A Visit With Farmer Tom

AS the grandson of an Essex farmer, I must confess to having shown no particular yearning throughout my career in journalism and politics to follow in his welly bootsteps.

In UKIP most of us are sensible enough to leave agricultural policy largely to my fellow Eastern MEP Stuart Agnew, who actually knows what he is talking about.

However, with agriculture being such an important industry in East Anglia, I do try and remain reasonably well informed about major issues of concern in the farming community.

So I was delighted to accept the invitation of Cambridgeshire farmer Thomas Martin (who tweets under the moniker @Farmer_Tom_UK) to visit him on his family farm at Haddon, just south of Peterborough, the other day.

And what a jolly interesting day I had, along with my staff members Lisa Duffy and Mary Herdman. The highlight was undoubtedly my first go on a combine harvester since my uncle Richard took me on a ride on one about 40 years ago. But there was also so much more of interest told to us by Tom, particularly about technological developments in agriculture which are increasing the efficiency of food production all the time.

Coming on stream soon will be robot machines capable of replanting individual seeds in a field that have failed to germinate and locating individual ears of a crop that have been blighted with a disease. Farming is undergoing a data revolution where everything from soil moisture content to the number of worms per cubic foot has a vital contribution to make in the effort to increase yields.

Unsurprisingly, Tom had one or two concerns about agricultural policy post-Brexit, certainly wanting assurances from politicians that there will be no race to the bottom when it comes to food production standards once we are out of the EU.

Like many British farmers, he also takes huge pride in his vital stewardship of the countryside and its wildlife and showed us how special areas of his farm were set aside to allow plant, bird and animal life to prosper.

Tom, who is clearly among the most forward-thinking young farmers in the country, also links up via Skype with a school in a deprived area on the south coast once a fortnight to talk to pupils about countryside, environmental and farming issues.

Luckily Tom’s farm appeared to have coped with the difficult weather issues this year pretty well and he reported a decent harvest had been completed a couple of days earlier – just before the start of some torrential downpours.

My visit certainly gave me an added appreciation of the wonderful job done by our farming community. I have no doubt they will go from strength to strength once we are outside the bureaucratic complexities of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.


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