If you are one of those declining number of people securing your living from farming in East Suffolk, you will not need me to remind you of yet another agricultural revolution slowly unfolding before you. Unlike many other industries, farming can go on unchanged, apart from improved husbandry techniques, for years. Then, without too much warning, circumstances, usually political, make for changes in familiar practices. History shows us the inevitability of change. In the middle of the C18th, when King George 11 reigned, the “enclosure” of land must have been a major topic of news and conversation on the farms. Several of the farm houses that are familiar sights amongst us today would have echoed to speculation and debate on these changes, as indeed they do today. Then, as now, the price of wheat became an issue. Even in the early C19th, after the Napoleon versus Wellington battle, the importing of grain from Europe had a serious effect upon the livelihood of our farmers, so the Corn Laws were established to protect wheat prices from cheap imports. Now of course, the problems are those of over production within the EC and the costs to the taxes. To reduce this strange phenomenon in a part starving world, land capable of growing 3 to 4 tonnes of wheat per acre, must lie idle. We shall grow accustomed to seeing, interspersed amongst the familiar sweep of wheat and barley, fields to all intents and purposes abandoned. Sometimes the docks and poppies will take over just for one year. Other fields will be unploughed for 5 years. “The times they are a changing!”
Happily nature is unaware of such goings on, and gives us a thread of welcome continuity. For me watching the antics of a pair of flycatchers nesting in the honeysuckle display an energy and cheerfulness that could inspire us all!