REtro: A growing industry

Farmer Jack Webster - may have to sell his herd due to EEC milk quotas - 14th August 1984
Farmer Jack Webster - may have to sell his herd due to EEC milk quotas - 14th August 1984
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South Yorkshire may be an urban area these days but it has a long tradition of farming that we’re celebrating in this Retro A to Z of jobs.

Farming dates back to at least the 5th century BC as people began to move from hunting and gathering to more settled lifestyles growing crops and raising animals, although early farmers left very few traces behind.

Members of the Sheffield branch of the National Farmers Union distributing produce at a demonstration in the Sheffield Cathedral forecourt - 13th September 1974

Members of the Sheffield branch of the National Farmers Union distributing produce at a demonstration in the Sheffield Cathedral forecourt - 13th September 1974

Signs of medieval agriculture can be seen in the Peak District in particular with land divided into long, thin strips that single families would work to grow food.

Common land that traditionally everyone could use to graze their livestock was bought by rich landowners after the introduction of Parliamentary enclosure acts of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The industrial revolution didn’t quite sweep away those ‘grow your own’ traditions as agricultural workers moved to city factories.

Look around the homes built for industrial workers next to Cromford Mills in Matlock and you’ll see that each had a place to keep a pig at the bottom of the yard.

Farmers gave away produce at Sheffield Cathedral as a stunt to highlight the threat from cheap imports

There is still a surprising amount of farms in the area and the industry is celebrated by several agricultural events such as Hope Show.

British dairy farms have long struggled, with 8,000 going under in the 10 years between 2003 and 2013 alone. The National Farmers’ Union blamed high running costs and the low price paid for milk by supermarkets.

One of the pictures here shows a protest outside Sheffield Cathedral by farmers in 1974. Farmers gave away produce as a stunt to highlight the threat from cheap imports with higher rates of public subsidy.

Many farms have been forced to diversify to survive.

Austin Revitt competing in the Norton Ploughing Association Championships - 1984

Austin Revitt competing in the Norton Ploughing Association Championships - 1984

Sheffield’s popular Our Cow Molly brand of ice cream was dreamed up by the owners of Cliffe House Farm on the outskirts of Stannington and Watt House Farm in Bradfield became home to Bradfield Brewery.

Of course, this is nothing new. Farmers in the area have supplemented their income for hundreds of years by quarrying, mining and various types of small-scale manufacturing.

One farming tradition that remains in Sheffield is the Norton Ploughing Championships.

The Norton Show and Ploughing Association was founded in the early 1880s . It ran an agricultural show at Oakes Park in the first week in August. Eventually only the ploughing match was sustainable and the next one takes place at Povey Farm, Lightwood Lane, Norton on October 17.