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Gill Buchanan's Blog

Why on earth did I write a quirky novel about intensive farming?

All my published novels to date fit the genres ‘Romance’ and ‘Women’s fiction,’ perhaps ‘Romantic Comedy.’ So writing about a dairy farm in Suffolk which grows some crops and has egg-laying hens, was quite a departure from exploring relationships / family life.

Lightbulb moment for my novel’s theme

It was during the second lockdown that I had the idea for the book. It was just a few months after The Long Marriage was published. I was feeling low and uninspired and decided that I needed to start on a new novel as I’m happiest when I’m writing.

I wrote down a few words in answer to the question: What am I passionate about?

  • Organic

  • Saving the planet

  • Health and wellbeing

You might also know that I am an amateur artist – a very zen activity good for calming you at times of stress.

Anyway, I put these words into my thought-process-mixer and came up with:

What if an artist, Wanda, unwittingly marries a farmer and discovers she doesn’t like the ways of intensive farming? Perhaps she is able to learn from nature itself what the chemicals used, in what is called traditional farming, do to our soil and our wildlife.

Bingo. I liked it. I could see that this theme had the making of a lively story with a serious underlying message.

This is the point where I literally learnt how to become a farmer!

I decided to focus on dairy farming and egg farming with a bit crop growing as that was enough to make my brain explode.

I also learnt all about trees, particularly ancient oak trees and the ways all the different flora and fauna communicate with each other – through the mycorrhizal fungi network.

Having done lots of research I now know exactly why these so called 'traditional' farming methods are so damaging to our land.

I don’t like the use of the word ‘traditional’ as this method came in as late as the 1950s – after World War 2. The severe food rationing we had during and after the war made the government panic and decide we needed to produce much more food ourselves rather than relying on food imports.

Before that we farmed in a more sustainable way.

So farming organically, is not a new found whacky way of doing things. It is just faming naturally without chemicals!

Time to tread carefully here; those chemicals which are essentially poisons end up in

our food. Governments decide what is a safe level of poison to use. The worrying thing is that sometimes chemicals are used and then, at a later date, considered unsafe and banned by law. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson published in 1962 highlights the dangers without pulling any punches.

The big argument for using chemicals is that we can produce more food cost efficiently and enable supermarkets to sell it at a very low price so that everyone can afford it. Of course the real problem is that we have very rich people in our country and very poor people and the gap is getting wider all the time.

Jay Rayner, the food and restaurant journalist and broadcaster was highlighting this very point on one of my favourite podcasts: The News Agents just the other day. Having banged on about this particular issue to anyone who will listen for a long time, I now feel vindicated! Thank you, Jay.

The beauty of my novel is that you can find out more about this important subject whilst enjoying a lively tale.

The Artist, the Farmer and the Ancient Oak

Thank you for reading this far.

Please do let me know your thought on this subject; is all this news to you or did you have a sort-of awareness of it – increasingly I meet people who are on he same page as me: the save the planet page.


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