90-year-old David Black has reflected on a lifetime in the agricultural industry in his new autobiography, Born to Farm, which carries the theme of lifelong learning.
In the book, he sheds light on notable changes that have taken place in farming over the past nine decades, as he sees through his eyes as one of the participants.
His enthusiasm and quest for knowledge, ingenuity, and practical skills, collectively, have enabled him to keep abreast of changes in the wider world while building up the family farming enterprise in Suffolk in the UK.
He tells of his memories of the 1930s and of his school days, which evoke a bygone era in the countryside and on the farm.
He describes opportunities for learning and travel through the Young Farmers’ Club, for example, with humour, and he provides an insight into farming both in the UK and the USA during the 1950s.
Back on Red House Farm, Black deals with everyday challenges as he progresses from dogsbody to decision-maker.
Problem-solving is part of a farmer’s life, and no aspect of the business escapes his steady hand and scrutiny, as he explained.
Gradually the huge variety of crops grown is streamlined but not before we have learned about harnessing horses and draining the land, about virus-free strawberry plants and fields of tulips and peonies, of cocksfoot and fescue.
Pigs are an important aspect of the family business, and the evolution of suitable feed mixes, pig housing, breeding, and outdoor rearing, integrated with cereal production and milling on the farm, makes for what some reviewers have described as “compelling reading”.
He covers changes to field sizes and to farm buildings and providing housing for farm workers, with many interesting anecdotes.
Moreover, he makes the value of sharing knowledge and co-operation with other farmers – both formally and informally –apparent.
He is full of admiration for the contributions of others but modest about his own considerable achievements.
Hard work, encouragement of others, and a ‘can do’ attitude summarise his approach.
He explores family life, and glimpses into village life which provide an “interesting” social history of the period.
Working alongside family members has its own rewards and challenges.
The journey has begun along the path to secure a way forward for future generations.
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