Father and Farmer

Rock and Roll Farming

It’s been a while. So long in fact, that I’d forgotten my log in details. But I’m here now, and it feels good to be bashing out a few words again.

It’s no excuse at all, but I’ve been kind of busy with other things. The last few months have been hectic on the farm to say the least. The late Spring/ early Summer always is. We’ve been turning cattle out, both on the home farm, and our other land five miles away. This involves journeys back and to with truck and stock trailer, sorting and loading groups of five or six at a time. It’s time consuming, but it’s great to have them all out at grass now after a long Winter of feeding them inside. Sheds have been cleaned out, the muck piled up in readiness to be spread on the stubble fields after harvest, and are now full of tractors and machinery.

It’s a busy time of year with field work as well. We planted our maize in good soil conditions, and the high temperatures have meant that it’s doing very well. Cereal crops are under ever-increasing pressure from weeds such as Wild Oats, mildew and pests, and have required spraying for these things. We’ve completed our first cut of grass silage, which is safely in the pit now fermenting ready for feeding when the Cattle come inside again in the late Autumn, and it won’t be long before we’ll do a second cut the way the grass has grown. Unfortunately the weeds have also grown incredibly this year here, with more docks and thistles than we’ve had for a while.

At the start of April I fulfilled a life-long ambition and ran a marathon. And I ran it every step of the way in a respectable 3.42:50. I’m now in the 1% of people who’ve ever completed one, and I rank this as one of my greatest achievements. Five years ago I couldn’t have run 1/4 mile, let alone 26.2. The last 5 miles of the course were both mentally and physically the toughest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s given me great confidence in what I can achieve in the future if I work hard enough at it. When I crossed the finish line I felt no sense of elation, no joy, just exhaustion and abject misery. An hour later, when I’d found my wife and children in the crowds and I’d eaten the best cheese burger I’ve ever had in my life, I felt on top of the World. I’m already planning my next one.

I’ve spent some time away from the farm with my family. We always try to get away in June if we can, as July and August are such a busy time during harvest. We met up for  a long weekend at some old University friend’s house in Somerset, 10 adults and 13 kids aged between 1 – 8, and had an absolute ball together, as we always do. It only seems like yesterday that we were care-free students, drinking beer and chasing girls. Now we watch our children chase each other about whilst drinking beer with our Wives instead. We also managed a week away in North Devon as a family, where the weather was glorious, and the beach was the place to be. The Kids had hours of fun in the sea on their boogie-boards, and we built sand castles and made memories. Sarah and I will look at the photos we took during this week of our children for the rest of our lives, and smile.

And finally, I suppose what’s really kept me away from my blog has been that I’ve started a podcast. I’ve listened to podcasts for several years now, mainly sport, history and general interest ones, but last year I heard of The Shark Farmer Podcast through social media, downloaded a couple of episodes, and was immediately hooked. The creator and host Rob Sharkey is an incredibly charismatic and funny guy, and interviews different farmers and people involved in the agricultural industry every week from his farm in Illinois in the US. They talk about their lives, farms, and backgrounds, and some of his guests, mostly from America and Canada, have had incredible stories to tell. After tweeting Rob a few times telling him how much I loved the show, he was good enough to ask me to be interviewed too. I loved it. It was fantastic talking to him, and whilst I certainly wasn’t as interesting as some of his other guests, the seed of an idea was sown in my head to start my own, along a similar line, in the UK.

As with every idea I’ve ever had, the first thing that happens to me is self-doubt. I can’t do that. I’m too busy. I don’t know much about computers. I’m not talented enough. Wait though, I’ve just run 26.2 bloody miles. And if I can do that, I can do anything. It started with some help from Rob, and one or two others, and me watching hours of YouTube tutorials on how to operate certain computer programmes. Which, much to my surprise, I really enjoyed. I’ve always loved learning new things, and this was certainly new to me and very much outside my comfort zone; I’m more used to working with Cattle and Tractors than I am with creative computer programmes. I installed all the necessary software, bought a microphone and headset, and some intro music and a logo, and compiled a great long list of potential interviewees, and thought up a title for the show – Rock & Roll Farming.

Because the thing is, and one of the main reasons why I wanted to do this, is that there are so many incredible people and colourful characters in farming, and I want to show that off. We’re not the cartoon villains that we’re sometimes portrayed as in the media, we’re just like anyone else, in any other profession, doing our best whilst working hard to feed our families, and as one of my guests, Pete Vickerton put it, ‘we’re normal people and we’d be quite good fun in a pub.’ I’ve always been interested in farming family’s stories; how they came to be at their farm, whether 10 generations ago, or just a few years. Are they a traditional farm, or are they doing something totally groundbreaking? Are they a small family operation, or a large scale agri-business employing 100s of people? What does the job of an agricultural journalist/ scientist/ salesperson entail? I hope to find some of these things out, and talk to a wide range of people involved in our great industry over the coming months.

I’ve interviewed 11 people now, and all have been interesting, funny, intelligent, and very open to talking about their lives and what they do, and some of them, like my most recent guest Colin Javens, have had extraordinary stories to tell.  I’ve got several more lined up for the coming months that I’m really excited about too, and I can’t wait to talk to them. People have never been so interested in where their food comes from as they are now, and If I can help introduce them to a few of the amazing people involved, and bridge the gap slightly, then it will have been well worth the time and cost involved.

So there you go, that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m working on a few pieces that I hope to post on here soon, so hopefully normal service can be resumed. Anyway, I’ve got to go, I’ve a podcast interview to prepare for!



*You can find Rock & Roll Farming at rockandrollfarming.libsyn.com or search in apple podcasts or stitcher for Rock & Roll Farming. Check it out and let me know what you think..

*Also, search for The Shark Farmer Podcast with Rob Sharkey in Apple podcasts or at sharkfarmer.com