15 December 2020
Faith and farming
Local preacher, Ian Pinhey, is a fifth generation farmer at Upcott in Devon. He shares his faith, thoughts on the role of farming in caring for the environment and what Christmas is like down on the farm
So I am Ian, and I am a farmer. It sounds like some kind of confession but in fact I am really proud of what I do as a farmer. We work the land and look after both livestock and nature in order to feed this great nation of ours and to preserve it for the generations to come.
I am the 5th generation to farm at Upcott and I farm with my dad, my wife and two part time employees. We have 5 amazing children and they all love the space that the farms brings. We run a mixed farm which comprises of beef cattle, free range chickens and various arable crops, all of which means there is never a dull moment and rarely a quiet day on the farm. We find that these three main enterprises really do complement each other and give us a firm business platform to work from.
I feel blessed to have been brought up in a Christian home which has meant that I have been part of a Church family my whole life and cannot remember a time when I did not believe that God was there and that he cared. However, it wasn’t until I was 20 that I went to Soul Survivor and encountered Jesus in a way that transformed my relationship with him, and it’s that relationship that has underpinned every part of my life since.
I felt the call to preach in 2001, and after completing the faith and worship course, with the help of a fantastic tutor, and a Spirit filled mentor, I was soon a fully fledged local preacher.
I have always felt that farming and preaching go hand in hand in so many ways, not least because it is so often when I am out on the farm that God challenges and inspires me, which then often translates into a message for His Church.
The Devon countryside is beautiful, and draws me closer the One who created it all, and even on the rainy days when the weather is bleak, there is no place that I would rather be.
One thing that is becoming increasingly apparent is that farming will face some pretty major challenges over the next few years. Food production and the environment are often portrayed as being in conflict with each other, but I don’t believe that it has to be that way. UK Farmers already do a huge amount of work to encourage biodiversity in the countryside whilst at the same time producing some of the best food in the world, but I think the time has come for us to really step up and be even more targeted in what we do. To be even more efficient in the production of food, and to look at every inch of the land that we care for and make as much space as possible for nature. On our farm, one example that we have been experimenting with is planting a cover crop of mustard. A cover crop is a crop grown in between two regular crops. For us this means after a cereal crop has been harvested in August and before the maize crop is planted in the following Spring. This cover crop reduces the chances of soil erosion. It provides pollinating insects with a source of food as it flowers late in the season from September through to the middle of November. It also provides food to song birds through the winter in the form of the mustard seeds that are produced. This crop has no detrimental impact on our ability to produce food, yet should make a meaningful difference to the wildlife on the farm.
I’m optimistic about the future of UK agriculture because I believe farmers will play a big part in not only feeding the nation for years to come, but also in its contribution to bring about net zero carbon emissions in this country.
For now, we will be busy getting on with tending our livestock and looking forward to the Christmas break...well, when I say break, I don’t quite mean break. Christmas morning is normally an earlier start than usual so that we can get all the livestock fed and get back into the warmth of the house to see the children open their Christmas stockings. We then go to our Christmas morning service at our Church and then home for dinner and a relaxing afternoon. Of course COVID19 will probably put pay to this normal routine, but none the less we will make time to reflect on the reason for the season, the Christ child, born in a stable. Emmanuel. God with us.