Soil in Their Souls: A History of Fenland Farming (Paperback)
Like many of the families in this book, Rex Sly follows in the footsteps of his ancestors who were also farmers in the Fens. The land was reclaimed by forebears, giving this unique bond between "soil and soul"—each generation wishing to leave their soils as a sustainable inheritance to the next. The variety of crops which are grown has changed little over the past half-century, but the traditional farms have been largely replaced by high-tech agro-businesses. Not all farms in the fens are large, though, and the richness of the soils still enables the small grower to survive in a niche marketplace. The greatest change has been from the grower to the consumers' shopping baskets. The marketing chain has changed from markets and merchants to the vast supermarket network: fast and efficient for the grower and value for money for the public. The corn exchanges which witnessed the rise and fall of agriculture over one and a half centuries of history are now no more than farming monuments. The ever-increasing demands on our soils are of concern to those in the Fens. Each generation is replaceable—fen topsoil is not.
Rex Sly's family have farmed in the Fens since the seventeenth century. His interest in the history and heritage of him homeland is lifelong, and he is the author of From Punt to Plough and Fenland Families.