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EditorialsUpFront 01/22

UpFront 01/22

Listening to Seth Dellow’s audio interview with Kristofer Allerfeldt, a Professor of American history at the University of Exeter, it’s hard to imagine his leap from Devon farmer to the study of subjects such as the Ku Klux Klan and American crime. Seth’s interview covers topics ranging from people trafficking to quantum computing, which feel a long way from sheep farming on the edge of Dartmoor. But that theme of diversification and expanded vision seems to come up throughout this issue. Christopher Roper talked to Jyoti Fernandes of Fivepenny Farm about her experience at COP26 where she spoke on behalf of a global network of small farmers. In a world where the food trade appears to be controlled by large corporations, it’s easy to think that small farmers might not have much voice. But Jyoti points out that over half of the world’s food is produced by small farmers, and that they are often the ones most immediately threatened by climate change. It’s another reason to be aware of and support our small local producers. Our cover story this month is an interview with sheep farmer Ruth Wilkins. She and her husband David have shown an extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit in focusing on setting up a new mill with custom-built wool processing machinery to process wool for use in knitting, weaving, rug-making, and other crafts. They receive wool from different breeds all over the country. It’s a laudable diversification from breeding sheep, and their work and their vision is another sign of the value of collaboration between small enterprises. On page 42 we highlight a new exhibition opening at Somerset Rural Life Museum. It shows work by photographer Pauline Rook, who in 2002 was commissioned by the Countryside Agency to create a photographic record of the Blackdown Hills. Her brief was to capture the ‘spirit and essence’ of the area—something we have sought to do in this magazine for twenty years. A former sheep farmer herself, Pauline’s photographs show a true passion for the land and all it produces. As we start a new year with unsettling levels of uncertainty and a feeling of retrenching for the winter months, it’s good to be aware of and hold onto the roots and history of our local community.

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