Off piste – a bit.

None of us want the Earth to FRY – Global WARMING sounds a bit understated especially when envisaging a polar bear with a couple of cubs on a floating ice cube. Of course we all must all do our bit: turn down the central heating; jet around the globe less; walk more; drive fewer miles and, we are told,  Eat Less Meat, Drink Less Milk. First World solutions to a situation difficult to remedy in the Third World where such luxuries aren’t available and where such energy as there is, is likely to be from fossil fuel, especially coal.

Following its successful campaign against plastic, SKY TV is onto Global Warming. It transmitted a feature from a Kenyan floristry ‘factory’. Walk into any European supermarket and a pyramid of cut roses, carnations, alstroemeria, gypsophila, lilies, eryngiums, arabicum, hypericum and statice greets you. Most likely they’ve been flown in from Kenya – Airmiles  Kenya exported 159,961 tons of flowers in 2017, benefiting the economy by US $823Million – second on the list of exports after tea and coffee. About 50% of those flowers are sold through Dutch auctions. 38% of roses sold in the EU are from Kenya.  The Kenyan floristry industry is innovative in its ‘green’ growing credentials but science is far from solving the problem of transporting fresh cut flowers by sea. So to lower our carbon footprint we shouldn’t buy these flowers as part of our weekly shop?  What would happen to the 100,000 people who are directly employed, many of whom have free (if basic) housing and whose children are educated at on-site schools. Then there’s the 2 Million who are indirectly employed.

I have a farming neighbour who has 2,500 ewes. Sheep farmers aim for a 200% lambing average. Almost impossible to achieve but an 150% success rate would mean he would have 3,750 lambs. A proportion will go for flock regeneration but the majority will be sold for meat. It’s futile asking what will happen to stock farmers if we stop eating their produce because too many people don’t care. They think farmers all live a sylvan existence further enhanced by their ownership of the latest 4×4. So let’s ask what everyone imagines is going to happen to the land if farmers stop producing meat and milk. What about rural UK, what about the scenery?  Farmers maintain grassland for their stock. Sheep are the best lawn-mowers that God created. Perhaps before long drones will mow but currently in a lot of places it is too steep and dangerous to use a vehicle.

In 2018 tourism in the UK was worth over £68billion. Direct employment in 2016 was 1.54 million. (The latest figures available from the Office of National Statistics). Of course much tourism is focused on urban centres with allied Arts but much time is spent touring. Rural UK is beautiful because of its landscape and that landscape is maintained by farmers – not as a theme park but because it is their livelihood. Traditionally mixed farming is best for the health of the soil. The ‘farting’ herd poos.  Manure fertilises the soil. No poo = more chemical fertiliser. Not very Eco then.

Anyone who has a garden or veg. patch knows that certain soils grow certain things. There are considerable areas of the world where grass will grow, certain areas for wheat, carrots, potatoes, rice, cotton…. poppies. Farmers are canny. They grow what works. If there is no market for meat or milk it doesn’t mean that their grassland will suddenly sprout cavolo nero or goji berry bushes.

There’s a theory that we should plant more trees – of course we should, but not on every field now grazed by herds. A few years ago I rode in the Carpathians. I imagined there would be wonderful views. Perhaps there were for squirrels but even from the back of a horse it was all trees and no views.

Another idea is to put (grass) land down to corn so that we can feed ourselves instead of the farting herd. It’s fine as far as it goes but the reason most of our milling wheat comes from Canada and America is that the fields are enormous and the soil uniform, enabling a consistent Hagberg dropping content – the enzyme critical to successful milling. The soil in many UK fields can vary three or four times in one field. No good for growing milling wheat.

Before we jump on the vegan wagon or stop buying flowers with air miles, we should think very carefully about the effect it will have on the land,  the economy, on employment – whether in our own back yard or in places such as Kenya. We need to concentrate on alternative energy; education; birth control (there are too many of us); growing our own vegetables instead of covering our plots with decking and paving; buying the foods we can’t grow from our neighbours and turning off the lights – those of us who have them.








Leave a Reply