Yesterday was our local show - The Wensleydale Show - which is held within walking distance of our farm. For the first time in the twenty years I have been married to the farmer, I didn't go with him. I am having severe ankle/foot problems (am going for an MRI scan this afternoon - August Bank Holiday Sunday!) so he went off on his own, but took my camera so that he could take some photographs for me.
Friday evening it poured with rain and we were sure it would rain all yesterday, but suddenly, at about ten o'clock it cleared and they had a dry day, so it was well attended.
First he had to go to the village of West Witton where he judges the hay, fruit and vegetable sections. Then, after a quick coffee he walked up to the showground.
The show was well-attended, he met lots of farming friends, he had a nice lunch in his local feed merchants tent and came back home at half past four after an enjoyable day. Then it was take the dogs round the fields, shower, change and take me out for dinner to a local pub for our twentieth wedding anniversary. Quite a full day for a seventy year old, but he came through it with flying colours.
It set me thinking, and we chatted about it over our meal in the evening (marvellous garlic mushrooms in a cream and bacon sauce) - so many of our farming friends either are themselves or have sons who are unmarried.
The daughters on the whole have married out of farming, apart from one, who is now a wonderful farmer's wife - just as her mother is too - but we know many sons in their thirties and forties who don't even have girl friends.
As the average age of farmers in this country is I think around sixty three, where does this leave farming in the future? One or two trends are creeping in of course - farms are getting much bigger and when farms come on the market they tend to be bought up by neighbouring farmers, The fact is that it is no longer viable to farm small farms (which most of them were in The Dales) and that in order to survive a Dairy herd has to be well over 100 with a similar number of followers. But nevertheless, unless farmer's sons marry there will not be another generation to follow on.
Why do they find it so hard? First of all they have to work very hard - either at the family farm or often both at home and at another farm to make enough money to live on if Dad is still working. If they are milking they won't finish work until well after eight in the evening. I know that people say you never see a poor farmer, that farmers are always driving around in four wheel drive new vehicles and have new tractors, machinery etc. But again I think this is part of the problem. This is a purely personal view but I believe that any spare money made is immediately ploughed back into the farm - a new tractor (£40,000+), update the milking system, update the buildings, a new milking parlour with better equipment. I suspect that this often means that the house and/or the wife goes without - if she is at home looking after small children (Dad might be at home all day but he is too busy to supervise children in an unsafe environment) her clothing allowance might be limited or non-existent, is there enough money for a dishwasher? or a drier? or
a kitchen update? I doubt it.
Whatever the reason, I see all these chaps in their thirties, forties and fifties, still living at home and with no female friends and I am sad for them.
Enjoy the photographs of the show courtesy of the farmer: