I’m tired. Sand-grainy, blink-wet eyes; fogwebbed clouds obscuring any coherent thought process and bumbled lips, ones that refuse to form letters, words, sentences and end up vacantly tuttering.

Yesterday was my annual Soil Association Inspection and audit. I hate it.

Annual questionnaire-accounts-invoicescorrelatingincomingsoutgoings; marketingdetails-labelexamples-derogations-restrictedpractices; croppingdetails-rotation-forage-harvest-grazing; manuremanagement-source-treatment-inputs-pestcontrol-declarations; livestockmanagementplan-movementrecords-grazingrecords-anualfeedingrecords-feedpurchaserecords-vet.treatmentrecords- vet.purchaserecords-recordsofkeepingrecords-noncompliance-crosscompliance-compliance and…oh yes, one concussed, stressed farmer!

However much I uphold the need to scrutinise all licensees to ensure they are farming and producing food to organic standards as stipulated by EU law, it is, nevertheless, a daunting task to collect, collate and present all relevant information. Because of this it’s one of those jobs destined to the back-burner until that looming deadline is kicking you in the butt, has invade all your avoidance tactics and is infiltrating your dreams!

I’ve farmed using organic principles for years and as organic farming has grown in popularity I’ve seen how the Soil Association has had to adapt and change with the pressure of growth and new legislation. One of the things I’ve found ‘challenging’ (not to put too finer point on it) about the annual inspections is the choice of some inspectors.

I’m passionate; passionate about the way I farm, passionate about the extraordinary beauty and diversity of the British countyside and the people that live there; passionate about keeping stock happy healthy and as naturally as possible; passionate about producing the best food I can. But I make mistakes and I’m certainly not infallible. Nevertheless I strongly object to inspectors, with little practical farming experience, insinuating I’m trying to cheat, to hide a non-compliance or I’m guilty of gross misconduct until proven innocent (after all, what is the point?). I wait with trepidation to see who has been sent to ‘do’ me.

But yesterday I was pleasantly surprised. I had a human! Yes, a normal, speaking, smiling, courteous person that was not only knowledgeable about organic farming but was an organic farmer to boot. He was thorough, but fair, interested yet professional. A far cry from the zealous mini-hitler I was expecting. And what a difference it made to a day that is long and demanding, especially when suffering from concussion.

Relaxed, relived and sleepy, I checked the cows before flopping into bed. Wildcat had started calving. So it was up at 2am and again at 3.30am to check her conscious of Jennifer’s long labour. Happily everything was fine and she had a very lively, bonny calf. Today I had to attend an assessment of my mother’s care plan and tomorrow I’m being interviewed for an article. So it’s off to bed to dream sweetly and regain some control of my senses before the morning. Fingers crossed there are no middle of the night calvings tonight.

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