Farming for a living? | Farm Tales


From petty customer theft to competing with the mega dairies, small farms are fighting against the tide to run a successful business, says Andrew Livingston.

If lockdown taught us one thing, it’s to buy local. in rural areas, milk vending machines became all the rage during 2020 as farmers learnt that they could cut out the middleman and sell straight to the suppliers.

An important by-product of farmers gaining more of their profit means that food has a much smaller carbon footprint. My final look at what farmers are doing to reach carbon neutral targets by 2040, puts the onus on the public to buy local!

Security dog Wilf considers egg guard duty a necessary chore

The egg trade

Last year we decided to stop selling our eggs to St Ewe (a Cornwall-based packer) and instead became a producer for Foots, who are based just outside of Sherborne. Previously, with St Ewe, our eggs would be picked up in Dorset, driven for grading

in Cornwall and then taken to London to be sold. Madness, I know!
However, since our first flock of chickens, we have also sold our eggs on our gate to the passing trade. This has admittedly come with its issues; stolen eggs and money, with some ‘customers’ apparently believing that washers and lint are legal tender. What it does ensure though, is that our customers get the freshest produce possible, whilst seeing where their food comes from – that is the real joy of buying straight from the farm.

Take one avocado

Security dog Wilf considers egg guard duty a necessary chore I love avocado – but when you pick them up in the supermarket shelves can you envisage the land that it has grown on? Do you know
the impact of the water consumption of an avocado farm (two thousand litres of water are needed to produce just one kilo of avocados – four times the amount needed to produce a kilo of oranges, and 10 times what is needed to produce a kilo of tomatoes)? Do you know how many miles that fruit has travelled by sea and air to be smashed up and spread on your toast?
For years agricultural marketing campaigns have pleaded with the public to ‘Buy British’ in the supermarkets. But now it’s time to buy local. Being fortunate enough to be living in a rural county you will be amazed at what local produce you could buy – even without going to a (often overpriced) farm ‘shop’.

Most popular farm milk vending machines will be accompanied by a vending machine selling eggs, cheese, butter, maybe meat, condiments, soup or pies. You can buy all your staple foods in a way that not only supports your local farmer but helps to keep fuel and greenhouse gas emissions down.

20 euro cents, a rusty washer and a few coppers – all received as ‘payment’ for eggs at the farm gate.

The struggle of the small farm

Unfortunately, with the cost of animal feed and electricity as it is, small family-run farms are turning to selling direct to customers simply to be able to turn a profit. Especially daity farmers – larger and larger commercial dairies with in excess of 1,000 cows are keeping the cost of the milk low; meaning the small farm next door can’t get a decent price per litre to be able to make a living. In a simpler time, farmers would devote their time to pampering their animals to perfection. Now, farmers seem to need to spend their lives squeezing every last potential penny out of their farms just to stay afloat.

by Andrew Livingston

Sponsored by: Trethowans – Law as it should be


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