Our sixty years at Warnford from 1935 to 1995 saw extraordinary changes in the nature of farming. The photographs in this post date from the earliest and last years of our stewardship and really do justice to the phrase that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’.
When my father bought the farm in 1935 it had not been cultivated since the Crimean War. The sizeable pig operation that he built until the intervention of war, represented the high-water mark for employment and the number of employees then fell in every subsequent decade. A summary of the numbers employed from 1935 to 1995 (including those not directly engaged in the farming operation) are set out below the following photograph.
Number of people employed at Warnford:
1935 - 8 employees (when my father started farming at Warnford)
1940 - 72 employees (at the height of my father’s pig operation)
1956 - 45 employees (fifteen years after the closure of the pig operation)
1971 - 23 employees (at the time of signing The Warnford Charter)
1995 - 9 employees (when we left Warnford)
This decline was not just a matter of increased mechanisation. It also reflected national agricutural policy and the economic viability of different farming practices.
Arable crops were first grown at Warnford as a direct result of the improvements to soil fertility brought about by my father's pig operation. However, this early success could not ultimately mask the reality that the agricultural land at Warnford was mainly comprised of Grade 3 chalk downland heavily permeated with 'Hampshire diamonds' (flints!) which used to cost us thousands of pounds a year in repairs to plough shares and other equipment. The 1,000 acres of arable land we were farming at Warnford by 1995 was only one third of the 3,000 acres that would provide work for a single full-time employee.