In some ways farming today seems as far removed from the mid 1980s as it does from the 1950s.
Technology such as GPS, field mapping, the size, sophistication and cost of machinery, crop and livestock management techniques and skills, much higher yields, embryo cloning, the dominance of supermarkets in food supply, the rise and rise of soft fruit and vegetables grown in polytunnels, renewable energy as in wind turbines and solar panels, monitor farms, and much more make the way most of us farmed in the 1980s a distant memory.
Yet there are some constants, notably the vagaries of the weather. In spite of all farmers and growers try to do to outwit nature, the weather can still have the last word as we have seen with extensive flooding this winter.
Climate change and global warming might be having an effect on how we farm and some vegetable growers in favoured areas might be producing two or even three crops a year instead of one, but for most of us there is still an annual cycle of crop production and animal breeding. We still think of spring, lambing and calving, summer and harvest. We still gauge time passing with reference to the Highland Show, Glendale Show and Kelso Ram Sale.
There are still complaints from the public about farm machinery causing traffic jams on rural roads, mud on the road from farming operations, hedgecutters failing to clear up and causing £100 punctures.
The trigger for these thoughts is that after almost 30 years and 1,550 consecutive weeks without missing a Tweeddale Press issue this is my last Landlines.
Farming is not alone in moving on. Since the first Landlines on March 27, 1986, newspapers have been through their own staffing and technological revolution. The days of hot lead printing and linotype operators are as long gone as the acre-an-hour combine and 60hp tractor. Local newspapers as well as the nationals face intense competition from internet websites and social media we never dreamed of three decades ago. Finding a way ahead is not easy.
The first Landlines in long ago and far away 1986 was about spring work on the farm. Other early columns dealt with the benefits or otherwise of the European Union and farm subsidies, problems caused by tractors on public roads, the new-fangled combined cultivator/drills and how much they cost. There was reference to the stunning £100,000 latest combine. There were problems with maltsters at harvest time and tenancy disputes. Borders flooding claimed the life of Sourhope manager Robin Armstrong.
That’s right, spot the similarities. Thirty years on and many times in between I wrote about those or similar topics. Not forgetting the run-and-run stories about BSE in the 1990s and the horrible foot and mouth year of 2001. And, of course, the bugbear of my life, farmers’ endless fascination with showring judging and ludicrous prices paid for bulls and rams rather than trying to improve by recording actual performance.
That’s an example of how although so much has changed, much is rooted immovably in the farming psyche. But there is hope. The better farmers have always thought and planned ahead. That’s why we have seen so much change in the past 30 years, as the best have adapted to challenges and met them.
My best wishes to them for the next 30.