In the slow, quiet revolution that swept the countryside after 1945, farmers and farm workers, who had always formed the dominant social group, became a threatened, scarcely visible minority. That revolution saw the numbers working on the land plummet by 90 per cent. Villages that had existed to service agriculture were annexed by middle-class incomers, who brought with them their attitudes but no experience of how the countryside worked. A barrier of ignorance and prejudice separated the new rural population of professional commuters and retirees from the remaining farmers. Charlie Pye-Smith’s commendable purpose in writing this book is to try to diminish that ignorance and attack some of the more damaging prejudices that go with it.
The single most telling statistic about the relationship between us and the food we eat is that today we spend 10 per cent of disposable income on feeding ourselves, compared with 50 per cent a century ago. The postwar transformation of British agriculture was driven primarily by the