I had the very good fortune to have grown up in Hereford and Worcestershire. Although I lived in a suburb of several of the towns in and around the county, I could escape to the countryside at almost any time. As a child I loved riding my bike and would long for a nice day at the weekend when I would go off on one of my day long excursions around Malvern or Hurcott.
The great thing about Hereford and Worcester is that no matter where you are it only takes a matter of minutes to be out in the countryside. At any opportunity, I’d be off on my bike with a packed lunch, heading to the countryside, looking for places to make sketches of bugs and birds and anything that took my interest. My Mum used to say I was the second Gerald Durrel; you can read more about the life of this amazing man on the Durrel Conservation Trust website.
Whilst I didn’t go on to be the curator of a zoo, like the great Gerald Durrel, I did take up a career in farming which for me allows me to spend my days exactly where I want to be, out in the countryside. I see it as my way of being able to look after the countryside that I love. I’m not an organic farmer but I do try my best to farm in an environmentally friendly way. My trusty 3rd hand John Deere tractor surely bares testimony to this. It has broken down many times and is probably ready for scrapping, but whilst I can still get John Deere parts from the Cornthwaite Agricultural website, I’ll keep it going until it finally dies or the parts become unavailable.
I sometimes find it difficult being a farmer and loving nature. A recent example of this is the battle over Nicotinoid pesticides. I’ve used these pesticides frequently and they are effective both in cost terms and in the protection they give to crops. Then in 2011, to my horror there began a campaign against the use of these chemicals. There is a link between them and the decline in bee populations. Bees of course are essential to the pollination of plants and crops; in short, if there were no bees, there would be no crops.
I stopped using Nicotinoids as soon as I could – the end of the 2011 growing season. I’ve found an alternative until the outcome of the debate is decided. At present the UK government is arguing that the link between the pesticide and bee population decline is unproven and have published a paper which you can read at the Fera/Defra website. However, on Monday 29th April the EU stepped into the debate announcing a ban of several of the main Nicotinoid based pesticides. You can see a more detailed report of the EU ban in this Channel 4 News website article.
I am glad that the EU has stepped in and I hope to see an increase in bee population in the coming years when they have had a chance to recover. For my part I feel awful for using these products. I had always assumed that they had been found safe. Whilst my ideals would lead me to being an organic farmer, my attempts at not using pesticide have always ended in crops that were either totally failed or not up to supermarket standards for acceptability. Being a farmer isn’t an easy life as many would have you believe. The weight of the decisions we have to make is incredible.Read More