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Interview with Michael Soanes, farmer


Interview date: 21 January 2003

Interview location: Royal Oak Farm Shop, Royal Oak Farm, Beckley. OX3 9TY

Interviewee: Michael Soanes

Interviewer: Eka Morgan

Transcript key: EM: Interviewer Eka Morgan; MS: Michael Soanes


10.0.       EM: This is Eka Morgan interviewing Michael Soanes on 21 January 2003 in Royal Oak Farm Shop, at the back of the shop, with the microphone on the butchers, whatís it called this

10.1.       MS: The butchers block

10.2.       EM: The butchers block, umm, Iím going to start Michael by asking you, how did you get into farming

10.3.       MS: Well I was born into farming, my father farmed here, and, thatís all, what Iíve always done, as a, as a boy and later as a man, so thatís been my life really

10.4.       EM: Okay, thatís fine for volume so I can put them away for a minute and launch, launch back in, maybe for someone, I know the farm is just, since recently now not active, but maybe you could describe what it looked like in itís, when you were really active on it as a farmer, could you describe the farm to someone whoís never seen it

10.5.       MS: Yes, were on high light land about five hundred above sea level, mainly sand, or as the, Min. of Ag. as they were, used to call it, err very VCO, very course, VCS, Very Course Sand, umm, which meant it was hungry land, easy, easy to work, but very hungry for, for nutrient wise, and didnít yield very much, so it was, thirsty land for, not very good profit making, umm, we had about three hundred acres up here, umm, in the heyday, err growing mixed, mixed crops, arable crops, rape, corn, all sorts of corns, umm, and then we also had, in the heyday, ran another farm, as well, on low land, umm, which was heavy land growing wheat, and, and oil seed rape, etc, so we did have the sort of advantage of a few acres of better land as well, umm, and then we also ran err, seven hundred strong sheep flock, which we lambed here, umm, which was always hard work, give us plenty to do in the spring, umm, and that was the general thing, we had free range chicken flock laying the later years as well, umm

10.6.       EM: Okay, can I put that a little bit, could you, can you comfortably move a little bit closer

10.7.       MS: Umm

10.8.       EM: Just a little bit closer

10.9.       MS: Yup

10.10.  EM: You donít have to, ha, ha

10.11.  MS: I donít have to eat that

10.12.  EM: You could be, ha, ha, umm, just out of interest, when, how, I mean is it just cause thereís so much demand for land, I mean why do you farms, grow up on land that isnít, isnít idea, is it just cause, every little patch of land is

10.13.  MS: I think itís two reasons, one, every patch of land is always done something with, historically, and secondly, you do need light land, high dry farms for, to get out of water, umm, you know, you can always, you can graze your sheep and keep your cattle out all winter, you donít have to store, donít have to house them if you donít want to, cause the landís always dry, I mean, thatís been raining now, where we are, weíre just in, early January, umm, you could easily have the cattle and sheep outside at the moment, and feed them outside, cause this, you know, drains as quick as it rains on it, so itís err, always got itís advantages, I mean we can get on earlier in the, early in the spring, you could plough it today if you wanted to and drill it this afternoon, just think itís that dry, err, free drains that easily and is also good for growing, if you wanted to, growing fruit and vegetables, cause itís free draining, so it has got advantages

10.14.  EM: Okay, now this is a bit of a big question, and we could Iím sure, do the whole two hour interview on this question but, how much has farming changed in the twenty five years youíve been farming

10.15.  MS: Oh,  almost un, un, a lot, I mean when I first, sort of, remember, as a boy, we used to be milking cat, milking cows, when I was, up until I was about ten I think, there were eleven men on this farm, and that included, you know, a gardener, a woodman, a keeper, umm, two cowman, a stockman, two tractor drivers, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, all making a living, including my father, mother and the three of us, all making a living, out of three hundred acres, and today, I mean, the last twelve, fifteen years I run it on my own, and loosing money, umm, thatís how itís really changed, the profits gone, umm, and I think itíll get worse, I donít, canít see it getting better, very despondent news Iím afraid, but err

10.16.  EM: Iím going to ask you details of all, all that as, as we go a long, but umm, could you describe in, in, what you call the heyday, what you av, a typical day on the farm, when you got up, what, what kind of thing, you would have to do during the day

10.17.  MS: Yeah, I suppose, letís go back to when we had the sheep flock as well, that was when we were, that was just father and I farming then, umm, say at lambing time, father would get up about five, umm, sort out lambs, see what lamb, lambs and water he had to do, start feeding, umm, I get up about half nine, ten oíclock cause Iíd be on night shift, and weíd both work through the day, father would finish about six or seven in the evening, and Iíd carry on working, umm, until about three in the morning, and then go to bed, and then middle of the day, if youíd finished say between three and six, if there was any time left, and you, was all running smoothly, youíd have a chance to, get on tractor and put some fertiliser on the, some of the corn or umm, spray a tank load of spray on some corn or something like that as well, umm, it was busy, always busy, umm, never time to stop really

10.18.  EM: What date are you, is that, heyday

10.19.  MS: That would have been

10.20.  EM: What decade

10.21.  MS: Err, how long are we now, I suppose fifteen years ago, yeah, about fifteen years ago

10.22.  EM: Right

10.23.  MS: Things were sort of, things were reasonable then, I mean you made, made a few pounds out of the sheep and, the corn wasnít quite as bad as it is today, umm, but it was just hard work, I mean it was hard work then, but itís a, I think to make a, you know, to make a living, I mean, even then we, see we had a couple of casuals, you know, veterinary student, and another helper at lambing time, umm, but the last couple of, last year I did the lambing, I basically did it myself with the help from the wife, and err, it just, you know it just got harder and harder, I mean, I think, well itís a lot harder now to make a living even without having the sheep, umm, I just canít see it, I just canít see any of it improving, I really canít

10.24.  EM: Okay, again, as I say, were going to go into all the details there, Iíve just started hearing the clock, how easy is that to err, or we could have moved it, ha, ha, itís that easy

10.25.  MS: Complicated world isnít it, clocks ticking

10.26.  EM: Ha, ha, ha

10.27.  MS: I mean they usually do, ha, ha

10.28.  EM: The trouble is when itís, in an interview, if itís you know, if you constantly hear the tick, itís umm, so just, go back, back, again during the heyday, what would you say, apart from tiredness and exhaustion, the occupational hazards

10.29.  MS: Umm, I suppose disease and, disease and, yeah disease I suppose was always with, with a, livestock, umm, over the years we had various abortion problems, on a flock basis, which can, you know, devastate your yield for one year, or perhaps for longer, you know, to get the, you know, you have to get the vet in, he sorts out what the problem is, then every year after that youíve got to inoculate against that, make sure thatís err, kept at bay, umm, crop wise, can be all sorts, all sorts of problems, umm, to get a good yield, especially on this land, you need the right amount of rain in the right month, you then need it dry in the dry, in the right months, umm, you donít want an infestation, too many infestations of, fungal problems, or pesticide problems, cause anything that, you know, knocks the yield on, fairly low yielding land, umm, is a, is always another problem, and all these problems cost money, umm, doesnít matter, you know, which way you, look at it, itís always costly, umm

10.30.  EM: And what about for you, occupational hazards for the, in terms of

10.31.  MS: What health wise

10.32.  EM: Yes

10.33.  MS: Tiredness I suppose is always a problem, cause youíve never at your best when youíre tired, umm, personal injury, you know, is also a, always a worry if you, especially if youíre a one or two man band, if one of you injuries yourself and youíre off, off sick for a, a few days, and it sort of double the work load of the other one, umm, and most of the time, you sort of got to strap it up and, get on with it, umm, the state doesnít look after you very much if youíre a self-employed man anyway, umm, and jobs need doing, the animals donít feed themselves and, donít unthaw water pipes and, things in the winter and that sort of thing, youíve just got to get out there and do it, so thatís always a problem

10.34.  EM: And over the years, how, how have you kept in contact with whatís happening in farming around the country and maybe even around the world, whatís been your main sort of route to

10.35.  MS: I suppose you listen to, whatís happening, you know, with, you know, with farming, what other farming friends are doing, how theyíre getting on, umm, most of the, the sort of disparaging news you, usually comes from the bank, umm, and I suppose you see bit on, a little bit on television, bit on the radio, mostly just talking to people really

10.36.  EM: But did you, when did you get the time to talk to people if you were sort of constantly on the farm

10.37.  MS: Usually by telephone in the evening perhaps, you might sort of, speak to a few farmer friends, you know, so, chatting over something, or they wanted to borrow something, or I wanted to borrow something, or I wanted to borrow something from them, and you sort of, chew the fat over a bit, while you get a chance, you know, umm, but basically, you, you are a little bit isolated, you, most farmers, I think, are sort of loners, they like to be out with their animals, or out with their tractor, and get on with it, umm, Iíve changed over the years, I like people, thatís why I started the farm shop now, you know, umm, I like, sort of,  customer contact, umm

10.38.  EM: But you were a loner

10.39.  MS: No I donít think I was ever a loner, I donít, I think thatís one thing that, that never sort of suited, suited me, I like, I like to do jobs with someone else, you know, if I have to two, two of us working in one field, although youíre sort on in different tractors or something, that would suit me much more than, just having to go off at four in the morning and go ploughing to midnight or something on my own, which I, I like doing the work but Iíd rather I had someone to talk to, cause I like, I like people, umm, whereas I say a lot, a lot of farmers donít, huh

10.40.  EM: What about magazines and things, would you have read Farmers Weekly

10.41.  MS: Yeah, I read, read a few Farming, I never had Farmers Weekly, father always had that, I never had it, umm, I just had the sort of the, deluge of freebee magazines that came in the post every month, umm, which you get a lot of information from, umm, fairly sort of, a bit more accurate information than youíd get on television or radio, I think, umm, you donít, you never, really heard much about the, the problems on the television, on Central news and, BBC One news and that sort of thing, it was usually, umm, a protest or somebody in, I think usually making a bit of a mockery of, the farmer, you know, youíd, what was the old saying, you know, a farmers always complaining about being poor, you never see a farmer on a bike, you know that was a, strange thing, I think you might see might see a few on a bike now, ha, ha, if they can afford a bike

10.42.  EM: Iím just going to explain, the noise in the background is, umm, fly, insects

10.43.  MS: Insect-a-cutor

10.44.  EM: Yeah, insects being killed on a little, cause weíre in the, the office, where all, well, some of the produce is, umm, what about things like Farming Today, is that of any use, on Radio Four

10.45.  MS: Err, yes I think itís a bit more, accurate, I donít, I personally donít listen to it anymore, I used to listen to it very occasionally, umm, but because I usually did, sort of, late nights, I didnít tend to get up as early, so, I, it was usually on six or quarter past six or something, umm, so, something I normally missed anyway, so, I was never much, into listening to the radio that early in the morning

10.46.  EM: What about the Archers

10.47.  MS: No, no, Iíve always, I laughed, I used to laugh at the Archers when I was a boy, and, I havenít listened to the archers, I should think, for over twenty years, something Iím really not into, no, I think err

10.48.  EM: Do you have any contact with farmers in other countries

10.49.  MS: Donít think so

10.50.  EM: How much do you compare British agricultureís sort of, scenario with, say in the EU

10.51.  MS: Well, to be honest, Iím not sure how well, I donít think that farmers in this country are doing well at all now, umm, being in the twenty first century, umm, as most of the produce seems to be coming from abroad, to feed the English nation, I would imagine the EU farmers, perhaps, doing slightly better, umm, although I hear theyíre complaining as well, but hopefully mainly because their labours, I imagine, a lot less than it is here, umm, and I think thatíll happen, happen, more and more, I think, you know, all the, all the food in this country will come from abroad eventually, and itís, Iím sure thatís whatís going to happen, might be a few, might be a little while yet, couple of decades perhaps, but itíll, Iím sure itís going to happen

10.52.  EM: If thatís the case, what do you picture happening to the land

10.53.  MS: In the UK, I think theyíll be, ha, ha, this is my little umm, think, I sort of, laugh about, but I donít really, not really laugh, I think in, fifteen, twenty, twenty five years, I can see, all this sort of green and pleasant land being, turned into more of a green and pleasant land, for the English, you know, well the British if you like, the UK citizen, and Europe, as a, as a place to come and have a look round, theyíll be a few, model farms, umm, where people come and look round, you know, pretty green, organic farms, umm, pretty fluffy animals, umm, I think the farmer will be gone and itíll be basically the, the few farmers that are left, will be, paid by the state, to have, sort of, customer, not customer, umm, tourist orientated place to come and see, you know, smart green farm, umm, plenty of green land, plenty of water, plenty of woodland, umm, animals to look at, and birds to look at, and that sort of thing, park land, if you like, sort of, pleasure land, and I think, you know, theyíll, theyíll always be a few little small holder types, umm, that do it because just like to do it, and they can afford to, but I think the bulk of the farming will change, dramatically, and I think itíll be sort of like, a tourist community and, you know a couple of generations

10.54.  EM: So virtually no possibility for anyone to buy local food

10.55.  MS: No, I think, I honestly think, theyíll always be a, you know, a, a stall, you know, a market holder, or a, someoneís whoís got an allotment, that sort of think, but I, I think the big farming, unless something dramatic happens, umm, I think, you know, the, the local food thing will disappear, umm, I know itís very sad thing to say, but err, thatís my, gut feeling

10.56.  EM: Do think that will actually affect peopleís health, in terms of, I mean a lot of people say, the nutrients in, local food, are so much higher than in imported food, because of all the food-miles itís travelled and, you know, just in terms of basic vitamins and minerals

10.57.  MS: Umm, yes, there is, there is a chance that, that, the level of umm, goodness you got in your local food, will be different, than stuff that say comes from Belgium, or Holland, umm, but as the whole world seems to be, pill and potion orientated, I donít thing it will be a problem, people will just get over, theyíll just wake up in the morning, have their, their Yakult, or whatever they call this stuff they have for breakfast, you know, to put all your friendly bugs right, and then youíll take the extra minerals and extra vitamin pill, and thatís what theyíll have for breakfast, one liquid drink and false, four pink pills and tow orange pills and theyíll be healthy in inverted commas, umm, I, and I think, you know, whatever the, whatever happens people just could get around these things, they donít look at it as a problem, itís just a different way of, coping with their day, umm, cause,  you know, the Government doesnít seem to worry about, the English farmer, in my opinion, umm, and Iíll think itíll err, as I say, disappear

10.58.  EM: One of

10.59.  MS: Very sadly

10.60.  EM: On of the farmers I interviewed said that he, he read that, in the last year, German has flouted over four hundred regulations, France over three hundred and England three

10.61.  MS: Yes, EU regulations, yeah, I think the, youíve probably said what I was about to say, EU regulations in the English, English farmers mind, seems to, they seem to be made by the French and the Germans, and the only people who abide by them are the English, which is costing us millions and millions and millions, and then you know, I, Iíve, some friends of mine, you know, been to France and Germany looking round farms, and they say, you know, thereís, you canít see any regulations, nothingís guarded, nothingís safe, thereís sprayers up and down the road and, leaking and dripping and theyíre spraying in the wind, and, which people just donít do here any more, theyíre just too frightened to, to get, they get prosecuted so quickly, err, but they seem to get away with it over there, but I mean, that comes down to the problem, I think, that the, I think the national, the farming, the agricultural vote in France is something like, over thirty per cent, thirty, thirty one per cent of the vote is agriculture, in this country, I think, if Iím right, donít quote me, oh you are, umm, is just under one per cent, now one per cent of any community does not have a say, and the Government arenít going to listen to a, a one per cent of anybody, if you, if youíve got a problem with ninety nine percent say, go away, you go away, youíve no option, itís just, isnít going to happen, so I donít think it matters what we do in this country, I think farming is gone, I think itís had it

10.62.  EM: Would you describe the current situation as a crisis

10.63.  MS: Definitely, definitely, ask any of the leading banks, all their, I should think most of their biggest debt holders now are farmers, thatís why so many of them are packing up

10.64.  EM: And who do you hold responsible for the crises

10.65.  MS: This Government, not necessary the Labour one, but English Government, and worldwide Governments, cause they, theyíve want all their food cheaper and cheaper, umm, but they also want, they also seem to, you know increase the regulations, increase the hardships for the, you know, the difficulties in producing all this food, umm, but then they wouldnít help the people that are doing it, they help, theyíll always be seen to help other departments, you know, poor people from all over the world and keep spending money on those, but they wouldnít look after their own, umm, thereís probably a lot more, very, very technical ways of describing the problem, but err, I think itís based, basically, based  on the Governmentís problems, umm, Governments and then of course the banks, when times were good kept throwing money at you, umm, saying, gone on have another, have a new tractor, have a new Land Rover, etcetera, and as soon as times get a bit harder, they start pulling the plug, you know, they wonít look after you, they wonít, they wonít, right off your debt like they wrote, back a few years ago, all the banks wrote off the sort of, African debts theyíd had and mutli, mutli-millions and billions, and you owe the bank fifty or a hundred thousand and they, call the accountant, call the bailiffs in, umm, so itís been, you know, itís very difficult and I think, you know, itís just going to get worse

10.66.  EM: What about the supermarkets, what role do you think they play in the crisis

10.67.  MS: Well, theyíre not helping, umm, although they all say theyíre promoting English, UK produce, their main aim, like anyone else is to make a profit, and if they can buy rump steak from, Australia or New Guinea, cheaper than they can buy it from England, they will, and I know cause, going into Tescoís as I now work part-time in Tescoís, umm, I see the produce and there is a lot of UK and English produce, but thereís also a lot of, a terrific lot of foreign produce

10.68.  EM: What proportion would you say

10.69.  MS: Err, well, I havenít, I donít work in stock taking but umm, I would have thought, sixty to seventy per cent would be imported, I mean nearly all your fruit and veg, nar, a little bit of English but, all, all the fruits cause I mean thereís no seasonal fruits and veg anymore, you can get everything you want, any day, so, with the climate we have here, most of itís got to come from abroad, umm,  I think it will continue to do so, I mean, Sainsburyís or Tescoís or any of those, there, theyíll not going to be beholden to the poor little one per cent farmer in this, this country if they can make, you know, if they can make eight per cent profit on stuff from Belgium and only two percent on UK, youíre not going to buy UK, are you, no

10.70.  EM: Did supermarkets, did any particular supermarkets affect your life on the farm

10.71.  MS: Umm, I donít think, in particular, no I donít think so, I think, no, I wouldnít, I would have said no, I mean, now Tescoís, Tescoís affect my lifestyle because I now work there as well as run the farm shop, umm, so there, thatís, thereís the biggest one thatís, if you like, helped me cause I can now get a regular income which pays the mortgage, umm, and I think you know, more and more farmers have had to find, some other thing to do, umm, instead of just, you know, we, we all, when we first heard of this crisis really hit about eight or nine years ago, a lot of people, you know, just kept on moaning and winging, and winging and moaning, and err, I feel we said, well you know we, before, before the bank pulled the plug weíll try and do something about it and so you know, go and do a job, go and you know, pack it in and do an evening job, go and work down the pub or go and drive a lorry for a neighbour or do something, just to have a small regular income, just to help pay the bills

10.72.  EM: So you were never caught in what Tony Blair described as this gridlock of supermarket prices, were you selling direct to supermarkets

10.73.  MS: No, no, sold through a, sold through umm, all the cereals were sold through the, err, and Oxfordshire, sort of, Oxford based farming group, err, used, belong to those for a long time, and also umm, a cereal marketing group as well, umm, who, you know, sold them to the best they could, I mean if you could export it, you got more money, so most, most of it, hopefully if the quality was right, you, youíd export it as well as sell it to local, you know, through the groups to local millers and that sort of thing, umm, I mean they have been, see people who buy, you know millers in this country, they have to buy a lot of their stuff from abroad because the quality of the stuff here isnít good enough and most, most, flour milling, you know, wheat for, for, flour, for bread making, most of that comes from abroad, because we canít grow hard enough wheats here, so you get Canadian or French wheat, mainly, if in your local bakery or sorry local supermarket now, ha, umm, a little bit of English bread goes for milling,  you know, for bread making and also some of the wheat and barley for beer making, but a lot of that again, comes from abroad, cause they can buy it better and cheaper, so thatís where itís going to come from

10.74.  EM: When you say better

10.75.  MS: Well

10.76.  EM: Has that always been the case, I mean, is it

10.77.  MS: No, better is not the right word, I thought you might pick up on that, umm, itís because we, cause of our climate, we canít always produce the exact, our quality what we produce is always good in this country, but itís not sometimes got the right criteria, itís low in protein, high in something else, too, not enough of one umm, extra, you know, umm, proteins or whatever it needs, but for certain things, for bread or for cakes or biscuits or certain quality of mixed to go in a feed ration, you need specific additives in your, in your crop, you know, extra bits in there and because of climate and so on here, we canít always produce exactly what you want, but we can sell those crops to somewhere else in the world who need what ours of it, so you know, you do have to go backwards and forwards across Europe and, well, even further a field, to sell the products

10.78.  EM: So before there was so much importing and exporting would we have just made do what we

10.79.  MS: Yes, yeah, youíd have had sort of slightly, not as good as quality bread or, slightly sort of, less quality biscuit, umm, but you know, when youíve got access to the whole world, why do with second best when you can get the best

10.80.  EM: So would you describe that as an improvement

10.81.  MS: Yes, definitely, yeah, I mean having European trade, well, world-wide trade is, is has always been an improvement, umm, cause you can then produce, well as, farmers, farmers always been told, always, produce more and produce more, and produce more, umm, so hopefully you can make a profit, umm, and help feed the world, this, ha, weíre always asked to do, umm, but now itís, gone

10.82.  EM: Does that mean, you think being part of the EU, is good for farming

10.83.  MS: Oh, what a difficult question, umm, itís been, as a, as a general picture, as a European picture, yes, I think it was a good thing, that, you know, itís easy access to Europe and the world, but as an individual, as a small, little small nation weíre now swallowed up in bureaucracy and paperwork and abiding by the regulations and we just havenít competed, umm, but the French and the Germans have, so thatís were itís gone, you know, the opposite way for us I think

10.84.  EM: Do you think joining the Euro would be good for British farming

10.85.  MS: I, oh, difficult question, I donít think itíll necessarily be good or bad, but Iím quite sure it will happen, umm, Iím quite confident that we will become, ha, loose our currency and be, you know, go into the Euro, umm, it will make trade, eventually, when we get used to the new systems and so on, itíll make trade easier, all over the Europe, umm, but I donít think itíll actually put any more money in the farmers pocket, not in this country, it might in some of the other big countries, but not here, wonít happen

10.86.  EM: Were you a member of the NFU

10.87.  MS: Yup, still am

10.88.  EM: And do you feel well represented by them

10.89.  MS: Yes, I think theyíve been umm, theyíre always looked after the farmer very well, umm, most farmers I think, still probably insure with them, and thereís never been a problem with, umm, you know, claims and so on, theyíre a bit slow but I mean, all insurance companies are trained to be slow, umm, but no insurance wise theyíve been very good, and theyíve also been there to, sort of, fight your case against a, you know, a problem youíve had with a suppliers or, anything you wanted to hep with, theyíre always there, and I think, yeah, I think theyíve been a good organisation, yeah, theyíre not strong enough, not powerful enough, umm, but again, weíre not going to be powerful enough in this country, when weíre such a small percentage of the vote

10.90.  EM: So everything you, the, the demise that you describe of farming

10.91.  MS: Hmm

10.92.  EM: Could it have been otherwise

10.93.  MS: I suppose, if we hadnít had as much food imported from other countries, a lot less money, so you know, cheaper food coming from abroad, and people, and you know, the general public, would then have had to have, changed their attitudes, or their whole system would have been changed, because theyíre, a large percentage of their weekly income would had to gone on food, rather then going on, luxuries, umm, cause although people still complain about the price of food, especially English food, umm, they spend more of their weekly salary on, luxuries than they do on food, I mean, you go, going back to the, someone told me this the other day, going back to the depression, in the twenties and thirties, food was actually cost more money, as a percentage of your weekly income, than it does today, so actually food is the cheapest today itís ever been, but, but which is nice for the, the consumer, but if you know, as the consumer can now, the customer, everyone in the country can get cheap food, or beer from Belgium or Holland or France or Germany, why pay the local Englishman more money, when you can buy it cheap, this is, you know, looking at a thing, well why should I pay, you know, ten p a pound more for that when I can buy it ten p less from, the Belgiumís or the Dutch or so on, you know, weíre, we all like a good deal, I mean, and you know, we not, the nation is not going to be beholden to this tiny percentage of people called farmers, if they can get their food cheaper from Mr, foreign farmer, are they

10.94.  EM: And is there any, scenario, is there any scenario you can imagine, which wouldnít have had to sacrifice farming profit in that way

10.95.  MS: Umm, how difficult, think of another way of putting the question, letís think someway I can

10.96.  EM: Is there anything that could have saved the British farmer, from so drastically loosing profit

10.97.  MS: I suppose the only way, would have been, a bit more subsidisation from the Government, if they wanted to look after their country, and look after their farmers, umm, I think the subsidy system, which has been changing for years, umm, would have had to change a little bit dramatically in favour of keeping the British farmer, umm, but again I think being such a small percentage of the vote it, it wasnít and surely isnít going to happen

10.98.  EM: But do you think in the long run, thinking really with the long view, it would have been better for the country to have subsidised the farmers more heavily

10.99.  MS: Yes because, if you got, if you got profitable farming, you got more people working in the countryside, and they all have little, different ideas, youíd have had more local businesses thriving and flourishing, less empty farms, um, I mean it would have been good for the country, cause the quality of the stuffís always good, umm, yes I think it would have been a good thing, umm, but people just arenít willing to, pay more from something they can buy cheaper, and I think thatís, thatís basically where it comes down to, err, I canít think of any other way that err, we can look at it really

10.100.                      EM: You mentioned world trade, do you keep up with the World Trade Organisation at all

10.101.                      MS: Umm, no not really, I donít think many of us have got the time to sort of, study world trade and you, you, weíre certainly much too small as individual farmers to, to trade with someone directly in Australia, or umm, you know, cause of, working out the rules and regulations on moving stuff, you know, relatively small amounts, you just couldnít do it

10.102.                      EM: And do you remember all the, the riots in Seattle at the World Trade Organisation meeting where there were, that was the, sometimes called anti-globalisation, hum, hum, riots, no, donít where youíre at, ha, ha

10.103.                      MS: No, I donít, I donít, Iíve been asleep since then, when was that

10.104.                      EM: That was about four years ago now, I think, thereís another one coming up, thereís another World trade Organisation meeting coming up this September, umm, which is, you know, thatís the real big view, hum, hum, but if that hasnít

10.105.                      MS: That hasnít happened

10.106.                      EM: Directly

10.107.                      MS: No, definitely hasnít affected me, not, not err, not personally, no

10.108.                      EM: Okay, actually, Iím just, do you mind if I make another cup of tea, just going

10.109.                      MS: Umm

10.110.                      EM: Iím just going to put it on

10.111.                      EM: Okay, we just had a little break there, and a cup of tea and coffee, bit of a warm up, umm, Iím just, maybe you could describe, Michael, well, how it came to be that you actually had to stop, working on the farm, maybe you could sort of describe the transition from the heyday into, having to give it up and run a farm shop and work at Tescoís.

10.112.                      MS: Yeah, I think umm, going back twelve, fifteen years, I suppose the thing that made me think, start thinking about it, was in 1984, was a very hot, strange I remember a year, it was a very hot summer, drought, umm, highest yields, we, weíd ever had on this farm, I think nationally the highest arable yields weíd ever had and also the highest prices, umm, feed wheat prices I think had got to something like a hundred and, twenty something pounds a tonne, I think it was a hundred and twenty eight, at harvest time, or just after harvest time, and so we had big yields, big prices, and then, that year and the following year, because youíd actually has, made some profit, the banks really were, very keen for you to invest in your farm, in your new machinery, and then, which a lot of people did, we, we, we did very greatly because you know, weíre, weíre too, weíre too small to have made a huge amount of profit, we made more profit, you know, per se,  than weíd made for years, umm, and then the, as I say, the banks wanted you to sort of, push you almost, almost, not insisted obviously but I mean, they pushed you to sort of spend, spend, spend, which a lot of people did, and then, the bubble burst, and the prices from then, until now, started going down, and down and down, and down, by which time your debt to the bank had increased, and also, the interest rates started going up and up and up, and youíve never been able to catch up with it, youíve got interest rates and an increased overdraft going up one way and N prices going down on the other hand, and you got, you know, too much weight on one end of the balance and you never been able to pick it up and I think thatís whatís happened and itís got worse and worse and worse, and we, father err, father wasnít very well, he had a, he was sort of nearly retiring age and had a couple of minor heart attacks and decided heíd better retire, umm, so that was in, end of the Ď80s, yeah, middle to the end of the Ď80s, I just, I just, meet my wife and married her, Natalie, sheís wonderful, best thing I ever did, umm, so, father and I decided that the best think to do was father to retire, which he did, so I bought him out of the business, umm, but to do that, we had to sell the big farm house, where we were born and breed in, so we sold that onto the open market, and that was enough to get rid of the over draught, umm, pay, buy father out of the business, and then Natalie and I look at the sort of situation with prices going down, umm, and banks still after their money, which we then got rid of for a while, we thought well, so we decided to do something different, because we could see that, long term unless something dramatic happened like a world war or something silly like that, umm, farming really wasnít going to earn us, make us a great deal of, you know, a great living, so we thought weíll diversify and do something, weíd got these old buildings which weíre sat in now, umm, which were too small to get a modern tractor in, umm, too small to put animals in, because they werenít very ventilated, umm, if you had to work in them it was all handwork, you know, one, just one man on the farm you couldnít spend all day mucking out a little tiny, building youíd had animals, whereas you could do it with a tractor and a loader in, three minutes, so we decided right, weíll do something else, so we then converted these buildings, umm, emptied them out, which, ha, we started, Natalie and I started clearing them out on, in early May, err May the sixth in fact we started,  and in October the sixth, we opened the farm shop in 1989, and the farm shop in fact has been our, our savior really, doesnít make a huge profit, but thereís enough, itís got quite a good turnover and itís, thereís enough to just about, just about pay the bank, umm, and help make a living, umm, and then Iíve had to sort of, to, increase the, cause the other children are growing up and the umm, Iíve got a fairly big mortgage on the house we built, umm, we needed some extra income, so, to make things a little bit easier, so I go and do some work for Tescoís, mainly cooking, and the wife now does the farmers markets with home made cakes, so that, both of those things have helped a little bit, itís still, still a struggle, umm, but we are, you know, because we still got some of the old farm debts to, pay off, but now the farms gone, all the farmlandís gone, weíve umm, relinquished it back to the, to the owners because it was all rented land, umm, theyíve all gone back, umm, I miss it dreadfully, I miss not having the land to walk round and farm, and so on, but you know, youíve got to pay the bills and youíve got to be realistic, and Iím not the sort of chap who wants to go and, get up in the barn and put a rope round his neck and jump off the rafters, which a lot of farmers have done, in fact one of my best friendís sons did that, on Christmas eve, just this time, yup, it was very, very upsetting

10.113.                      EM: What do you think, why do you think his circumstances

10.114.                      MS: Well, he was

10.115.                      EM: Could, could you move, just a little closer

10.116.                      MS: Yeah, he, he was umm, err, a contract farmer, he contract shepherd, and we, I donít know the, the details obviously, I donít think, nobody ever will, umm, and he, he looked like he was having a nice time, he didnít appear to have, lady trouble, or bank trouble, umm, but he had a bit of, bad, bad depression, somebody went to say happy Christmas on Christmas morning and couldnít find him, and they saw his truck in the yard, and went into the barn and heíd put a rope round his neck and jumped off the rafters, settled, and a friends of my wife, her, her father did the same thing, in a very, what looked like a very thriving farm in Sussex, umm, two sons, you know, they split the farm up into two portions for each, one for each son, umm, all owned, all paid for, umm, modern machinery, modern houses, all hunky dory, he shot himself, and itís very common in farming

10.117.                      EM: But in that instance you describe, that everything was actually going, there, there, wasnít a logic to it in a way, there was

10.118.                      MS: Didnít look like it

10.119.                      EM: But there, you know,  you, you never going, never going to know, no

10.120.                      MS: If in fact he was incredibly in debt, or

10.121.                      MS: I mean we donít know, I mean, you know, you wouldnít sort of, want to go and look into it really, itís really not your place

10.122.                      EM: The one who was the son of  a friend of yours, if that in Oxfordshire

10.123.                      MS: Yup, thatís umm, just in Oxford

10.124.                      EM: Because again, you think of Oxfordshire as not, that remote a county, you kind of, those stories when you hear them of, suicides in farmers, you often think of the hill farmers in

10.125.                      MS: Oh itís not just hill farmers

10.126.                      EM: You know the remoter areas, but Oxford is a well connected, area

10.127.                      MS: Well connected as you say, and also think itís, you know, inverted commas, wealthy, umm, but I mean, there are lots of small farmers that, you know, havenít had a new pair of shoes for thirty years, and theyíve got an old pickup truck and, and, yeah, there, thereís, thereís lot of sort of, poor farmers as well as a few, but a lot of the few, I mean this one down in Sussex was, inverted commas, a wealthy farmer, and there was one, again in Oxfordshire, going back, I suppose, fifteen, seventeen years ago, he jumped off a bridge, and he was extremely wealthy, everyone thought, umm

10.128.                      EM: Do you put it down to, what, what do you put those, that, suicides down to, do you put it down to, the situ, the crisis in farming, or a more of a

10.129.                      MS: Not just a crisis in farming I think, itís, umm, again, farmers having this, lack of ability to talk to people, theyíre very, very work by themselves, the only people they ever really talk to, are the, the odd person at market, if they go to market, but basically being lonely people, I think, umm, and I think you know, we need to talk to people, you know, you need to be, a bit more sort of, friendly with your, neighbours and everyone else and, and, converse with people, more, more, I think it is, tíis a lonely occupation, umm, you canít talk to your cows all day, theyíre not going to help you, pay your debts off, umm

10.130.                      EM: So how is your quality of life changed since giving up the farm and having to work at Tescoís and run the farm shop

10.131.                      MS: Yeah, I think, umm, I suppose I, you, itís what you make of it I suppose, I mean, Iím enjoying life, now, umm, you know, my debts arenít as big as they used to be, umm, I mean the bank always on about, you know, youíre a pound over your overdraft limit and that sort to of nonsense but err, you know, we got, weíre okay, weíre sort of, weíre holding our own now, umm, we couldnít afford to send our kids to private school or anything like that, but I mean, one think I canít, canít do, and I, and my, my car cost me fifty quid, umm, but, you know, now I think how we found work, both working very, very hard, harder than ever, umm, just to eek out  living really, but, but, itís fun, you know, we have people to dinner and, we go to peopleís houses and dinner and we talk, you know, we like to talk, you know, we like, I like, I like, I like people, umm, and you Iíd, Iíd never, Iíd, I donít think I ever even, ever thought about packing it up and, you know, in the, the, you know, packing it up as in suicide and so on, but Iíve got a lot of friends who have thought about it seriously, umm, but itís never been anything Iíve thought about

10.132.                      EM: Are you talking more and like having friends to dinner, more now that youíre not farming

10.133.                      MS: Umm, yes I think we do cause Iíve, we, because weíve sort of come away from the farming circle a bit, Iíve still got a lot of friends who are farmers, umm, but weíve also got a greater circle of friends, of people out of farming, you know and the wifeís, wifeís very umm, outward going and sheís made a lot of friends, umm, a lot of people, lot of friends arenít in farming, a lot, a lot of that were in farming have packed up and are doing something different, umm, but also, we, you know, got a larger circle of friends outside the farming community than we would have had twenty years ago, definitely

10.134.                      EM: And how do you think all the changes have affected your wife, do you, in terms of her quality of life letís say

10.135.                      MS: Um, oh I think sheís got a better quality of life as well, yeah, yeah, I think, you know, if, if, if farming could have been really profitable and you, you could have had time off and that sort of thing, which, which you couldnít then, umm, because there was never, there never time, you were both having to work hard on the farm every day or night, but least now, although we do work very hard you can socialise a little bit, alright, maybe late at night but you do sort of make, make more time and effort to do something, umm, no I think quality of life, act, actually, Iím afraid to say, is, probably improved a little bit, I work harder than I ever, Iíve ever worked, more hours, but I think, umm

10.136.                      EM: Less backbreaking work

10.137.                      MS: Yeah, less back breaking, umm, youíve got to put a lot of hours in, but I mean itís only work isnít it, umm, no I think itís what you make of it really, I think, you know, if you can, yeah, I think at the moment, Iíve got three lovely children, young children, umm, and theyíre my life really, I absolutely adore them, umm

10.138.                      EM: Would you recommend them to go into a life of farming

10.139.                      MS: No, no, I wouldnít, unless they, unless they, Iíd never stop them if one of them wanted to go into farming, or all of them wanted to go into farming, Iíd help them as much as I can, Iíd never sort of, try and tell them, that theyíre going to make a very good living, or, if they can make a living at all, umm, I wouldnít encourage them to go into farming, but I wonít discourage them either

10.140.                      EM: What, what, are they girls and boys

10.141.                      MS: Iíve got three, umm, Bethen is nine, Jacob is six, and Eliser is three, a little one, I started late, you know, umm, but theyíre, theyíre wonderful, absolutely wonderful, horrors, but theyíre wonderful

10.142.                      EM: And have any of them expressed wanting to, become farmers, early days, I know, ha, ha

10.143.                      MS: Yeah, no, not really, no, they donít even go to young farmers yet, theyíre, sort of doing beavers and brownies and things like that, umm, but no, not really, cause I mean, you know, Bethen, used to come round the farm a lot, because, you now, Iíd still got the farm then, umm, she used to come round as a baby, as a toddler, and she quite liked it, umm, but you see, so much of the time, if youíre on a tractor, you see, you canít have a child on a tractor, not until theyíre twelve of fourteen with the new regulations, so a lot of the farm work, unless itís play, you know, with the animals you wouldnít be with them anyway, so your, itís not like when I was a boy, umm, where you had, large stock units and you, I was out with dad when I was six, seven years old, all the time, you know, five in the morning milking, go in doors, have breakfast, go to school, come back out, straight back on the farm, and thatís all I did, you know, because there was always, dad was always round, running after the other men, umm, you know, all the men were doing all the jobs and dad was running around, and mending this, or organising that, or moving cattle, or moving sheep, and I could be there to, inverted commas, help, umm, but you see today you canít, itís too dangerous, farms are dangerous places, always were, but I mean theyíre much more dangerous now cause itís,  itís not hand work, itís all machinery, umm, of which, you know, small children are not allowed to get near, so err, no I wouldnít, I wouldnít out, outwardly encourage my children to farm, umm, Iíd, Iíd encourage them to try and do something, you know, might make their life better rather than harder

10.144.                      EM: And you mentioned that you, youíre not going to send them to private school, where you intending to be able to

10.145.                      MS: When we first got married, umm, Natalie and I had a friend who was a, err, err, financial advisor and we started up a schools, err, savings plan, specifically for putting children through private school, and it was like a small mortgage really, it was a twenty year plan, it cost something like three hundred and eighty pounds a month, and that was enough to, guarantee school fees for two children from the age of eleven to eighteen, but that was a twenty year plan, three hundred and eighty pounds a month, and we did that for about two years, and after long discussions with the bank and so on, we had to pull the plug, because there was not enough in the business to pay it, and so it had, go, but that was, that, weíve never, never been sort of, I, we didnít get it, I didnít go pub, private school and nor did my wife, well she did the last year, I think, couple of years, umm, but we wanted the option, we would have liked to have the option of this sort of savings plan, right, thereís a boy or a girl, eleven years old, would they like to go for one think, would it be, advantageous to their education, did we think it would be a good idea, etcetera, etcetera , all the questions the mums and dads ask of their children, or when their children are certain ages, umm, weíd have liked that, option, umm and if they decided no it wasnít going to, weíd had a very good savings plan and thereíd be a bit of money to help through their, adolescent years, but it had to go, I mean just wasnít the money in the job to do it and still isnít today, so err, I think theyíll be less and less farming sons and daughters at private schools, and all be what I call, well this might sound a little rude, what I call country yuppie children there, umm, because most of them, I mean round here, most of our, umm, friends and neighbours in the villages now are city folks, people who work in the city, either Oxford or London, or Birmingham, or wherever the business are, theyíre professionals, and they buy a nice house in the country and their children go to private school, umm, theyíre not country people, theyíre not, sort of, anymore, no, theyíre just, and thereís going to be more and more of that Iím afraid, which is a bit sad really, yeah, the village families have disappeared really

10.146.                      EM: Had, did you, you, grew, grew up here so you know, in the village were, when you look towards the village, is it Beckley or

10.147.                      MS: Beckley might have, my village, yeah

10.148.                      EM: Beckley, have you seen many friends having to move, priced out

10.149.                      MS: You know village families, from when I was a boy, to now, I would say, well the village has always been about five or six hundred people, itís not a big village, and I would say now, I bet there isnít more, than, twelve or thirteen village fam, families left, whereas there would have been, seventy or eighty, itís nearly all, not foreigners but, I mean, people who have come in, influx people, you know that have come from the towns to the country, cause thereís no, been no employment here, so the, the village families which would have been, umm, mainly country workers, farm workers, local people, there sons and daughters have had to move to the cities, to get work, I donít know, as tradesman or whatever theyíre doing, umm, then the professional people have come out from the city, cause their, cause their salaries were good, and theyíve come and bought all the houses, and doubled them, quadrupled them, and turned a two bedroom bungalow into five bedroom houses and that sort of thing, and you know, some villages look lovely, cause thereís money in them now, whereas there wasnít before

10.150.                      EM: So the villages look, better

10.151.                      MS: Yes, yeah

10.152.                      EM: In terms of tidiness, and

10.153.                      MS: Yes, tidiness, the houses are smart, umm, they all, a lot of the houses are a lot bigger, umm, but they, you know, yeah, I think the villages look better than they ever did, cause you know, theyíre perhaps not as much love for the, village green, and that sort of thing, as there used to be, umm, but thatíll come with time, thatíll be, what will all be fine

10.154.                      EM: When you were an active farmer here, do you remember comments from locals, maybe mocals, who had moved into the area umm, that, showed a complete lack of understanding what you doing

10.155.                      MS: Oh, yes, yeah, thatís, thatís improved I think, umm, but yes, the people that were coming in, say twenty years ago, umm, we, we hadnít, twenty, thirty years ago  I expect, no more, umm, we hadnít seen many of these people and on this farm here, we were very fortunate, and we didnít have one footpath across our land, we had one bridle path, straight in front of the house, umm, which we fenced either side, because we had sheep anyway and that stopped any problems, but we started getting these, you know, these incomers, inverted commas, that they go for a walk, right through the middle of your farm, with their dogs loose, oh what are you doing, Iím going for a walk, itís the country, weíre allowed to go in the country, no youíre not, and these sort of arguments went on for years and years, but now, at last, I think theyíre, realising, you know, that the country is for them as well, but there are rules, and regulations, that youíve got to abide by, you know, you donít let your dog run loose amongst the sheep and, that sort of thing, and they are, becoming more understanding, definitely, umm, but of course, itís more of the country is their playground now, whereas before it was, just the farmers, they, they, farmers looked after the farm, the country, but now, you know, theyíre, theyíre helping a bit and I think, now, theyíre, theyíre sort of, putting their, umm, sort of salaries and so on into, umm, nature reserves and you know, spending money with RSPB and BBOWT and all these sort of, companies which are helping looking after little pockets of land, umm, which is a nice thing

10.156.                      EM: In the twenty five years on, on your farm, how much have you seen the wildlife change

10.157.                      MS: Umm, to be honest I donít think, I think in fact, it, there was a decline in the sort of Ď60s, and Ď70s of some of the sort of, umm, arable bird life and that sort of thing, but thatís, thatís come back now, cause I mean, earlier on, the, you know, a lot of hedges were taken out to make bigger fields, cause bigger machinery and that sort of thing, umm, but I think since, more and more regulations on the chemicals you can use, and that sort of thing, which has all been to the good in my opinion, umm, hasnít made any profit, umm, and, hasnít improve the profit because, you know, it all costs more, umm, but the bird life and the animal life, around here has always been very good anyway, umm, but I think itís better, I think thereís more wildlife, definitely

10.158.                      EM: What specifically, what kind of

10.159.                      MS: Umm, well the, the, a lot of the little song birds, which people said where in demise, weíd never really noted here, because weíre surrounded by woodland as well, and thereís always been plenty, and the woodland, fortunately, the woodlands round here arenít sort of, had much done to them, so thereís always a lot of you know, natural pockets of sort of, quite woodland, umm, but the field birds, you know the lapwings, and little finches and so on, theyíre definitely, more now, I think, than there where, you know, probably going back to, sort of the, when I was a llittle boy, in the early Ď60s, there was plenty of bird land, you know, birdlife and so on, umm, which I think did decline, but I think itís definitely back, definitely improved

10.160.                      EM: Whatís your opinion of organic farming, be honest, ha, ha

10.161.                      MS: I think the ideaís nice, umm, but I donít think, you can be truly organic, when the animals, or the plants, or whatever organic material you looking at, has the same acid rain on it, which you know, all that industryís made over the years, breaths the same, in-organic air, and drinks the same, water, I donít think you can, have anything to be true organic, and, and, I donít think the organics, are very truthful, I mean, in the farm shop here, in the farm, you know retail side of farming now, retailing, shop keeper, umm, like strawberry jam, organic strawberry jam, to make that product, you have to use organically produced strawberries, but you can sugar from anywhere, so when you buy your next pot of organic strawberry jam, itís made with non-organic sugar, now how can you buy, now why you pay a premium for, something thatís only got half organic produce, like you buy organic honey, who stops the bees flying over your organic field to go to your GM crop, just down the road, it canít be down, and I think itís been a big, a very well publicised umm, campaign over the years to make thinks organic and itís awfully healthy and that sort of thing, ha, umm, but itís, but I donít, it just isnít truthful enough as far as Iím concerned, you get little pockets of somebody who grows a bit of wheat, and that sort of thing, and does the best to make to make itís organic bread and, so on, but itís not truly organic, it canít be, not in a country where we have to, eat and breath and rain and, of the same stuff, just canít be done, umm, and itís, and itís still isnít, and I donít think it will ever become really, really popular, cause again, working in Tescoís the organic shelf, over the two years Iíve been there, the length of shelving to organic in fact, is less now than it was two years ago, umm, not necessarily because the popularities gone down, but the umm, price difference is a lot less, organic food is not much more expensive now than non-organic, and it, said I think thereís less being produced, and, and, I, I personally donít think the demandís there anyway, I think itís been happened, a few years over the last ten or twenty years I suppose, like bubbles really popular for a while and then it goes, goes down ago, friend of ours in the village bought everything organic, including you know, cola drinks for the kids, and everything, sheís now realised that, in fact she was, that was a fortnight ago she decided to start buying ordinary stuff, because she said, you know, the quality isnít any better and, the price was still a bit more money and she couldnít get what she wanted when she wanted it, you know, supply and demand, she just decided sheís had enough, and she was doing it because, you know, it was good for may children, inverted commas, but err

10.162.                      EM: So in terms of pesticides, I mean, thatís the one thing, they can guarantee is, there isnít, they canít guarantee the water and the air but the pesticides

10.163.                      MS: Yeah, they should be able to guarantee the umm, the types of fertiliser and sprays that theyíre allowed to use, umm, whether thatís, really made life, or the product better than the nat, you know the, the in, in, in, industrially grown stuff I donít know to be honest, I really donít, because the rules and regulations in this country are so tough, on pesticides, and fertilisers, anything that you put on there has to go through, rigorous testing, and nearly everything, nearly all poisons have gone now, umm, where as I was, when I was a boy, a lot of stuff you sprayed I was really bad poison, you know, the DDTs, all sorts of nasty things, theyíre all gone

10.164.                      EM: What did you think of that at the time

10.165.                      MS: You didnít like using it, but you used it, because that was the, the best option to do, to do the job, there wasnít anything else, I mean, you know, the technical, side of it wasnít as good in the sort of twenty five years ago, itís a lot, lot better now

10.166.                      EM: did you notice any side effects

10.167.                      MS: Err

10.168.                      EM: To yourself

10.169.                      MS: Err, personally, no, no, I, I was, alright it made you cough and splutter and, umm, the safety aspect in those days wasnít very good, I mean, the tractor I, my sprayer tractor, which was a huge thing, I had, in those days, a big sixty foot wide sprayer, the boom, it was an open tractor and the boom was in front of me, and you know, you sometimes had a, a mask on, if it was something nasty your were wearing, but I mean, youíd be green or orange or pink by the time youíd finished spraying at the end of the day, and youíd breath it in all day

10.170.                      EM: What did that make you think about the actual produce, that, did that not make you doubt

10.171.                      MS: No, I donít think so, no, no, not really because youíd put on these chemicals to produce an end product that was sale-able and hopefully you could, have enough money to buy the seed and start again next year, umm, I mean the product you made wasnít a poison, it was good, holi, healthy food, hopefully, and err, no it was a funny sort of life, you donít, I donít suppose you, you look into it far enough, itís people on the outside that come and you know, make other people realise what perhaps theyíre doing that isnít, being good, you get sort of, set in your ways I suppose, as all people do, umm, no itís a funny life, funny life

10.172.                      EM: Do you need a brief stop to open the shop and then

10.173.                      MS: Yeah, I do, yeah

10.174.                      EM: okay, weíre just

10.175.                      EM: Okay, so weíre had another pause

10.176.                      MS: Hm, hm

10.177.                      EM: And err, err we just, we were talking about organic, I might just pick up and ask you what your opinion is about GM

10.178.                      MS: Err, oh, difficult subject, when GM first started in this country, it looked like a good way, it first started, the first experience I have of it, one of the oil seed rape companies came to me, and asked if I was willing to do a GM trial, and I said, well, what the hellís GM, and they said well, what weíre doing in the rape they wanted to grow, they were putting, they were genetically modifying something in the seed, which produced something a chemical, a pheromone or whatever it is, it produced, in it, to make it, inedible to the pests, the weevil and the gain, sawtooth grain beetle, and all these things that eat rape, as your looking at it, and it looked like a good idea, but by the time we sort of discussed it, it had gone up, it had gone, they, used somewhere else, so I didnít do it anyway, umm, and thatís what I thought was going to be a good thing

10.179.                      EM: Umm, so, we just had another stoppage because, ha, Michaelís very optimistic about no one coming to the shop, but in fact weíve just had about six customers in the space of ten minutes, so weíre going to have to sort of round off, a bit quickly, because umm, the shop is now open, umm, you feel youíve finished what you want to say about GM

10.180.                      MS: Yeah, I think GM is, I think thereís a lot more hidden things, about it, than we knew in the first place, and Iím glad I didnít get involved, and err, I think if it disappears it wonít be a bad think, I think genetically modifying animals, and plants and seeds, and so on, cannot be a good thing for the world, no I really donít, I donít think it can be good at all

10.181.                      EM: Okay, if weíre going to ask, do you want to go and look at the customer

10.182.                      MS: It is a customer

10.183.                      EM: It is, okay, okay

10.184.                      MS: Iíll be back in a moment

10.185.                      EM: Okay

10.186.                      EM: Okay, weíre literally do a rounding off question just because it seems the customers are coming thick and fast, do you feel in your time as a farmer, did you consider yourself a custodian of the land

10.187.                      MS: Definitely, custodian of the countryside, definitely, yeah, it was ours, youíre sort of, youíre there, you know, you do your best, you look after the country, you enjoy the countryside, you know, Iíve just, I love living here, I mean, I absolutely love it, you know, seeing the birds and the animals, and, umm, and I think you know itís just, people are going to loose so much of that, because there wonít be enough people, unpaid, looking after the country, everyoneís, got to be paid for doing everything, and it just wonít get done, and there goes the bell again, ha, ha, ha

10.188.                      EM: There goes the bell again, so we better round off, thatís the end of the interview with Michael Soanes, thank-you very much Michael

10.189.                      MS: Youíre very, very welcome, I hope somebody enjoys it

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