the rows of sugar beet. 'See, there'd be ten or a dozen of us, I suppose, and you used to take an acre each. That was piecework. That might be  twenty rows an acre. Well, you'd all be roughly in line and you'd talk and laugh to each other as you went- not too much though, 'cos you were trying to get more money'. 
He slowly worked his way through most branches of farming.
'If we were thrashing we used to be the chaff boys, you know bagging the chaff up - and a mucky bloody job that was too, but we used to do it. Then you'd progress to straw stack and then you'd go up from there on to corn stack. I suppose people probably left, retired or died. I finished up driving the lorry and tractor'.
'I suppose, the best time was Harvest, that's what I enjoyed most, but then you enjoyed it all. Everything was seasonable then - you had your hoeing, your haymaking, your harvest and then your muck cart - that's collecting the muck from out of the yards and spreading it over the land'.
When the Bateman's retired in 1962 John hired some land from them and started farming for himself.
'It was a bit of a risk but it worked. The first animals I had cost me 17 each - Friesian bull calves. Once you started with animals you got to really like them. You see an animal can talk to you. I'd go down to in the morning and I'd shout to those animals to come and get their food and they'll start shouting back  - I didn't know what they said of course - but they knew you were there and told you they were coming. You can swear at them some times and at other times you can tell them that they've been good chaps. You

can stand and talk to an animal where you can't take any notice of a field of corn or a field of sugar beet. That's dead'.
'When I started farming it wasn't a bad living. But now that's terrible. When I finished farming in 1994, you'd be selling corn off the combine for about 110 per ton - and that was 8 years ago. Well, now they're only getting about 60/65 aren't they?' 
'I read in the Eastern Daily the other day a farmer gets about 9p a pint of milk. What is it to buy? 39p or 40p ? That's too big a difference for one little pint. And meat is exactly the same; bread is the same; everything the farmer produces is the same. Farmers are the one lot of people in the country who don't know what they're going to get left for themselves at the end of the day. When they sell their produce they have to take what they're offered.

They can't do nothing about it. Well, they just can't manage now can they?'
'I loved my work until the last year or two - then I had aches and pains and that was not good, so I stopped. I'm quite happy with my life - what I've done. I can be reasonably proud I think. I've got my house. I've still got one piece of land that brings me my bread and butter - about 2p a week! And I've had some really good friends'.
Anything you'd like to do?
'You know I think this is a ridiculous statement to make, but that would be nice to be able to sit and talk to my father once now and then. And my father's been dead over 25 years now hasn't he? And you can't do nothing about that can you?'

Toni Arthur-Hay

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