Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Moo Man

There's a great independent film on limited release at the moment called, The Moo Man.

The tender film is a documentary about an organic dairy farmer called Steve Hook, who produces and sells raw, unpasteurised milk from his farm in Sussex.  Although it's an observational documentary rather than an overtly political piece, the point that comes through is the impact of economic and legal developments on the lives of dairy farmers throughout the country.  The milk industry was deregulated by the British Government through the Agriculture Act 1993 (which broke the buying power of the Milk Marketing Board).  The impact on rural heritage of the re-introduction of free market forces to the milk industry has been massive, with the buying power of the supermarkets forcing farmers to leave the industry in droves, even from farms that have been passed down through many family generations.  Here's an interesting take on the changes to the dairy industry, written by a dairy farmer.  And here are some personal stories of those who worked for the Milk Marketing Board in Norwich.

Is this over-sentimentalising what is, in effect, simply economic development and change?  Maybe.  But we should see heritage not just in terms of the archetype of country houses and World Heritage Sites.  Heritage is about what each generation passes on to the next and how we, the current generation, value and protect what has been passed to us.  Not all of that heritage is formally protected by law; indeed, some of its destruction is faciliated by the law.  Are we really doing enough to protect the countryside, and those who live and work in it?  Long live all the Moo Men who have to battle to keep their industries alive.

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