• Since beginning in Maidstone in 1895, many of the firm’s clients have been farmers in the region who we have supported with both their private and business legal needs, often over several generations.

    Clients are at the heart of everything we do, so while we look back at the past 125 years of our firm, we wanted to highlight some of the big changes which have taken place for many of our most valued clients over the same number of years.

    19th Century

    In the late 19th century Britain was a nation of rapid change. The Agricultural Revolution of the 18th century saw new patterns of crop rotation and livestock use, paving the way for better crop yields and greater diversity of planting.

    The Enclosure Acts passed during this time, allowing wealthy lords to purchase public fields and push out small-scale farmers, causing a migration of men looking for work in cities. These workers provided labour for the new industries of the Industrial Revolution, and the expansion of the railway network meant produce could be transported more easily. Farming was boosted by new technologies such as fertilisers, clay pipes for field drainage, the reaping machine, and steel and steam ploughs.

    20th Century

    British farms greatly increased production with new varieties of cereal and in the 1940s new pesticides and artificial fertilizers were developed and farmers began using artificial insemination. Farming also became mechanized and tractors gradually replaced horses, and milking machines and combine harvesters became more common.

    Farming practices became more intensive after the World War II. While these years saw a 65% decline in the number of farms and a 77% decline in farm labour, yield increased by a startling 400%. Farms become more specialised and the use of machinery increased making operations quicker and more efficient. Increasingly, crops were sown in autumn rather than winter and the use of chemicals increased greatly.

    21st Century

    As the world’s population grows, so too have the demands on farming production. This century has seen the development of genetically engineered crops and more consideration given to changes in climate. The challenges farmers have already faced and will continue to face have become critical to their survival and many are turning to diversification at a growing rate.

    There has been consistent growth in the use and production of renewable energies on farms in recent years, with an increase in the range of technologies used in diversification from agriculture to renewables. Renewables offer an opportunity to improve efficiency, cut costs and increase profits.

    Biomass is also becoming an important part of the farming sector and is now a proven solution to decarbonising heat in rural areas which can also create a sustainable rural economy, employment opportunities and business growth in the farming sector.

    Future

    Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball to predict where farming will be in another 125 years’ time but if farmers are savvy and stay ahead of changing legislation then they can plan accordingly for a sustainable future for their business.

    This article was first published in the January 2020 edition of South East Farmer.

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