Nearly 47 years ago, when we first came to live here, there were vineyards everywhere. Most small farms grew enough grapes to make about 2000 litres of wine per annum; exclusively for their own consumption. We saw new vineyards planted, and ancient ones pulled-out. Vines were as essential to a farm as Cows, Pigs, Chickens, or Ducks.
Then all changed about 30 years ago. Almost as one, all our local farmers stopped their wine-production, grubbed-up their vines, and an important part of local culture/gastronomy instantly disappeared.
In the small painting above, our cottage can just be seen towards the top on the left. We looked out onto a distant vineyard, where every year we'd help with the harvest. Now, of course, all has gone.
I always have a glass or two of red wine with my supper, as do most households, so I really don't understand why they stopped producing their own. Having said that, there are no Cows, Pigs, Chickens, or Ducks on the farms either. No-one produces milk, and the only crops you'll see are Maize, Sunflowers, and Chestnuts. Much land is now left unproductive.
No doubt the EU is to blame for the change. It may look OK in some big Brussels accountancy book, but it's played havoc with rural society.
p.s. I shall be making wine myself this year; more anon.
In the late 1980s early 90s the EEC, now the EU, tackled what they said was over production of wine. They introduced the grubbing up scheme and paid farmers to destroy vineyards and stop production. This was when the vineyards around you disappeared.ReplyDelete
I was wondering if money was involved! We know a local villager who is growing fields of Brambles, and is receiving an EU grant NOT to use herbicides. I often wonder if these EU Bureaucrats have ever visited the countryside!Delete
We had piles of EU Directives. It was difficult to keep up with them. The Stewardship Directives contained many barmy things.Delete
They did the same with the milk cap or quota when many of the small dairy herds disappeared, including ours.Delete
The final nail in the coffin for those who did not get out at the introduction of quotas was the abolition of the MMB in 1993 and the rise of the supermarket as milk buyers.Delete
In the days of the Quotas, I had a friend who was pouring milk down the drain. I suggested he made soft cheese or something similar with his excess. He said he couldn't, then his neighbour did exactly that, and did very well.Delete
Sounds familiar, the same happened in UK. the days of the traditional mixed family farm are numbered, vast acreages are now given over to a single crop, often attended to by 1 man and a lot of big machines.ReplyDelete
It's changed the whole demographic of the rural areas.
In the time I've lived here, so much has changed; and not for the better. Of course, they worked much harder before, but they all seemed happier and more gregarious as well.Delete
Even on the margins of agriculture here on Lewis everything has changed but, for once perhaps, I think, not because of the EU. In 1975 most crofters kept sheep, hens and many kept a milking cow as well. Potatoes and brassicas were grown and peats were cut for fuel. Many crofters were also part time fishermen and Harris Tweed weavers (over 2000 people were employed in the Harris Tweed industry). It was hard work and the bottom dropped out of the sheep and wool markets. Women started to go out to work more and weren't willing to look after the hens and cow as well as the house and family. Peats were no longer cut as people changed to central heating in their new houses. Now there are relatively few working crofts on Lewis and society has changed as the need for communal work (for example bringing sheep in off the hills for the winter) has gone. Life is undoubtedly easier. But whether it is richer is open for debate.ReplyDelete
Different crops, but similar result to here. I hate to see fields simply mowed one or two times a year; not for hay (no need), but simply to keep down the weeds. I used to love the diversification of farming, but it's now mostly gone.Delete
The stay at home farmers working the fields and being self supporting are no more. In Portugal peasant farmers cleared the land of scrub and grew vines. Then their children moved to the cities and the land went wild. So called progress but all very sad. Then I read of people in England having waiting lists to rent allotments. I believe in Europe but its only ever helped the big farmer.ReplyDelete
And on their allotments they also keep a few Hens; something most farmers would now never do.Delete
Small mixed farms disappeared in West Wales too. In addition to all the directives, we have practical issues - the lie of the land here makes creating large, efficient fields difficult, and narrow lanes made access for large machinery like huge combines impossible.ReplyDelete
One of my uncles gave up because milk tankers could not turn into the lane, and he wasn't allowed to widen it. Churns had been taken up the lane and left on stands - no longer. A neighbour had to re-build a bridge in his lane to make it wide enough for the tankers. The milk now stays in refrigerated tanks on the farm (more heavy investment) until larger and larger tankers collect every few days.
And this is in a country where it is possible to leave a farm to just one of your children - not the case in France, I understand.
Many, many issues behind the death of small farms!
We used to get eggs from a welsh farmer direct. Then one day mum said What's This? We all looked and noticed the eggs were stamped with little lions. I asked about that said dad, and it turns out they now have to send the eggs to Liverpool for them to be stamped and sent back to Wales. Why do they stamp them, I asked (I was only a nipper at the time). To prove that they are fresh, someone said. And we all laughed. But they weren't as fresh as the eggs we had before.Delete
Succession laws in France make it impossible to disinherit any one person, so farms end-up being owned by all sorts of uninterested people, all over the country. It's a terrible mess. As for the milk collection, it is far better these days for dairy farmers to make Yoghurt or Cheese etc, but investment in kit is expensive; and the regulations are very strict. OK if one is doing it on a big scale; otherwise not!Delete
Gwil. Stamping eggs for small producers is quite a recent thing here. I did notice that some eggs I bought recently at a large supermarket were all UNSTAMPED.Delete
That's interesting about succession laws in France. It's basically the same in Austria. There's a complicated formula for working out who gets what % of your worldly goods when you pop your clogs. And you thought you could give what's yours to whomsoever you would, ha ha ha. Your relatives that you haven't seen or heard from for donkeys years - they'll have their share too. Kafkaland.Delete
Don't forget that back in the UK, even if you leave a very specific will, it can be overturned by the courts; which makes a mockery of the whole process!Delete
and yet when in NZ we've seen more and more vineyards being planted, sometimes surplanting top and soft fruit, other places stock. No monoculture is good, whatever the cropReplyDelete
In the UK too, and they're producing some prize-winning wines!Delete
Here in the area there are more and more small wine wineries, forty years ago very few have drank wine here, now it is very common, the whole area has been called the way of wine in recent years.ReplyDelete
It's a reasonably high return crop, so why not! And wine is good for you too.Delete
EU agriculture is based on monoculture madness. They don't like small hill farmers doing their thing with 6 cows, 2 pigs and a goat, in a remote valley or on the steep slopes of an Alp. Factory animals all the same size and shape and fed on gm soya from Brazil. Millions of animals never see the light of day or even a human being in their conveyer belt existence. Their meat is sold for 2.95 euro a kilo.ReplyDelete
From eggs to plastic wrapped identical exact weight and shape chicken portions and all done by machine. Not a human soul in sight. In some factories green illumination. Supposed to keep animals calm when they smell blood.Delete
I like the painting Cro. Did you do it?
Yes, it's quite an old painting.Delete
Small peasant farms are obviously inefficient compared to large 'prairie farms', but they preserved a way of life. Once that way of life has gone, so much else goes with it. People here often look depressed.
Thank you Cro. As I said it's a nice painting and it fits to the times - climate change etc.. It reminds me of Steinbeck. Grapes of Wrath I think.Delete
EU is determined to break that small farm, small mentality as they see it, way of life. It's their raison d'etre. It's probably why the ECB here called EZB was created.
Gwil.... When I saw the painting I thought Grapes of Wrath also.Delete
It is a different world and change is inevitable. Farms, owned by families for generations, are being sold off here to developers because the younger generation want a different life and the land is very valuable. What farming is done is for cash crops, corn and soybeans, and that is owned by investors who don’t care what pesticides they use. However, what I am seeing is that more and more people, who have never gardened before, have small raised beds of vegetables, or belong to a co-op and share in the food.ReplyDelete
I love your painting, Cro.
I much preferred it how it was 47 years ago. There was a true communal spirit; everyone helped everyone else, and life was good. Now everyone seems to be at each other's throats.Delete
I think the face of farming is changing everywhere Cro and it is very sad> trouble is there is no money to be made in it.ReplyDelete
I suspect that here we'll end-up looking like Sussex/Surrey, where most fields contain ponies.Delete
Cro, one of our neighbors has the most beautifully kept grapevines. I'll have to ask his permission to take a picture and share it on my blog. Of course, we can only grow the scuppernong and muscadine grapes in this swampy, humid environment because they're half wild. But they're tasty and make a nice (very sweet) wine and fantastic jelly.ReplyDelete
I've quite a healthy crop of grapes again this year; all except for my new eating grape, the Black Hamburg. It started the year looking fantastic, and has ended with just one bunch of grapes!Delete
I remember Weaver posting about the lost of all the old eating apples. The farms were not big enough o the EU taxed them I can't quite remember but how sad.ReplyDelete
The UK lost huge acreages of Apples in recent times, and English apples are some of the best. Terrible shame.Delete
Was that back when there was the 'wine lake' and the 'butter mountain'? But it shouldn't have affected those who grew wine grapes for their own consumption.ReplyDelete
If there was money on offer to get out then people would take it whatever. Suddenly their grapes would all have been a commercial crop.Delete
We had a cousin with a vineyard (Cote de Castillon) who was paid by the EU NOT to pick his grapes. Instead he sold them to his neighbour; making twice his usual income!Delete
Live anywhere long enough and you probably will see drastic change. I spent thirty years in one suburb and watched it change from rural to a city. Now, thirty plus years in another rural area, and it has grown into the intersection of three large cities.ReplyDelete
Over the time I've spent living here, it's almost as if it's become a different area altogether.Delete