They were big, rambling places, where through toil and strife animals were reared, crops were produced, honest livings were made, and Border Collie dogs were tied to gates with string and ordered to bark the bejesus out of unsuspecting passers-by.
Old MacDonald had one spectacular enough to generate it’s own theme tune.
But for reasons too complicated for me to accurately explain, it seems the UK economy cannot support the previous levels of traditional farm related activity (although I presume Mr MacDonald is able to get by on the royalties from his hit song). In the last decade or two many farmers were forced to diversify, or find some other (non-farm related) way to make a living.
Fortunately, this coincided with the rise of parenthood as a lifestyle choice.
In order to effectively parent, and be seen to effectively parent, venues were needed. These venues needed a tried and tested method for the distraction of children, and sufficiently soft lighting to allow successful Instagram-ing and Facebook-ing of special moments.
Through the relentless inevitability of market forces, two new types of farm activity were born: the play-barn, and the ice-cream farm.
I have to confess that whenever I find myself spending the morning in the screaming sensory hell of a play-barn, my eyeballs are replaced with comedy dollar signs.
I can’t help but do a rough mental head count of the kids barrelling around, a sketchy calculation of set up costs and overheads, and conclude that the average play-barn generates enough hard cash for the farmer to fund a lifestyle of gold-plated tractors and a significant reduction in toil and strife.
Add in the revenue from flap-jack and cappuccinos and you’ve got yourself a self-contained pension plan.
Option number two is the ice cream farm, where the link to actual farming becomes even more tenuous.
It’s essentially a building selling ice-cream, with an adventure playground attached. A barn works well for the building, but any building will do. Without the ‘farm’ bit the magic won’t happen.
Set up an ice cream shop and a playground on a patch of old waste ground, and you may or may not attract middle class parents with parenting to do. Set it up in the countryside with a selection of farm paraphernalia, call it a farm, and they will queue for the privilege.
A few chickens or goats rambling around, and a steady whiff of cow shit should be more than enough to create the pretence.
The pretence creates a sense of occasion. The ice cream gets a kooky brand name. The children get a sugary hit and an excuse to burn it off on a massive climbing frame. The adults get a coffee and a sit down.
And the farmer gets another gold plated tractor.
And why shouldn’t he/she?
If anyone knows about supply and demand, it’s a farmer.
(Images: via pixabay.com)