December 2016 Print E-mail
Farming Yesterday  and Today
In our last article, we mentioned our plans to have a farming themed open day in the village
hall in the spring. We very much hope that the wealth of material gleaned from The Vine event,
held in November will form part of that. If you were unable to come — then there is still time to
contact the History Group. Perhaps you have some interesting farming memorabilia or possibly even a small item of mystery equipment that We can chew over.
As you all know John and Lis Harnett live in the village. They have generously shared their memories and their time with me and I could listen to them all day. John's farming links go back to his father Bert who moved with his uncle to Teglease Farm at Chidden in 1923. There they worked with the Blackman family, as tenant farmers to Lady Peel at Leydene. Following a short spell away in Buckinghamshire in the 1930's they came back to Denmead where John was born (in 1938).
The family bought a milk round in 1941 and based themselves in Chidden. (John remembers
beingj ust 5 years old when he walked to the village school, with his friends from Chidden,
every day and then back home again.) At about this time Bert acquired the tenancy
of Bury Lodge Farm which enabled him to boost the milk production for his round. He also added
a quantity of poultry and pigs to his enterprise at this point.

From 1947 until 1952 the family lived in Menslands Lane before returning to Chidden in
1953 to take on the tenancy there. In 1955 the Harnetts sold their 800 pints a day
milk round to Jim Clay. It is such a shame that Stella Peters and Betty Hall are no longer with us
— because they would have some wonderful memories. Indeed Stella is pictured here with Reg
Blackman, by the delivery van, outside Chidden Farm Cottage (Where the Crews live today).
Mind you Betty Parvin is a very live wire and we hope that she will come with her husband to share her farming experiences in the spring.
By the early 1960's Bert was managing 240 acres at Chidden and 95 acres at Bury Lodge. But by 1983/84 the White family, who were owners of the land at Chidden, reorganized their holding and moved into Chidden Farmhouse. John and Michael swapped Chidden for 300 acres over at North Farm in Clanfield, and at the same time came to a "share farming agreement" with the Whites for a further 500 acres in the same area. They lived at the Clanfield farm before coming to Hambledon in 1997 to settle down. Until relatively recently John and his brother Michael had a beef herd, some suckler cows and some young ones too, to grow on. Their crops were a lot more varied then.
They included potatoes, sprouts, cabbages and sugar beet. Indeed, John remembers taking the sugar beet to Droxford station (before goods train traffic was closed in 1962).
Today they prefer to concentrate their efforts on some 500 acres of arable farming. While a good deal of this is grain, they have recently been growing maize and selling it locally as a standing crop; to be chopped and clamped as fodder for indoor wintered cattle.
The farming calendar works with the seasons as always and while I observed how field sizes had
changed over the years and lorries, tractors and combines had almost doubled in size; John fixed on three main headlines: Technology, Crop Management and Plant Breeding. He says that this must be the future for farmers going forward. He described this exacting science as a precision, grid—based, soil testing procedure, designed to tell the farmer exactly how his soil is made up. This information is then programmed into the computer on board the tractor so that the land is fed With precisely What it needs to achieve the best yields. This data is then accumulated year on year — to fine—tune the sowing plans for the following season. John firmly believes that this must have improved yields by over 15% in the last 20 years. As we close for the evening, Liz listens in as We discuss whether John has retired or not. She tells me that he still gets up early and drives to the farm for a 7: 15 am start every morning. I don't think he will ever actually stop farming. They have no livestock at all now — but their daughter Kathryn is keeping the family tradition going by running a smallholding in Wales with two cows and 40 or so sheep. Nevertheless, I am Wondering if I sense a worrying trend that this wonderful way of life is not attracting the children of farmers Let us uncover more about that when we fix a date for our gathering in the spring.