Adventures in England

I’m nearing the end of my 10-day trip to England and I’ve learned a lot about the culture and history of the country during my brief stay. I’m working on updating my Travels page to include what I’ve learned and will be uploading pictures soon. In the meantime, here’s a little about the agriculture in England:

  • English agriculture is similar but completely different than American agriculture. England is a part of the European Union. As you probably have heard, Europeans don’t grow a lot of genetically modified (GM or GMO) crops. The main crops that I’ve seen in England are wheat, barley, oats, rapeseed (canola), potatoes, and sugar beets. Few of these crops are available in GM varieties, anyways.
  • Grain crops here are actually referred to as corn. So “corn” could refer to our type of corn (maize), or it could be referring to wheat, barley, or oats! There is some maize grown here, but it is not a significant crop like in the United States.
  • Livestock are also a big part of the landscape, with many cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and lots of horses. Horse racing is big in England and there are lots of stud farms, which is where racing horses are bred and raised.
  • The climate is fair with lots of drizzle- fitting for the types of crops they grow. It seems like it rains a lot, but England actually receives fewer inches of rain than New York City in a year.
  • Soil is very stony. Depending on where you are in the country, they soil may also contain a lot of clay or lots of sand.
  • Farms here tend to be large with family owners who have been farming them for generations. Many of these farms are incorporated, just like in the U.S., because many branches of the family are involved in the operation of the farm. This protects the families and the farms from falling apart if there is a financial issue caused by a bad crop year or if there is a family dispute. Unlike the United States, fields and pastures are not uniform in size or shape. In fact, they are all kinds of shapes and sizes, all determined by very old hedge rows. These hedge rows are everywhere and are not allowed to be taken down. These field borders are said to date back to times of feudalism, with peasants farming the land. Roads follow old paths between and around these fields, so there are many narrow, winding roads. In fact, the only straight roads to be found are the equivalent of our interstate highways. This is very different than the straight roads we are used to in the rural U.S., with neat mile-long sections creating a grid (at least where I’m from). So it’s a lot easier to drive somewhere in the U.S. than it is in England.
  • Going for a walk is a common past time for many English people, and people will drive for miles to go to a marked footpath through the countryside. Farmers are required to maintain these footpaths that often go through their fields and pastures for the public to enjoy.
  • While there are many grocery stores, open-air markets and farm stores in towns are commonplace, and there is a lot of English produce available to the public. Eggs and milk are sometimes even delivered, with eggs coming in cartons ranging from 6 to 18 eggs, while milk is delivered by the pint. (Keep in mind that European fridges are very small compared to American refrigerators). The milkman comes three times each week to deliver the fresh milk and eggs and pick up the empty cartons and bottles. I’ve also noticed an emphasis on “free-range” eggs advertised wherever you might find the word ‘egg’. As it turns out, English laws regarding cage size for hens are much different than U.S. laws, and allow less space for the hen to live in. So many eggs are now produced by hens who are free-range, but have a limited “range” area. Many people have a few chickens in their backyard, as well.

I hope that this hodge-podge of information is enough for a taste of what I have experienced over the last week. I love international travel and learning more about agriculture outside of the United States. I would include more about the English culture in this post, but my computer is close to dying and I have to wait to use the power converter to charge it tonight. More of my experiences will be up in the next week or so, probably after I make it back home and get back into the swing of things, but lots of pictures will be up soon (under the Travels page at the top)!

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