Saturday 29 December 2018

Land of Plenty - Charlie Pye-Smith

Golden fields, ripening apples, lowing cattle: our idea of the landscape has been shaped by agriculture, as has the land itself. But in a fast-changing world, how does the great British countryside continue to provide the food we eat?

Most people living in Britain today must go back several generations before they find an ancestor who worked on the land. How much do we really know about those who are supplying us with the most essential things in life: our daily bread and butter, meat and fish, fruit and vegetables?

In Land of Plenty Charlie Pye-Smith travels the length and breadth of these isles to explore the little-understood world of British agriculture. From ultramodern indoor dairy units producing millions of litres of milk a year to small, old-fashioned farms making cheese with twenty or thirty cows, and from landowners whose families have farmed the same fields for centuries to tenants who have just joined the industry, Pye-Smith investigates the timeless connection between land and people in the twenty-first century.

Revealing the dairy industry in Somerset and Gloucestershire; beef in the Scottish Borders; sheep in North Yorkshire; pigs and poultry in East Anglia and Hampshire; vegetables in Norfolk; and fruit in Essex and the West Country, Land of Plenty is a colourful and rewarding travelogue that gets to the very heart of modern British life.

What did I think?

I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did; it is so informative and interesting with clearly defined chapters focused on particular aspects of farming.  When I picked up Land of Plenty, I didn't know a lot about farming but I certainly know a bit more now!

I was reading Land of Plenty when I went on a trip to the Ouseburn Valley and the guide made a comment about animals from the far east being brought to graze on the banks of the Ouseburn before being sent to slaughter, like it was a little health farm for them.  Thanks to Charlie Pye-Smith I knew why the farmers did this...I'm not going to tell you as it will spoil the amazement you will experience when reading it for yourself.

As a long time vegetarian, I did shudder at the passages on slaughter for the Halal and Kosher markets but found that farmers also found this barbaric and shocking.  Farmers may slaughter animals too but they care about their stock and aim to be as humane as possible.  I actually enjoyed reading about the cows and there's even a photo of four cows awaiting slaughter, which made me smile with its similarity to any four girlfriends gathering together for a group photo.

Land of Plenty is very current with references to Brexit and what it means for UK farmers; perhaps not the doom and gloom that we are told in the news but rather that farmers must become better at what they do with improved quality being passed to the consumers along with closer links to the public as farmers open up their arms to embrace exciting entrepreneurial activities.

A book about UK farming is not complete without mentioning the foot and mouth horror of 2001, which I remember quite clearly.  It was so refreshing to see how some farmers coped with this by looking for alternative means of survival of their farm rather than closing up shop after the death of their herd.

Although I'm a beer drinker, I also really enjoyed the chapter about cider.  From beef to cider, you can see that this book really encompasses every single aspect of farming that you can imagine.  Each chapter is filled with interesting facts and personal stories that add to the human interest and give a wonderful insight into the life of a UK farm.

Concise and informative, Land of Plenty is a surprisingly riveting read and one of the best non-fiction books I have read for a long time.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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