Friday, 2 September 2011

Doffing the cap

I wish to illustrate some aspects of how the tenant farmer lives. I have permission from my neighbours plus from friends who have been tenants, to write it as it is.

In Scotland, there would appear to be two types of farm.

The first type are large and immaculate, efficient, well maintained, plenty of good livestock and sometimes quite a few workers living in good houses. you can bet your last halfpenny that these farms are owned by the farmer.

The second type of farm is a little different.
They can sometimes look less tidy, run less efficiently due to lack of help, poorly maintained. You can guarantee the livestock will be well looked after but fewer of them than on an owned farm.
Things will be higgledy-piggledy and you will always hear the words "We are a full year behind".

Don't get me wrong. Some tenant farms are nice, new sheds, new machinery. The tenant will have invested an awful lot of his own money to make his farm thus.
Landowners like this sort of tenant. They don't have to invest any of their own money yet will reap a good return with little if any input.
Nicer farm, higher rent, no investment by owner, Bob's your uncle.

Some tenants, however, are usually paying a hefty fee to an agricultural lawyer, often for years because oooh, some of these lawyers are slow.
These tenants may have tried to diversify in a non agricultural way. They may run a farmhouse B&B or may have invested a lot of their own money in doing up an old farm building to let out for holiday accommodation.

The landowner receives a percentage of this income but does not have to invest anything in it.
Tenant uses his/her own money, does all the hard work, owner gets a slice of pie.

Almost every aspect of the tenant farm, apart from spreading dung, needs permission from the owner.

"Dear Sir,

May we ask your holy permission to go and spend an absolute fortune on replacing a roof which has fallen down because it is 150 years old and really your responsibility but we know our place and know we will have a struggle taking you to court because you are rich but in the meantime, we are more concerned that our cows are getting wet, their bedding is getting wet, their hooves are going all funny and the vet had to come in and help; heavens knows how much the vet will charge but he is now miffed as he had to lie in wet too.

Anyhoo, would it be ok? Would it, Sir?

Sorry if I have been asking you the same question for 29 years now and the barn walls have now collapsed due to lack of roof but I now receive a Christmas card from my lawyers so that is a sign that they know me quite well these days.

I don't want to upset you by asking and hope that we won't have visits just as we are sitting in the combine in the middle of the harvest.

The people you send seem to have a funny attitude. It is almost as if they speak down to you. Maybe it is just me.
It is strange but when I received my degree from university, oh yes, I was there, can read and write and everything, I was treated as an equal. Is it my wellies? Your people seem to converse with my wellies.

Can I take this opportunity to ask if you can shift your pheasant pens away from my private water supply? I would hate for them to catch anything from it, especially from the dribbly green bit on the tank. The tank has a wee crack in it but I'm sure the neighbour's sheep will enjoy a bit of water while they go to the tank for shelter when they lamb just beside it. I have even seen sheep on the tank! Fancy. I hope it did not poo too much. I have to give our bairn a bath tonight and he is a wee devil for putting the bathwater in his mouth.
Bairns! It is almost as if they are too young to know not to drink the water!

Well, I'll not hold you back any longer. I know you are too busy to reply to the likes of me but look forward to seeing you in the middle of my standing crop during the shooting season. The fields that you took from us but forgot to compensate us for.
Sorry if my cows and calves got in the way during the big shoot. If I had known that a shoot was going to take place beside our humble abode, I would have shifted the livestock and my bairns.
It nearly gave me a heart attack, all those guns going off beside the house!

I'll write again soon and look forward to seeing you send men in to do the roofs. Please put off raising the rent for a while because the crop has been rejected again this year as it was too wet. If you need oats, we have a big heap of them but they are a little mouldy because the rain came in through the grain shed.

Tug of forelock

Shuffle out backwards on knees wearing hair shirt

Doff of cap

Tenant Farmer


Give us the Absolute Right to buy our own farms. Give us this right now so our children never have to write letters like this.

End the control and humiliation, the handing over of farm income to lawyers and freeloaders.

Open up the thousands of empty houses and disused land. Perhaps some of Scotland's 22,000 children who are registered as coming from a homeless home may thrive in the fresh country air with the security a home could give them. Some of them may become farmers?

Not tenant farmers, though.


  1. All I can say is think Karma. Yep I've met people like that.

  2. 'Speak to the wellies'....they do it to depersonalise you, I think.
    Makes them feel they can treat you like an inanimate object if they don't acknowledge that you exist.

  3. Really it would be good for Scotland for farmers to own their own farms. They would invest more, produce more and benefit the whole economy.

    The Scottish government in fact has an interest in enabling farmers to buy their farms and ending this ridiculous feudal system which only further enriches the absentee landlord and probably just feeds his off-shore account rather than enriching the nation.

  4. We have so much to offer the economy, Sarah, especially once we get the chance to stand on our own two feet and own our farms.

    I absolutely agree with what you have written and know many thousands of others agree too.

  5. Great post! It is beyond time that this system changed!

  6. I rent a farm cottage on a tenant farm. My sister's boyfriend owns his farm. Everything you write rings true. The wind and rain come in the house, there are empty cottages rotting into the ground and we can't afford to buy a house here because demand is so high and property so scarce.

    The pheasants are well looked after though.