Walkers Farm, Billington c.1920s [Z1432/2]
Thursday 17th May 1917: Food shortages caused by German submarine blockades have made it urgently necessary for British farmers to produce more corn for bread production. Farmers across the county have been told by the Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee that three million acres of grass land will need to be broken up and sown with corn for the 1918 harvest, of which 30,000 acres must come from Bedfordshire. A further 47,000 acres will be needed from Buckinghamshire. A survey is to be carried out to divide the land into three categories: land to be broken up immediately; land to be broken up shortly; and land which may be broken up at a later date. It was necessary to keep up the milk supply, but the numbers of other cattle must be reduced as grazing land is now required for corn production. Targets have been given to each Petty Session division: Leighton Buzzard is to plough up 1,000 acres, Linslade 4,250 acres, Woburn 3,250 acres and Ampthill 4,375 acres.
The biggest question is where the men and machinery are to be found to take on this work. Over the country as a whole it has been suggested that 250,000 men will be required. With the Army still requiring more recruits it is hard to see where this labour can be found. The plan has been roundly condemned by the Bedford Branch of the Farmers’ Union which passed the following resolution unanimously: “That this meeting considers that the suggestion in regard to the ploughing up of three million acres of land in the country, and 30,000 to 35,000 acres in this county, is not a business proposition or a practical possibility, and will not tend to increase the food production. The meeting, however, pledges itself to produce all the food possible.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 8th, 15th and 22nd May 1917.