John, Helen & Darren East Okement Farm, Okehampton, Dartmoor
John: Spring is nice. It’s the best time, because your grass is growing and there are bunches of snowdrops coming through. The weather could be as rough as anything and that snowdrop could be rocking in the wind, but then you get the daffodils coming up one by one and you think, “Yeah, we’re getting there!” Summer’s good. But I can’t stick the heat, so as long as it doesn’t get too hot, I’m happy. Autumns nice too, because you’re selling your stock and you’re getting your stock ready for the onset of winter. This is one of the highest working farms in the country. There are a couple in Yorkshire as high or higher. I’ve never known anything different, that’s the thing. I was born up here. My parents were living here when I was born and now my daughters here. We have offspring to carry the business forward. You love to think that your kids will carry it on. You know, I was brought up on the farm, my kids were brought up on the farm and now my grandkids are being brought up on the farm. It’s the most brilliant place to grow up. Yeah there are dangers but it just sharpens your senses a bit! I can remember when I was four, might have been five, mother had some eggs hatching down in the shed and I went down there and she’d taken the hen out and put it in a little cage on its own with the first couple of chicks and I sat there and watched the chicks chipping out of the eggs. In my mind, all kids ought to be able to see that. Last Spring when my grandson Josh was 6, he lambed 3 ewes. You know I made sure everything was all correct, and then he put his hand in and I said, “What can you feel? A nose? Can you feel feet?” And he said, “Yeah I can feel two feet!” So I said, “Well grab hold of them and pull.” Darren: I grew up in town, so this is foreign to me really. But I would have loved to have grown up in this like my children are. Up here, they can just walk out and go wherever they like and you know they’re safe. I’m all for the next generation. The way the World’s changing at the moment at an ever increasing rate, you want young ideas because, you know, my ideas are outdated already! You’ve got to be accepting of new ideas and change. Some old farmers are in their 80s and they’re bloody stubborn, won’t let go and they’ve lost all track of how the World has changed. But not everything’s changed. We’ve got 10 dogs here. They range from good to fucking useless. Darren: Yeah, I’ve got three. Can’t do our job without a dog. John: A quad bike we can manage without that. It might make you a bit puffed but can’t manage without a dog. Farmers tend to get a little bit of bad press, more than they deserve, well some of them deserve it yes, but the overriding majority of farmers are genuine hard working people who have got a lot of respect for the environment, but we’re underestimated. As a farmer you have to be a bit of a jack of all trades. You’ve got be able to bodge a bit of machinery, in order to be able to get home. You’ve got to be able to wrestle a cow off you that’s trying to kill you. Then you’ve got to be half a vet. But I think the one main thing we’re underestimated for is this; there are two main building blocks for life, food and water. Water falls out the sky and farmers produce the food. 40 days without food and the human race is finished. So when people out there are giving the farmers a kicking, they’ve got to realise that if they kick them to death then they’ve only got another 39 days to live! When times get hard and food gets short, you aren’t ever going to see an anorexic farmer. Another thing with famers. People get up behind a bloody old farmer in the tractor on the road. But, when you see three foot of snow, or five foot of flood water, and all the reports on the news, somewhere there, you’ll see this bloody old farmer and his tractor going out and rescuing someone or towing someone out or delivering a bit of food, it’s only then that people appreciate that old farmer.
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