Award-winning columnist and Shropshire-based producer Roger Evans shares fond second-hand car memories, and has plans to tighten his belt
Farming was never meant to be easy. In fact it’s the challenge of farming, or at least that’s one of the things, which make it so attractive. And I can’t see anything coming along that’ll make farming easier. But I do see plenty of things ahead that will make it so much harder.
I will always remember a story told to me by a man I once worked for. He had gone to his bank to pick up a new cheque book (this was well before cheque books came in the post). He gets to the front of the queue and tells the cashier what he wants, and she says ‘the manager wants a word’. The manager tells him he’s beyond his overdraft limit. “Have you brought any money in today?” “No, I needed a new cheque book.” “It’s a new paying-in book you need,” retorted the bank manager.
It was the same farmer who attended our local one-day show. A machinery dealer was there and had a new tractor on display. Stuck to the bonnet was a note to say the tractor had, in fact, been purchased by the same farmer. I remember him walking past as the piece of paper caught his eye. He quickly snatched it off and put it in his pocket, saying: “I don’t want my bank manager to see that.”
Unfortunately, that’s the sort of world I see us entering now. The reasons are many and they will have a cumulative effect. We will have to be careful about how much we spend, and what we spend it on.
Fortunately for us, we don’t spend too much on kit. Our first inclination is to buy second-hand. Many farmers we know say they couldn’t manage without a quad bike or mule, but we’ve never had one. We’ve always run around in old 4x4 cars. They are cheaper, you can get an exemption on them, and you can run them on red diesel. And they are warmer.
I’ve always liked nice cars, but it’s never bothered me how old they are. The best car I ever had was a Jaguar. I found it in Essex and it cost me two grand from eBay. When I bought it I wasn’t even sure where Essex was. It lasted me three years and I didn’t repair it once. I only moved it on because I was knocking it about too much by driving around the fields in it. Selling it was a big mistake – I loved that car and still miss it. And it knew its way to the pub. Don’t know if I’d be brave enough to go all the way to Essex to buy a car now.
The hardest thing to buy second-hand is a loading shovel. Those who buy them new usually give them a hard time. If you are lucky enough to find a good one, you dread it breaking down. You are soon into four figures to fi x it and the repairs will challenge your cashflow. I saw a new one advertised at £140,000. Our sort of farming could never justify that. I suspect we will never buy another.
The next tractor we buy will probably have a loader on it. We used to manage with loaders on tractors in the past, and managing is what our future is all about. If we are to survive...