Helping to form formidable team of Joneses down under

Gwyn Jones' Farm Diary
Gwyn Jones' Farm Diary

Absolutely amazing weather, with temperature of 24 degrees of warm sunshine in West Sussex at the end of last week.

The most lovely autumn days with the sun shining through the trees, splendid in their autumnal colours and as we venture into November it is still good. Every nice day from now on will shorten the winter, which can only be a good thing.

With £97 million being spent on a new supercomputer for the Met Office, some are saying that it is a waste of money as forecasting the weather more than two days ahead with any accuracy is impossible due to the chaotic nature of our atmosphere. Personally I find the weather forecast for farmers following ‘Countryfile’ on a Sunday night quite accurate.

As I write this my niece Alaw Jones is on her way to Australia, another Jones to add to the export business which I am building up! Alaw is off to Victoria to meet up with Frank Tyndall who has found her a job with one of his leading dairy farmers. She will soon be joined by her partner James Stent who will also be working on the same farm, and together will make a formidable team.

My grandson Jake is putting last years’ experience at Max Jelbart’s farm to good use, this year driving the largest tractors and combine harvesters you have ever seen as he gets stuck into harvest in Western Australia on Andrew Fowler’s farm near Esperance.

Andrew is a Nuffield Scholar and has a very large arable farm and harvest is just starting. Our daughter Elin who is now a native Australian with a passport and has a funny accent (!) is changing jobs and could be living in either Melbourne or Sydney depending on where she finds best employment. All in all quite a Jones settlement taking place and we are rather envious of them all facing another nice warm summer.

British strawberries are going to be available in December this year, following the warm weather and the use of poly-tunnels. We have already had the biggest crop on record (over 60 tonnes picked) which is 8% up on last year.

Not long ago strawberries were a rare treat in time for Wimbledon fortnight, but this year after investment in new varieties and amazing weather, the season started seven weeks earlier than usual and has continued to last an incredible 38 weeks.

New research has found that consumers are choosing to buy more dairy products as a healthy addition to their diets. Reading University has revealed that dairy makes a significant contribution to nutrient intake and that consumer’s associate dairy with healthier eating patterns at its recent Conference. Although confidence in the industry is high, there are still those few who worry about perceived high fat content and cholesterol levels and buy less dairy products than they otherwise would.

However, the problems with falling prices saw both British dairy farmers and Irish beef farmers protesting and blockading again last week. Whilst Farmers for Action (FFA) blockaded a processing plant accused of importing Irish cheese and possibly not being entirely clear of where it ends up and accurate labelling, their Irish counterparts shut down meat factories for 24 hours, protesting at the differential between British and Irish meat prices; their complaint being that they supply our market but receive 80 pence a kilo less for their meat.

Those who object to ‘Fracking’ (and there are a few), will be relieved that falling oil prices are threatening to stall the energy boom in the USA, where the costs of fracking could become uneconomic.

America is now the largest oil and natural gas liquids producer, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia, as fracking shale rock has increased the output massively. It is suggested that at $75 a barrel and below, many of these shale projects will become uneconomic, and oil is now down to $80 dollars per barrel which means that many will start cutting capital budgets. Others however claim that there is little oil which could be profitably pumped at $50 dollars a barrel and that USA fracking can also operate at that point or near to it.

Recent research has found that the Brits, the Americans and the French are grumpy; in fact genetically predisposed to be that way! The problem seems to be in the gene which regulates the ‘feel-good factor’ chemical in the brain; serotonin. However the Danes in particular but also the Dutch seem to be overdosing on serotonin, feeling optimistic and cheerful which is quite the opposite to the French who are apparently the most miserable.

Earning a fortune, basking in sunshine and living to an old age makes no difference according to Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University, and the immigrants took their genes with them to the USA and elsewhere and are as happy or miserable there as they were in their own country.

As an avid user of ‘highlighters’, I was sad to see the death of German businessman Gunter Schwanhausser last week. He manufactured the well-known wedge-shaped brand ‘Stabilo boss’ highlighter in Germany, going on to sell over two billion of them worldwide.

Born in 1928, the eldest of three children, Gunter lost his mother when he was young and found himself serving in as a boy soldier in the German army. Seventeen years old when sent to fight in Italy, he was taken prisoner of war by the British near Trieste and never forgot the civilised way he was treated as a prisoner-of-war. He repaid this by becoming an honorary consul for Northern Bavaria, an unpaid role for nine years, recognised with an OBE in 1995.

After the war he studied agriculture before joining the family firm and years later in his retirement he bought some land and forestry in Croatia, where he indulged his passion for farming, hunting and horse riding (he had competed at show-jumping as a young man).

He also supported many charities and spent much time doing voluntary work, awarded Germany’s Cross of Merit for his efforts. He was very pleased when his highlighters did so well in France, that they have entered the French language as the generic name for highlighter; ‘stabiloter’, when he had in fact been confidently told by French commentators many years ago that his highlighters would never succeed in France.