Farm sales, I always feel, are rather sad occasions. Rows of farm equipment greet the potential buyers as they arrive. Anything from a heap of rusty tin sheets to a multi-thousand-pound tractor are on display to attract the highest bid. Rapidly the auctioneer proceeds along the avenues surrounded by a group of interested farmers. Bidding is a discreet affair. A nod of the head or the raising of a fore finger is enough to catch the auctioneer’s eye. Banter and humour help along the process.
Several attend the sale, not to buy, but to meet up with acquaintances and exchange news. Others attend the sale with no intention of buying anything but somehow finish up with some bargain they could not resist. Quite quickly and well before the last “lot” has been sold new owners remove their purchases. Return to the farm in the evening and very little remains unsold. Just a few heaps of “miscellaneous” lots, scrap metal, old tangled wire and a rusty old trough is about all you will see.
When the day is finally over the farmer whose sale it was is just left with empty buildings and silent cattle yards. A kind of temporary gloom descends. What was a place of work and activity has changed in a few hours to a shrine of times now past. Just such an event occurred recently in our neighbouring parish of Brandeston. Now, no family dairy farms remain in our area at all.
In about 1860, Thomas Hardy wrote one of his first poems. In it he relates going for a walk with his mother and asking her, “How looked the place when first you settled here?”. And she replied, “Fifty years have passed since then my child, and change has marked the face of all things”. One hundred and thirty years later we can say the same. A shifting scene can open up new and unexpected opportunities. Change will “mark the face of all things” but can also stimulate new ideas and beginnings. It must also be excusable to glance back and remember how it used to be.