COMING from Pennine weaver-farming stock, I only ever wanted to be a farmer Only a comprehensive set of asthmatic allergies – cats, horses, cattle, some kinds of dogs and dust of any kind – ruled it out.
Instead, I became a journalist, learning the need for absolute accuracy in recording the winners from cavies to shire horses at agricultural shows. Indeed, I recorded the detail of the Great Yorkshire Show for this newspaper in the early 1960s.
It is therefore with some nostalgia that I view from afar this week’s event in Harrogate which my brother used to attend regularly as a working farmer, now retired.
For me an agricultural show is not just a platform for parading the finest stock and food on the hoof that money can buy. It is also about the nature of this still green and pleasant land, notwithstanding the rubbishy hypocrisy of all those “environmentalists” who infest such events as Glastonbury.
If I hear anybody else bemoan “austerity Britain” when people can afford huge “festival” entrance fees to listen to assorted cacophonies and then leave their tents and much else to the cleaners-up, I shall explode – messily.
Without farmers we would not have our incomparable countryside. No patchwork quilt of dry stone walls and fields. The UK would rapidly go to seed – literally – and be taken over by scrub. This might suit environmentalists who want to convert Britain into a forest in the name of anything from flood prevention to climate change.
They also try to convince us of their virtue by wrecking land and seascapes with near-useless wind and solar farms while fighting fracking every inch of the way, even though fracking sites are much less intrusive.
Natural gas may produce carbon dioxide but it can be relied to keep the lights on unlike bird-mangling wind and utterly alien solar panels.
Similarly, do those vegans who wage war against “brutal” keepers of livestock and even, dammit, object to anything called “wool” ever think what might happen to the farm animals they would turn loose? Nature is red in tooth and claw, though that does not dispose of legitimate worries about so-called factory farming.
I may be crying for the moon but, in short, I see today’s Great Yorkshire Show tacitly calling for balance, a sense of proportion, a recognition of cause and effect and a certain humility in the face of honest endeavour.
I have not the slightest doubt that if everyone worked as hard and long as the average small farmer – and safeguarded the scenery that lifts the spirits – there would be nothing to stop Britain forging ahead in this world.
This inevitably brings me to Brexit and all the fears that it seems to induce in the faint-hearted, defeatist Remainers who wish to keep us subservient to the European Union.
It is true that the EU, through its Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), is a protectionist club. Francois Mitterrand admitted as much to Margaret Thatcher at a lunch in Rome.
What will happen when we cast CAP aside and face freer trade with the wide world?
EU-subsidised farmers naturally worry about their future. Inevitably, the ever-gloomy promoters of Project Fear play upon their concerns in the hope of frustrating Brexit.
But what is also clear is that post-Brexit – and ending the uncertainty cannot come soon enough – Britain will still have to feed itself, protect the health and look of the countryside and preserve and strengthen the nation’s flora and fauna.
Farmers do not just work the land, whether with livestock or arable production.
They make and keep what Britain enjoys – the broad sweep of our rural heritage. Their multi-tasking will need to be recognised.
This is where everyone of us as consumers has a part to play. We should buy British wherever we can do so reasonably competitively, taking account of quality.
I have no more doubts about agriculture’s future than I have about our industrial and economic success outside the EU.
Years of national decline have wrought a certain pessimism in Britons.
For our own good – and that of agriculture, industry and the entire economy – it is time we recognised the opportunities that freedom and recovered sovereignty will bring.
Not even Brussels-generated nastiness over losing money-bags Britain can more than temporarily hold us back.
For heaven’s sake, let’s stop thinking we are no good, draw inspiration from our achievements and put our backs into forging a new Great Britain.
Your country needs you – and our farmers. And let us never forget it.