probably they are, and, everybody now is, is, is able to access information, technology, whatever, anywhere in the world whereas at one time it was only you know, sort of umm, the new world, umm countries, that could access that and use it, and, I think it’s probably used all over the place, you know, there, there are an awful lot of people now researching rice and such like which means that, rice producing countries have surpluses, so they can export and, you know, it’s a good thing in lots and lots of ways, but it just doesn’t help us at the moment

1.498.  AW: So what do you thinks caused the crises in Britain

1.499.  MI: Umm, probably the EU, umm, for a start, because they produce rules and regulations that this country signs up to and gold plates and makes sure that every ‘i’ is doted and every ‘t’ is crossed, whereas other countries, yes they’ve made this rule, right well we’ll stick it on there, we’ll take no more notice of it, you know, that sort of thing, that’s one thing that doesn’t help, the strength of the pound of course is crippling all manufacturing in this country, I don’t think people realise anything like the err crises that’s going on, not just in farming, but anything to do with manufacture

1.500.  AW: So how does the, the price of, sorry, the price of the farm  

1.501.  MI: The farm commodity

1.502.  AW: Sorry, the price of the exchange rate, how does that affect you, here

1.503.  MI: Because it makes things so much cheaper to import, and we umm get paid our subsidies in Euros, well the value of the Euro, has gone down from what seventy five pence when it started to just over sixty pence now, so it’s lost what, twenty percent of its value just like that, so, in comparison with other European countries, we are only getting four fifths of the subsidies that they are getting, because of the strength of the Pound

1.504.  AW: Do think it would help if we joined the Euro

1.505.  MI: Umm, as far as farming prices are concerned it probably would, yes, yes, I think, probably, I don’t know enough about umm fiscal matters in other ways, you know, they, they say about, you know, the pension money and such like would be lost if we went in, into the euro and such like, well I don’t know enough about that to know what would happen and if it would be a good thing or not, but certainly for farm prices it would make quite a difference

1.506.  AW: So has, has international trade changed a lot since you started farming in the ‘60s

1.507.  MI: Oh yes, yes, what did we produce in this country then? We produced nearly everything that was required. Tractors, machinery, umm fertiliser, all the umm things like umm paper bags and such like were produced in this country, umm, nowadays I don’t think we’ve got a British manufacturer of tractors, most of the machinery comes from Germany or from Demark or Scandinavia somewhere, they seem to produce a lot of machinery. Umm what else don’t we produce in this country any longer, we don’t produce steel

1.508.  AW: Do you think the price of for example the wheat you sell here, is influenced by err farming as an international business

1.509.  MI: Yes, yes, it’s got to be influenced by that because umm we have the World Trade Organisation as well, don’t we, and they put restrictions on, you know, the price of things and how commodities can grow, what export umm taxes can be put on or, or, not taxes, umm

1.510.  Ted: Subsidies

1.511.  MI: Sub, export subsidies and such like, they used to be able to put on but they can’t any more, umm

1.512.  AW: Do those influence you in agriculture do you think

1.513.  MI: Well, I think they probably did yes, yes, yes because it kept the price up and you also had a umm, umm sort of certain base price, beyond which the, the value didn’t drop whereas now a days there’s no base price anywhere and it’s, it’s purely market concerns that umm, you know, influence the price of anything, and if people can buy things from abroad that have got export subsidies on, or whatever, then they’re going to, you know, it’s a, it’s got to be a crazy old system these days

1.514.  AW: And where, where do you sell your grain to that you grow here, your wheat, and where do you buy the seed from, that you use each year, to grow

1.515.  MI: The seed we grow, we buy from umm err Countrywide, which is a, I think a farming co-operative, we haven’t got shares in it, umm, they presumably buy seed wheat from areas that grow seed wheat, and then umm they process it and dress it and send it out, you know, to people who want to buy it. The umm corn that we sold this year we actually sent along to umm the Bibby factory on Enstone Airfield, so

1.516.  Ted: Just across the road

1.517.  MI: That didn’t have to go far, that only went about a mile down the road

1.518.  AW: Is that quite new, or have you been doing that for a while

1.519.  MI: We’ve been doing that for quite sometime, if it’s feed, umm, if its bread making then we’ve been taking it over to umm, Matthew’s Mill at Shipton under Wychwood, which is what? Eleven miles away

1.520.  Ted: Umm

1.521.  MI: Something like that, we take it on our own tractor and trailer

1.522.  AW: And how do you decide which to grow, bread or, or animal feed

1.523.  MI: Umm, it’s not quite a question of that, umm you can plant bread making wheat, but if you don’t have the right conditions and it doesn’t pass the tests then it doesn’t, it isn’t accepted for bread making and it goes for feed, and then you’ve, you’ve lost your premium for your bread making and you’ve also lost your yield because bread-making wheat doesn’t yield as well as feed wheat, so umm we now decided that err it would be better to go for the quantity, so we’re actually growing now umm feed wheat, and one lots biscuit making isn’t it

1.524.  Ted: Yeah

1.525.  MI: And it won’t go, won’t get to the standard needed for bread making but there’s biscuit wheat which is a lower standard but higher than feed, and so you get a slight premium on that, so err we’re hoping that umm this year, you know, we shall get some of that

1.526.  AW: So you always grow wheat err and try and sell it for bread

1.527.  MI: Yes

1.528.  AW:  and if that doesn’t work

1.529.  MI: Well

1.530.  AW: then you might have to go for

1.531.  MI: Well, if you plant feed wheat then you sell it as feed wheat, you know, you can’t, you can’t sell feed wheat for bread making but for bread making if it doesn’t get to the required standard then you can sell it for feed

1.532.  AW: So how do you decide each year whether to grow feed wheat or bread wheat

1.533.  MI: Umm, we get advice, err depends how it’s yielded the year before, depends what the umm soil is like, depends when you can get it in, because umm for some things the timing of your planting is critical, and for other, for feed wheat, you know it doesn’t matter either way, a month or six weeks won’t make any difference, you know, whereas for some of the bread making wheat they have to go in, in a certain time, or within a fortnight otherwise they don’t umm get established enough to produce the qualities that you need for the bread making. So it all depends I mean, this year, as I say we planted about half of it with feed wheat and half of it with what could be biscuit wheat, simply because we didn’t really get the standards for last year, so err

1.534.  Ted: Not worth the hassle

1.535.  MI: Not worth the hassle, either

1.536.  Ted: Trying to get quality stuff now a days

1.537.  MI:  No, no

1.538.  AW: Do you have to put in a lot of extra work for the bread

1.539.  MI: Yes, you also have to put on extra fertiliser, so err, you know at the moment, you’re having to thing about every, umm, every item that goes into producing wheat because the returns are so low, you know, it’s getting to a critical stage

1.540.  Ted: Just not worth the hassle

1.541.  MI: Just not worth doing, yeah

1.542.  Ted: You got feed wheat and it’s being taken miles away, you got a big bill for the transport

1.543.  MI: Yes, yes, so err, we try to make sure it goes in to the Mill up here, and that way you don’t get a twenty five tonne lorry rejected or whatever, and then have to pay transport for it to come back again or accept a reduced price, they, they, umm, they say they don’t do it, but they do, because you hear the lorry drivers telling you that they do, they umm reject a load of corn and umm telephone the farmer and get the farmer to accept a five pound a tonne reduction or something because it would cost then eight pound a tonne to bring it back and umm then it’s, it’s tipped in exactly the same place that they would have tipped it in originally, its just mixed in with everything else the same as it would have been if it hadn’t been rejected, so err, there’s all sorts of wired and wonderful things that go on that you have to watch

1.544.  AW: You said that, umm, you use email here

1.545.  MI: Hmm

1.546.  AW: Do you, on a daily basis, does that inform the decisions that you make

1.547.  MI: Umm, I don’t know about on a daily basis, it certainly, umm makes a difference to umm what you know and you don’t know

1.548.  AW: Do you know at the start of the season what you’re likely to get as a kind of

1.549.  MI: No

1.550.  AW:  umm err, a sale price, you don’t

1.551.  MI: No, you don’t know when you umm start to rear a calf for beef what you’re going to get for it. You don’t know what you’re going to get for umm, your wheat you’re your barley, or oats, or whatever when you plant it, it’s umm, up to recently it hasn’t been as much of a lottery has it, but it’s certainly getting to be a lottery now whether you’re going to make money on it or not. I know we frightened our doctor one day,  he’d got a paddock, and umm, he wanted to do something with this paddock and he said he wanted to buy four or five umm store cattle and, fatten them, on this paddock, and he said, I won’t loose any money on it will I, so both of us said, oh you might well do, and you know, huh, how on earth do you do business like that, but like I say it used to be that one or other of the umm agricultural commodities was in profit, and that would umm, you know, keep the place going, but err

1.552.  AW: What do you thing has changed to err make it a lottery as you say

1.553.  MI: Umm, probably, over production

1.554.  AW: Is that in this country, or, or Europe

1.555.  MI: Oh, all over the world

1.556.  Ted: Well it always has been a gamble hasn’t it

1.557.  MI: Well it’s always been a gamble yes, but normally, one of the other of the things, corn or horn, and been up

1.558.  Ted: Yeah

1.559.  MI: Hasn’t it, and, you know, managed to keep the other going

1.560.  Ted: Those cattle that we got, were worth a lot more money three weeks ago

1.561.  MI: yes

1.562.  Ted: than they are today

1.563.  MI: yes than they are today, yeah

1.564.  Ted: Cause they’re sending in Argentine meat

1.565.  MI: Yeah, crackers isn’t it.

1.566.  Ted: To help the Government there, because their banks are short of money

1.567.  AW: So do you look on the internet to see what the umm buy price of stock will be

1.568.  MI: I don’t, no

1.569.  AW: And then decide if to go to market

1.570.  MI: I think if we were forty years younger and were having to earn a living from the farm, you see we’re pensioners now and so that’s keeping us going, you know we’ve got that money coming in regardless of what, so we don’t have to make a profit on the farm things, probably if I was a twenty five year old then that would be the way to go about things, because it would be critical that, if you made money, especially if you had a young family or whatever, you know

1.571.  AW: So if you had to pay for the land or the buildings then, then

1.572.  MI: Yes, then you’d have to do that sort of thing, really umm, be on top of everything. I mean this year we were very, very lucky. We umm sold our corn at about the top price and, he gave me until lunch time to accept the price and so I contacted Ted and I rang, rang the chap back after about an hour and within that time the price had gone down a pound a tonne, and since we sold it, it’s gone down twenty pound

1.573.  Ted: Fifty eight last week

1.574.  MI: It was fifty eight, so twenty one pound, yeah, twenty one pound a tonne since we sold it, so

1.575.  AW: Do you work out at the start of the season how your total costs are, and then at the end

1.576.  MI: You can’t do that sort of thing, you’d have to wait until the end of the season, because, umm, depending on the conditions umm, for example, if you get a time now, when you get umm, all the ears, are just forming umm, if you got a lot of umm, wet and warm conditions then the aphid build up is tremendous and you’ll have to spray an aphicide, well you don’t know at the beginning of the season whether your going to have to do that or not, you have to keep down what costs you can and you also have to weigh in the balance whether it pays you to spray it or pay you to leave it umm, these days it’s very difficult to, to think of leaving an aphicide, because umm, if they do get into the umm, into the actual grains of wheat that are forming then it produces a shrived grain, and the merchants don’t like that and so they won’t pay for that, and if you have more than two percent umm of your crop is like that, you know, then there’s no market for it, it’s distressed grain and you have to take what you can for it

1.577.  AW: Is that also the case for both feed, animal feed and

1.578.  MI: Yes, yes, oh yes, yup, it’s crackers isn’t it, ha, ha, ha, you stick to your day job my boy, yes

1.579.  AW: Now you told me about your three children

1.580.  MI: Yes

1.581.  AW: And err they all work off the farm, do you think any of them will take over farming from you, farming here

1.582.  MI: I rather doubt it. I mean they’ve got umm

1.583.  Ted: good jobs

1.584.  MI: good jobs, good money

1.585.  AW: And what, what do they say about farming

1.586.  MI: Ha, ha, ha, I think they have a rose view that they would love to bring their children up on  a farm, but um, they certainly wouldn't want the hours, they wouldn't want the returns, and I don't think they would want the um, the gamble of it, you know, the insecurity really. They've got umm 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

1.587.  Ted: And getting dirty

1.588.  MI: Because, there isn't anything much on the farm which you can do by pressing a button. Most of it involves, even when you're putting machinery on and off tractors and things, it's quite a heavy manual job, so

1.589.  Ted: How you getting on then

1.590.  AW: We’re almost done actually

1.591.  Ted: You’ve four minutes

1.592.  AW: Yeah, I know, sorry

1.593.  Ted: or five minutes is up ten minutes ago

1.594.  AW: I know, let me just ask you one last question, what do you think will happen to the farm when you retire, and you stop farming, because although you say you're retired, you're still doing some farming here

1.595.  MI: Yes, 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, ha

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