by John Barron
(Beaconhill Farm, LEDBURY, Herefordshire, UK)
AN ANXIOUS FRIEND
Hi, my name is John Barron and I currently farm 103 acres of very good land in Herefordshire in England. I have a small herd of Jersey cows that I milk twice a day. Most of my milk goes daily to a big processor for the Supermarkets. However, I also make ice cream and sell unpasteurised milk to local customers.
This makes me a little bit different from many UK farmers in that I have almost everyday contact with members of the general public and my farm, although small, bucks the current trend that farms have to be huge to be able to survive (economy of Scale).
Anyway, my story is still even more unusual: the land I farm belongs to a Charity - the Buchanan Trust Estate (Charity No 235867) - which was created in 1918 to provide "shelter and employment" for men returning from the Great War! Thereafter, it had been intended that the land continue "in Trust" and provide tenancies, employment etc for ex-servicemen in perpetuity. Unfortunately, the Trusteeship was transferred to the local County Council in 1972 and since then I am the first and only ex-serviceman to benefit from the Charity. Sadly though - partly due to my complaints of maladministration - the County Council have refused to renew my tenancy.
Nevertheless, I refuse to go and for the past 7 years I have been battling for a fair hearing and justice. My story has been checked and verified by the local BBC TV channel and Radio Station and they have been very supportive. Furthermore, the Tenant Farmers' Association (TFA), which is a national body that's supports the rights of Tenant Farmers has been a huge help to me over the past few years.
What about the Law? Well here is where my story gets scary! The Trustees (County Council) are protected from litigation by Acts of Parliament. They are not totally immune from prosecution and "theoretically" they are NOT above the Law, however, in every day real terms it is extremely difficult to hold them to account.
Anyway, that's ONE part of my story! I try to farm organically, even though the Landlords' have made that difficult for me and so my farm remains an unofficial and unregistered organic farm! My small (50) herd of Jersey cows are really something to behold! I had farming experience and education some 15 years before I got this farm but had never .... hmmmm, 'experienced' working with jersey cows before. They are very funny, charming, annoying, productive, destructive little cows and life has never been dull when trying to keep them in order! (As if I didn't have enough excitement?)
Hmmm, well, that's enough for now. I have lots more to tell but perhaps later? Right now I have to go check on Marilyn Monroe and Bo Dereck ... er... they are 2 of my cows .... and they are currently being "dried off" in preparation for calving in the Spring.
If you would like to hear more and and perhaps a weekly report of what my cows are up to ... let me know. Aye, John Barron PS. I am a Scot