Friday, 15 January 2016

A Winter Bounty

Some of this week's selection.
 Not spoiling the surprise as most folks have got theirs by now...
Potatoes, celeriac,  leeks, green chard, Tuscan and frilly kale mixed, darling sprouts, and some flower ones too, carrots (one cheeky novelty) and a bag of mixed salad leaves.
It comes in a rustic (biodegradable but otherwise not) carrier bag, easier to carry, cheaper, and keeps things fresher than the classic veg 'box'
Maintaining this level of variety; week in week out; year round; takes an amount of work and forward planning...

It is somewhat of a cliche these days; people coming back from their continental holidays and raving about the quality, variety, and freshness of produce available at the local markets they found there, and why can't we get the same here?....

We do, of course, have farmers markets in select(ed) areas, but they are often perceived as middle class 'niches' and I have to agree that not everything needs tying up with raffia; giving a quirky name; or displaying in a wicker basket; it can sometimes be a case of presentation over content.....


So why, is there less locally produced, fresh, nutritious, and delicious food available as the 'norm' in this country?

Here are just a very few reasons to ponder... 
(As I know you're probably quite busy; like me; avidly avoiding doing your tax return...)

  You get, in the end, what you're prepared to pay for.

So called super(?)markets impose the lowest prices upon their growers, and demand the longest shelf life. 
Flavour, and freshness, are pretty low down their list of priorities..There are a lot of packing stations, lorry parks, refrigeration units, and so on for those poor benighted brassicii to put up with....
And those "Oh so generous" BOGOF or special offers? They are funded by the supplier; at the whim of the shop; by the way.

Too much buying power in too few (Multiples) hands? Yes perhaps...

"But there are plenty of supermarkets in Abroadland as well yes?"

 Indeed there are, but many of those individual 'big name' stores are run by franchisees, who can buy from local suppliers if they wish, and they do, because their customers demand it of them.

 And those deliciously fragrant, wholesome, and picturesque market traders in France Spain Italy and further afield; are usually selling produce from smaller farms; which are encouraged and supported over there...

 Over here?

Not so much..

Even if you can become a farmer or grower here; and that's a whole steeplechase of five barred gates to leap in itself; policies of all sorts, at both a national and local level are very much set against you making anything like a living at it.

For instance The Common Agricultural Policy (Oi! Stop snoring you at the back!) is an EU behemoth of bureaucracy, the details of which, anyone keen to preserve their sanity, would do well to avoid. 

But bear with; just for a snippet or two; if you can...

 In the last ten years or so; farmers have been paid (if they own the entitlements on the land they farm) per hectare just for owning land and keeping it in a 'good state of agricultural repair'

Which means keeping back brambles and scrub, self sown trees, encroaching hedges, and any other 'ineligible features' by mowing and flailing at least once a year....Bad luck for wildlife; and anyone downstream of the catchment who might have preferred some of that vegetation to hang onto the heavy rain we've been having lately....

And in fact, even domestic ruminants, quite naturally supplement their diets with a bit of woody herbage if allowed. They, unlike many of us humans, do actually know what's good for them, and will eat it if allowed.

  So farmers are being paid to farm, or more accurately landowners are being paid to own land?

Could perhaps, this 'being paid just to own something bonus' possibly be a contributing factor to land values having increased by an unprecedented fourfold in the last ten years?

Most certainly taking land prices; or even rental; well out of the price bracket of anyone brave or foolish enough to be considering taking up food production as a livelihood..And expecting it to pay back the borrowing..

Fair and pertinent  questions for any tax payer to be asking...Whatever the state of their paperwork...

There are a myriad convoluted reasons why this state of affairs is as it is; some of which hold water (if you'll pardon the pun)
 There are 'public goods' or at least ecologically benign activities that are being promoted through this scheme; but it has to be said that some justifications for it take double speak, and obfuscation to a high art...
But basically in a nut shell, these payments replace the old subsidies that were once paid on agricultural production..

OK, so everyone gets this money? Even the little farmers. So at least it's sort of fair; if a bit cheeky if you happen to 'own' thousands of hectares?

 "Holidays in Antigua darling?"



Sorry that was several passages without a picture; but just in case anyone is still here ...

No; don't be absurd;  of course not everyone gets the questionable payments anymore....Heaven forefend; that wouldn't be right,,,

As of this year any holding under 5 hectares is no longer  eligible for the wonga...
Because; wait for it....
 Administering the system for teensy (here 4.96 ha) farmers is not 'economic'...

OK...Fine; if you say so....

But giving tens of thousands to the bigger guys (there's no cap; or upper limit by the way.. The more you own the more you get*) is economic . Mmmm; taking 'learnt on the playing fields of Eton Pig Latin wonk speak logic' to new heights..
 Methinks...

Ooooo; Great!
 So now, we can have a good old go at those bad boys and girls, in naughty old blame 'em for everything we Brits don't like; EU'land for dissing the struggling semi-peasantry right?

 Err no; the decision as to the size of holding eligible for the payments was devolved to Member States. So in our case, the U.K. government set the bar for us...Much smaller farms in the rest of Europe still get their money ; we don't..Quelle surprise??


Thanks NFU, CLA, Big Agri' and the rest, for your tireless lobbying on behalf of the small, but productive farmer...

Antigua wasn't really ever on the cards to be honest; as despite being quite 'strong in the arm' the few times I've attempted rowing; its greatest effect has been comedic...

But, all the same, the company that delivers the diesel for the tractor doesn't take payment in cabbages; so that cash will have to come from something; or someone else...

Aha! I have it; late last year the doctor said I have the kidneys of a twenty year old; and we only need one each to survive right?

The brambles, here at least, were always safe from being extricated, they prove excellent deer browsing guards, for both the planted and the self seeded trees at the top of the hill. And in addition to being fruitful, all that other untidy, unsightly, 'bad farming' scrub provides a haven and food source for all the pollinators that much of the vegetable and fruit cropping depends upon.

Which reminds me; there is an incomplete post from a few weeks back; picturing a selection of the hitherto innonimate wee beasties that live here. A friend knowledgeable in these matters has offered to name them.

Huzzah! Further distractions from the dreaded T.R..... Lord Wotsischops' holiday fund will have to tarry a while longer before receiving my paltry tithe. 

Oh; and also, not forgetting, there is the gratitude that must be expressed to the Good Folks of the Vale; those in possession of so much sense, discernment, and taste, that they do support small farms like this, by bothering about from whom they buy at least some of their food, nearly every week, year round. 



* I have a feeling this advice has most likely been offered by wiser investment advisers than me, but here's my tip for free......If you do have some spare dosh.

"Buy land; they're not making any more."


*****Gold stars all round ***** for anyone getting this far...Sooo much text..Need to search out them googlie eyes, for some more pictorial buffoonery...



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