Voices From the Land
I’m a custodian of the land. It was here a long time before me and it will be here a long time after me.
My aim is to leave it in a better state than I found it.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park covers more than 2000 square kilometres and contains just over one thousand farms. Some of the farmers can trace their family's history of farming back several generations: some have recently arrived and are just starting out. Following our curiosity about the stories behind rural landscapes, and the place of culture within these special environments, we're delighted to have the opportunity to meet many of the farmers who live in the National Park.
Voices From the Land collates stories and viewpoints of farmers across the Yorkshire Dales: men and women, young and old. For just over a year we have been conducting formal interviews and spending time on the fells and in yards, at auction markets and shows to gather images, recordings and writing. We have also been checking out the built heritage of the area: barns, walls and buildings that are an integral part of a landscape that has been shaped by farming for hundreds of years. (Did you know - the combined length of hand-built dry-stone walls in the Yorkshire Dales National Park extends to 5000km?). Alongside us, a team of volunteers from Yorkshire and students from the University of Leeds have been making their own farm visits, conducting interviews, sketching, recording and devotedly penning transcriptions.
The voices of farmers reveal a range of views, as you might expect, but there are common threads, including a passion for livestock and land. It's always a delight to talk to someone who knows a patch of land intimately, so as well as sharing pride in good breeding livestock, there's a pride and strong sense of investment in land that comes alive each spring with the song of curlews, is perfect for lapwing, or is a haven for owls. Many people tell us they sense that people outside the farming community don't really understand what's involved in nurturing animals and land, and there is a shared feeling of uncertainty about policy and finances, with Brexit approaching.
Voices From the Land Exhibition & archive
Dales Countryside Museum, Oct 6 2017 - March 26 2018 (closed Dec 23 2017 - Feb 1 2018)
The Station, Richmond, March 31 - April 25, 2018
The exhibition will present portraits, landscape photographs, interview excerpts and audio clips that offer an overview of what farmers have shared with us: personal recollections, farming methods and preferences for particular breeds of sheep, beef cows and dairy cows, thoughts on policies and balancing grazing regimes with a productive and healthy environment. These will be displayed alongside some of the drawings, woodcuts, photographs and writings of Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby, whose work in the 1960s and 70s has become the definitive collection of farming records in the national park.
The audio recordings and images collected through Voices From the Land will be stored in the Dales Countryside Museum and in the University of Leeds Special Collection, and will become heritage for future generations.
Voices From the Land is being facilitated by the Farmer Network and is supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Sustainable Development Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.