Yes, Prime Minister, if you’ll just walk this way please. I’m glad to see that your advisers made sure they bought you a pair of wellingtons especially for this trip. Oh? Wellington has been airbrushed from history because of his links with Slavery? Or Ireland? Whatever, just put them on.
The purpose of taking you round this comparatively ordinary dairy farm is to let you see what really happens here on a modern farm in 2050. Obviously as you’ve come up through the Environmental Movement you’ll know the theory. Oh, it’s just, ‘The Movement’ now. Sorry, we are a little out of touch here. But anyway your advisers thought it would be useful for you to know what really happens lest you do something to screw the system by accident. After all we don’t want more people going hungry.
When you look around you’ll see we’re quite a large dairy farm, one of the largest. We have a hundred cows and over a hundred and fifty staff. Each worker has one cow to look after. In winter, in the grazing season, they will accompany their cow as she grazes, in summer, they fetch her cut grass from store and fan her to keep her cool and keep away flies.
Where do all these people come from? Well they just walk here every morning, it’s only four miles from town. Oh, what did they do before they were in agriculture? A mixture of things really. We have people who lost their jobs with the collapse of the tourist industry, catering and hospitality, and the town centre retail trade. We have people who used to work in the distribution warehouses for the collapsed on-line retailers. Then there are people whose jobs were no longer necessary when the Movement took the necessary steps to reduce our carbon footprint. So we’ve several ex-journalists. There’s quite a few lawyers and accountants, several sheet metal workers and a lot of people who were in construction.
How do we pay all these people? A good question. The economics are quite simple. As you know, everybody nowadays gets the universal basic income. Seven kilos of kibble bars per head per week and a Netflix subscription. Working for us allows them some little luxuries. Each employee of ours will get three kilos of cheese a week. Even if they don’t like it, it allows them to enter the barter economy. But there are other perquisites. As we walk down to the farm, you’ll see that each side of the track there are a series of little plots, each about two meters by two meters? Each of our employees has one of these which they can cultivate. Here you’ll see somebody is growing Scots bonnet chillies. Yes, they’re quite a successful crop, I believe she does nicely selling them on the black market. People like to add them to the porridge they make by boiling up a kibble bar in water.
Another of our people has quite a nice opium poppy crop, I do think they make the area look quite attractive.
Yes, our people are enterprising. May I introduce you to Anna here. As you’ll see, she’s wearing ten of the new, Movement issued, fitbits. It was very enlightened of the Movement to proclaim that in an attempt to fight obesity and the illnesses caused by sitting around just watching Netflix, they’d issue fitbits. Promising to pay a bonus ration of fresh fruit and vegetables to those who do more than 10,000 steps was genuinely inspired. As it is, our people have been very busy. Everybody here is paid by friends and neighbours to wear their fitbit for them. Thus everybody wins.
How are they paid? Oh the usual, Prime Minister, barter, black market goods, sexual favours.
Anyway, we’re now at the farmstead proper. Because it’s the end of summer most of the cows and their handlers are out grazing. You might have passed several of them on your way here, we keep the grass down not merely on the verges but on the middle of the road as well. Because only officers of the Movement have access to cars it works pretty well.
As you can see, the cows are milked wherever is convenient and the bucket of milk is carried into here and poured through the cooler. Because it’s summer there isn’t as much water in the stream as usual, so it takes longer to cool the milk. So we make summer cheese and winter cheese with slightly different flavours. Here is the cheese room. Our cheese room team are working on one of our last batches of summer cheese. This will mature in our underground cool room, and then when it’s ready our distribution team will distribute it. It’s already wrapped in half kilo blocks, and we’ll take it into town. Actually our staff rather like that part of the job. They can sell any manure the horse produces on the trip.
As for distribution, as you probably know, anybody who has earned a virtuous worker token gets given a block of cheese. We collect the tokens and send them back to the Movement Headquarters. The feeling amongst our staff is that these tokens are miniature works of art. The Green logo from the old days of the Movement is most pleasingly depicted. As, might I say, is the scene of the tourist being hanged for her carbon footprint.
Meat? Now this is a tricky one. Since the introduction of compulsory vegetarianism, all male calves are sent to a Movement controlled fattening unit. You’ll be taken to that next. There they’re fattened and killed and the meat is supplied only to members of the Movement. They are the only people who can be trusted to eat it with the proper expressions of moral disapproval. Old cows? It has to be confessed in this matter we’re a little unconventional. They’re slaughtered here, and we produce stew which we serve to our staff. We did try sending them home with it, but there were endless problems with neighbours reporting them to the Purity Marshalls. It’s easier if they just bring their families here and we eat together.
Ah and here we have a delivery of cattle feed. Just step to one side please, Prime Minister, let the horses pull the dray round. Since the embarrassing discovery that repeatedly ploughing ground released more carbon than keeping it as grassland, the grain necessary for the population has been produced in the east, using no-till. Arable agriculture has been kept to an absolute minimum. Apparently these arable farms have special cultivators drawn by scores of oxen. I hope one day to see them. But as I was saying they grow the grain and the beans for the general population. A proportion of the better grains are kept for the work horses, whilst the poorer stuff, considered unfit for people, is sent either to us for cattle feed, or it goes to the environmental offenders labouring on the huge recycling lines in the re-education camps.
Each cow will get a varying amount of these nuts, depending on her stage of lactation, the quality of forage in her diet, and whether the bureaucrats working in the Movement’s central distribution office remember to send us some or not.
The ragged figures huddled under the hedge, Prime Minister? Oh, they’re part of our diversified enterprise. They’re the hedge wardens. Because of the major reforms the Movement brought in, we had no need for vast swathes of the civil service, so HMRC, DWP, Defra etc were all closed down and the bureaucrats working for them were repurposed. Most of them were re-employed as hedge wardens. A coffle of them were marched out here some years ago and set to work under a supervisor. They go round trimming the hedges, filling in gaps and planting and weeding. They’ve improvised a shelter out of branches and an old tarpaulin they found. They live there quite happily, winter and summer. They’re quite a fascinating group, I’ve watched them for hours through binoculars as they cook their kibble porridge over an open fire and season it with fruit, nuts, herbs, mushrooms and small animals they’ve caught. Don’t go too close, some of them can kill a rat with a thrown billhook at forty yards.
Oh yes, if we walk across here and watch from this vantage point, you’ll see the night soil carts arriving. We’re up-wind so it’s not too bad. Thanks to the closing of the urban sewers and the regulations insisting everybody moved back to dry closets, we now recycle one hundred percent of all our night soil.
Why are they pulling the carts themselves? This is a punishment detail. All of them are members of the Movement who disagreed with the motion you put forward at the Movement’s last conference. As you most rightly say Prime Minister, “A wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Yes, I did read somewhere that you’d studied Classics with Media Studies for your degree. But back to our night soil. See how they leave it in small heaps, a shovel full every few yards. Once they’ve emptied the cart they’ll come back with rakes and spread it properly. I agree entirely, Prime Minister, it’s all they’re fit for. As an aside, isn’t the tall one wearing the broken spectacles with only one lens your predecessor?
There again, what do I know. You really need to speak to the experts!
More tales from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England, with sheep, Border Collies, cattle, and many other interesting individuals. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is just one of those things.
As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”