Saturday, 2 March 2013

Turning earth and attitude.

We are welcoming the return of Spring.

The sun brought much needed warmth to the soil and has begun to dry out the sodden fields. The Spring work has begun and there is a flurry of activity around the farm.

It is gladdening to see the dreich, lifeless fields ploughed and ready for this years crop. Great pride is taken in straight furrows, tidy end rigs, a small sample of soil taken from various points of the field to ascertain the acidity and help determine whether lime will be required (it will).

The ploughing cannot be rushed, it is a slow, exacting job and one where two heads would come in handy, like Janus. One to look ahead for stones and straightness and one to look behind to see if everything is going as it should and nothing has fallen off the plough.
Seagulls appear from nowhere to check that you are doing a good job and are paid in fat worms. The red kite wheels and mews close by and swoops on tiny mice.

With some heat in the cab, a good 'piece' (sandwich), a tartan flask full of soup and feathered companions, it is easy to feel like the luckiest person alive.

Our eldest son listens to music through earphones when he helps but The Farmer and I prefer the drone of the engine; space to think, peace to try and make sense of the world around.

Two issues have really bothered me recently and whilst I work, I wonder how these issues can be resolved.
The first is the idiotic 'laws and rules' that landowner's agents tend to create. These 'rules' are neither in the tenancy agreement nor in any agricultural law yet are apparently cast in stone and Must Be Obeyed by the tenant regardless of any suffering or humiliation which inevitable occurs.
When did these tin-pot little dictators gain so much alleged power that they have become loose cannons?
They clock off at 5pm, go home to a house with a roof and switch off to the damage they have created to families. We are not seen as people to those fools.

The second issue is the law and proves that the agricultural Law is an ass. If a tenant farmer works with his brother or sister then dies, the tenancy cannot be passed on to a sibling nor to a niece or nephew. The tenancy is either lost or a Short Tenancy is offered to the sibling. So much for new entrants to farming.
Even worse, and I have known an instance where this has happened, if a father signs over the tenancy to his son and the son dies, the father is out.

The law is swayed so heavily against the tenant and pro the landowner yet nothing is done to address this. It makes you wonder if the law makers benefit in hidden ways somehow (and I don't mean the tenant seeing them ok for a boiling of tatties).

If those who govern Scotland don't want the tenant farmer to survive, at least have the decency and honesty to tell us instead of turning a blind eye to the untenable laws and uncouth feudal behaviour which is happening on a daily basis.

These words are important:

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.
They came from the heart and pen of a humble tenant and ploughman. Those mentioned in the third and forth verse ought to take note and try walking a mile in our shoes.
How sad that the same issues which bothered Robert Burns are still unresolved today.

Time for fair reform, an a' that.


  1. Well, they're not going to reform from the goodness of their hearts, that's clear...and nothing in the current system will force them to do so....

  2. Very true, the fly in the web.

    I should imagine that it might take something outwith the current system to haul these issues into the 21st century.

  3. I think that applies to a number of things. Your situation does seem rather extreme though.

  4. workbike, yes, I agree that our situation is extreme (although I have heard from other tenant farmers who have also been the targets of abuse and harassment.)
    Extremes occur when landowners ignore agricultural laws then create their own rules. This has gone on for too long in Scotland and must be addressed through reform.

    There is little surprise in situations like ours being kept from the press as the Establishment protect the Establishment....regardless of the human cost.