James Rebanks had a childhood awakening when accompanying his grandfather on a tractor, making the connection between his family, their farm, and the gulls and the plough.  It’s a fitting start to a heartfelt journey from that ‘ancient farming world’ to its roaring industrial version and then seeking a new way forward which balances the needs of farms and farmers (and the consumers of their products, namely, us) with those of the environment.  

Every journey must start somewhere, and this is where mine began.  I sat in the back of that tractor, with the old man in front of me, and for the first time in my life thought about who we were and what the field was, and the relationship between the gulls and the plough.  I was a boy living through the last days of an ancient farming world. 

Rebanks’ English Pastoral is a slim and quietly impassioned account of his family’s involvement in the transformation of farming from its age-old practice to a full on globalised industry with a number of doubtful outcomes, followed by an endeavour to move forward (not backward) to a more sustainable approach to farming.  It’s a succinct overview of the complexities of making that transition.  See our tribute to Rebanks’ earlier book, which touches on similar issues, A Shepherd’s Life. 

Source: James Rebanks, English Pastoral: An inheritance (London: Penguin, 2021), Preface

Photo credit: Stux at pixabay

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