County Chair Blog - Lisa Edwards

There is one advantage to being over 50 and turning increasingly grey after six months of not being near a hairdresser and that is a significant reduction in low level harassment when out and about. Suddenly people see you in the same category as either their mother or their wife and as a result are less reluctant to shout or whistle at you when you walk past.

It certainly wasn’t the case when I was in my teens and twenties. From feeling my heart sink every time I had to walk past a large group of lads to someone approaching me whilst walking the dog on a track near home to make a suggestive comment (he quickly backed away when I shouted at him to F off) it has taken recent events to remind me of these things, amongst numerous other incidents, and more importantly start to discuss it with the rest of my family.

This has, in turn, led my sons to recount incidents when they’ve felt intimidated and whilst they’ve never had to vary their route to get a sandwich at lunchtime to avoid harassment from workers on a building site, it has meant we’ve all agreed any type of harassment of either sex is unacceptable and that, although it’s difficult to do, we should challenge friends if we see them participating in it.NFU Lancashire County Chairman Lisa Edwards_73693

Talk to your family about it and you might be surprised at just how common such incidents are, particularly for women, making them feel especially vulnerable when working alone on farms.

It’s wonderful to see spring breaking out across the farm and there’s always a sense of optimism about what the coming season will bring as the song of the skylark fills the sky and the call of the curlew echoes out over the moss.

As I write this article, my task for today is to fill out the census which makes you reflect even further about those who farmed here in the past and how agriculture has changed, not least in the numbers of people that worked and lived on the farm.

As we face a period of great change, with the reduction of payments and introduction of the new ELMs scheme, we seem to be stuck in a drip feed of information as to how the whole schemes will operate. This makes it incredibly difficult to plan forward.

It is a particular concern for those members who are tenants and face rent reviews yet have no idea what schemes will be appropriate to apply for and whether it will bring enough contribution to enable them to fulfil their rental obligations and continue to make a living.

It is very rare that a landlord or their agent will voluntarily offer a rent reduction, but it is something which will have to be considered if we are going to maintain a vibrant industry going forward.

The landlord/tenant relationship should be viewed as a partnership and it should not fall solely on the tenant to shoulder significant reductions in income as we undergo major changes in agricultural policy - not to mention the effects of climate change which are causing major weather events resulting in crop losses.

As financial advisers always tell you, investments may go down as well as up and now is the time for landlords and their agents to work with and talk to tenants to find viable solutions going forward, rather than assuming that rents should automatically always increase.

Finally, last year I wrote about how we had been clearing out debris and rubbish from an old marl pit to open up the pond and make it more attractive to wildlife. Having cleared the bank of nettles, brambles and more importantly Himalayan balsam which had ventured down the ditch from the nearby sewage works, I planted daffodils in the autumn and this week I spread a load of wildflower seed in the hope of attracting more insects to the area.

Somehow this feels slightly more satisfying than getting a field of beans planted and I can see we will be watching it very closely over the next six months in the hope that there’s an emerging splash of colour at the bottom of the paddock and a steady hum of insects and bees.

I can see this becoming addictive, and I’ve already started to eye up a patch of ground near the septic tank as another suitable candidate for ‘wild flowering’.