The land as an open-air factory: Country diary, 1 August 1970

LINCOLNSHIRE: This county at harvest time is an abrupt corrective to those who would still see farming through romantic eyes. Arable lands lend themselves readily to large scale production and it is the northern stretch of the Wolds and the level acres of the Marsh that show the development of agribusiness – an ugly term but appropriate, as a combination of business and farming skills. The hedgerows were an early casualty and time alone will tell if the soil can retain the structure to resist the strength of the winter gales of the North Sea.

The farms, grouped territorially in limited companies and linked up with radio telephones, no longer enjoy the dignity or warmth of individual names. Numbers suffice for recognition in production schedules which are at the moment tied to the destiny of the frozen pea. The harvest is scheduled to run through the hours of darkness and the enormous pea-bining machines continue their heavy progression by the glare of arc lights. It is an impressive operation in farming and transport terms, but the land is used more as an open-air factory than as a farm. Farmers find something to complain of in almost every growing season but this, by common consent, may be regarded as a particularly difficult year. Seven weeks of drought in early summer hit the potato crop – the county’s largest single farming investment – to the extent that early crops now being lifted are little more than half the expected weight. Conditions have not been improved by the arrival of storm rain too late to swell the potatoes and so heavy that it endangers the long stalks of the grain crops.

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