Earlier this year, I helped a friend exhibit at a trade show, although ask anyone at the office and I was off sick. Normally I would be a little nervous about pulling a fast one for fear of bumping into a colleague and having to explain how the flu had miraculously disappeared within hours of calling in and sounding like Darth Vader (an effect achieved by swallowing a concoction of vinegar and pepper, incidentally). This time I was quietly confident no such excuses would be needed — it was a show called 'Cereals' and it took place in
a field in the middle of nowhere. Literally, one square mile containing 27,000 farmers and that's it.
This was like no IT or AV event I have ever been to. The dress code ranged from rustic chic with tweed and flat caps to what could only be described as the 'homeless' look. As the name would suggest, it was targeting arable farmers.
As a petrolhead, I felt nothing but envy for this profession. Some of the machines these guys have access to are simply stunning; vast leviathans
of immense torque and thunderous power.
They have something called a 'Challenger',
a tractor with over 500 horse power, not
to mention the 'Quadtrac', which has
a hinge in the middle, four tank-tracks and over 600 horse power. The most exciting contraption I use on a daily basis is my smartphone and, although it has a calendar and a clock, it doesn't really compare.
Fleetingly, I considered buying some tweed, swapping the Subaru for a Nissan Navarra (the pick-up of choice it appears), and organising to inherit somewhere with fields and limited sanitation. However,
post Cereals, I have reconsidered — and for reasons I least expected. Farming nowadays is blooming complicated.
I design computer systems for a living and I can honestly
say it is easier than growing porridge or Sugar Puffs. It's a whole new language — what we know as cornflakes is called 'maize'; 'planting' is called 'drilling'; a rake is a 'harrow';
a plough can be a 'sub-soiler' — the list goes on.
I presumed farmers bunged seeds in the ground and then picked Shreddies that summer. Not so. First, they have to
use a 'sub-soiler' to remove the 'pan' created by ploughing. Next, they do something called 'min-till' before 'drilling' their preferred wheat (there are hundreds of types, apparently). Then they need to compact, spray, harvest, and 'min-till' again to stop secondary growth. It is an unremitting process — and
it leaves very little time to moan about diesel prices or marry a cousin.
I realise it's almost traditional for a certain kind of city slicker to have a bit of a breakdown and become a sheep farmer, but after this experience,
I implore you to try and avoid such episodes. A life circling the globe in a pinstripe is a holiday by comparison and, I can assure you, the money in our world is rather better too.
Our entrepreneurial correspondent travels the world in search of business, soft beds and good breakfasts.
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