Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Secrets Worth Keeping

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Secrets Worth Keeping

Article excerpt

Byline: By Bill Weeks

Despite all the chaos surrounding the continued non-payment of the Single Farm Payment there is one item of good news which, I trust, will provide a good economic opportunity for our prime cattle producers.

And that's the lifting of export restrictions on cattle to the Continent.

OK, there will be red tape and interference from those poor misguided animal liberationists but at least the profitable export opportunities are there.

And with export opportunities now a reality, we will surely see a resumption of overseas visitors and potential buyers coming to the country ( and to the North-East ( to see how the job is so magnificently managed.

Mind you, I'm now just a trifle canny in showing off our production techniques to others, particularly if they could become potential, lower-cost competitors. However, when I used to organise the conferences and food and farming visits at Newcastle University, I possibly wasn't quite so wary and this brings to mind of a fairly high-up Japanese agriculturalist who visited the university a few years ago.

I was deputed to take him around and show him what was what in our highly efficient Northern farming and food scene.

So to start off I thought a visit to two of our highly competitive co-operative grain dying, storing and selling operatives would be useful. Piercebridge in South Durham and North Northumberland were our ports of call and this Japanese visitor was a real canny sort of lad, with never ceasing camera clicking. And he never missed a fact or figure ( it all went down on film, tape or notebook.

But one thing that did surprise me was that while I considered our farms to be very efficient ( with the average size some 75 acres, I was told that the average Japanese farm was only about one acre, with rice being the principal cereal.

What I didn't realise was that the Japanese relied so much on farmed fish of the carp variety, on their farmed plots.

Rabbits and chickens were also kept on the Japanese farm for high days and holidays. After a coffee I took our visitor to see a great pal of mine, Joe Stobbs of Killerby, to learn something about pedigree seed barley production and to have a look around Joe's fantastic, well-tended, vegetable gardens. …

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