Great changes have taken place in farming in Eyam, as with other parts of the country,
since the war. Pre-war farming was depressed for a variety of reasons. It was rather
piecemeal in some instances. It was cheaper to import wheat etc., because of more
efficient methods of cropping abroad. One farmer remembers that his hay came from
Sam Furness (1758 - 1819) is reported to be the first to introduce wheat growing in
Eyam, though there is none grown now due to the elevation and the terrain around
the village. But his son, Peter Furness, writes: "Keeping sheep and shepherding on the
moors was his forte; pasturing was afforded on the free moorlands and extensive wastes in the Parish of Eyam".
The Enclosure of the Commons by Act of Parliament in 1805 in Eyam ended his career as a shepherd. This was disastrous for many farmers, some being forced to leave the area, and some even emigrating to North America and Australia.
A retired farmer in Eyam recalls the revolution in farming over the past fifty years. He remembers that there were very few sheep before the practice of worming started after the war, leading to more sheep being able to graze per acre. There is probably a tenfold increase now, due also to the routine use of vaccines. There have also been changes in breeds of sheep. Swaledales have been the usual moorland sheep over the years, also Black Faced Suffolks, producing lean meat. They were said to be "dozy", lambs slow to find their mother's milk. there were at one time Kent sheep, which were quiet and easy to handle. The Horned Gritstones are still around. A new breed of sheep are the Texels, a Belgian breed with good muscular hindquarters, said to be good mothers and "sharp". The Derbyshire Woodland Whiteface is now a rare breed.
Grassland for cattle grazing has improved with the introduction of fertilizers, and ploughing and re-seeding made more efficient with modern machinery, one man now doing the work of many. This is very evident with the introduction of present day milking machines. Hygiene today has become essential, with rules and regulations strictly adhered to. Inspections by the Ministry of Agriculture take place twice yearly, farmers themselves paying for this. Previously this was done by the Milk Marketing Board, as was the collection and distribution of milk. The Board has ceased to operate, much to the detriment of farmers, as once it had been their salvation.
Before the war, Shorthorns were a popular breed for both meat and milk. There are none now as they have been superseded by more specialised breeds. After the war, Friesians were popular, with their high yield of milk. Arshires are prefered by some, being hardy and smaller with rich milk. Holsteins are a relatively new breed here over the past five or six years, preferred by one Eyam farmer for their neat udders. For beef, Herefords , red or black, have been popular, though nowadays breeding has become more scientific, and cross breeding takes place, eg. Friesians with continental breeds. the greatest change and advance, our Eyam farmer believes, came with the use of artificial insemination, giving a reliable and consistently better cow, producing three times as much milk as fifty years ago.
Cereals. Over the centuries, many people would have grown oats in small scattered fields, oats being a staple diet hence the various oat recipes such as Derbyshire Oatcakes. Oats were surprisingly grown on the high ground above Eyam, horse ploughs being able to cope with the steep terrain. However the present woodland covering this area was planted by Colonel Gregory in the 18th century, hence its name, Gregory Woods. Pre-war, most of the fields in Eyam were grassland for cattle, sheep, and hay. But during the war, farmers had to plough up a certain amount to grow wheat, oats, barley etc. for the war effort.
by Lesley May.