I live in the Peak District, which means there is pretty much nothing around me other than casually racist elderly people and farms. The latter, for obvious reasons, provides more opportunity for exploration and photography than the first, so when I decided that I wanted to bite the bullet and begin work on my novel, farms seemed like a logical choice to investigate for settings and characters. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that there are very few stories that involve a farmer as the main protagonist, and those that do often portray them as very fitting to their stereotype – so I decided to use a farmer as the central voice of my novel.
To do this effectively, I needed to know their routines, their passions, and what drew them to work with such foul conditions – I had a few reliable contacts, but my first port of call was with my friend Jacob, who let me come to the farm whenever I needed to; I went on a few days work with him, returned for the photo-trip that is featured below, and interviewed him about an eclectic variety of subjects.
What this gave me was the foundation for a story; the farming community is something that literally everyone relies on to survive and thrive, yet the majority of these people don’t investigate beyond age old stereotypes of tweed wearing racists that don’t have enough brain cells to spell their own name. The farmers I encountered were some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met, and all of them spoke about the immense beauty of the world they’re lucky enough to work in – spending all day, every day in nature leads to an appreciation and relationship with the land that most of us can only dream of. They are overworked, underpaid, and generally under-appreciated in society, but it’s not all sunny days and green fields; I also saw that the community itself has its major issues.
Owing to the disinterest of most of the rest of the world, the farming community is extremely close knit and withdrawn, with their own set of morals, dialect, and social activities. A major point that took my interest was the way in which there still seems to be a ‘macho’ focus that ignores emotional distress and mental health issues, leading to a lot of silent pain, high suicide rates, and a fondness for heavy drinking. That does not apply, in any sense, to all farmers, as I don’t want to tar everyone with the same brush, but the ethos of the community definitely creates a path where it is easier to end up in such situations, and offers little help when it happens.
It was wonderful to observe such a passionate, friendly, family-orientated community, but it was also strange to learn of their issues. It was all too interesting to ignore – so I’ve used a lot of it in my novel, and hopefully will shed some light on their world to those that read it.
Here are a selection of the photos from the farm: