As someone who grew up devouring any books I could get my hands on, until a few years ago, I’d always been disappointed by the lack of accessible farming-related literature.
Throughout my life, if I’ve wanted to know about something, I’ve always bought a book about it. As such, my collection of sheep books is pretty expansive! However, I always struggled to find books about people who were actually farming. My shelves are filled with books about all kinds of people, men, women, children, doing all kinds of different things, but the closest I could get to farming was James Herriot (not that his tales weren’t a fantastic representation of the chaos of farming!)
Then came people like Amanda Owen, Gareth Wyn Jones, James Rebanks writing about their lives and their experiences. So for someone who didn’t grow up on a farm, this was like gold dust. I got to sit and read about everything I wanted to do, appreciate the many different perspectives, learn about hill farming, and really enjoy the stories told by these people.
As important as these books have been to me, I think they’re even more important to those that have no connection to agriculture whatsoever. Amanda’s first book, The Yorkshire Shepherdess, was a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller. James’ book, The Shepherd’s Life, was a Sunday Times #1 Bestseller. It’s not just eager-to-learn young farmers reading these books. It’s the general public, and I think that’s absolutely priceless in terms of getting British farming out there, and explaining to people what we do, how hard we work, and how brilliant, and difficult, it can sometimes be.
Over the past decade or so, as supermarkets have developed and support for local butchers has dwindled, there’s become a sense of disconnection between farmer and consumer. Neither side is sure what exactly the other wants. Books that tell farmers’ stories and give an insight into their lives and the industry can surely be nothing but good for the promotion of British agriculture?
There’s now a variety of farming memoirs and autobiographies on Amazon’s cyber-shelves, and I’m excited to see how this renewed age of farming literature develops, with farmers writing and the general public reading. The support for British agriculture lies in many different forms, but if we can start to educate the public through literature, and gain support for what we do through being honest and open, telling our stories, and describing traditions, people and farming practices that had previously been kept within rural communities, then perhaps that will ignite the interest and support of more members of the public?
Cheshire based new entrant Georgina blogs at comebyblog.wordpress.com