The Prince of Wales would love The Forgiveness of Nature. The underlying vision is of England on a Saturday afternoon in late summer, the village green bathed in golden light, the groundsman leaning on his roller and puffing on his pipe, milkmaids and strapping young farmers snogging in the grass, Hereford cattle grazing calmly in nearby fields, confident that their softly marbled beef is second to none. This is a story of grass or grasslands in the service of mankind: more specifically, of husbandry and land use in England and Wales from the Middle Ages to the present, punctuated with entertaining digressions on groundsmen's turf technology and the history of the lawnmower, and firmly rooted in tradition and organic farming. Graham Harvey quite possibly contributes more to agricultural awareness than any other person in Britain. It is through him that many of us learn about rotations with red clover, the pros and cons of subsidies, even the health benefits of conjugated linoleic acids in the milk of cows fed on fresh grass. For Harvey is the agricultural editor of The Archers, with the power to influence demand for organic products and inform supermarket managers' purchasing policies. Listeners may discern Harvey's organic sympathies in the storyline of the soap - though there are often counter-arguments for balance, in good BBC style. And grass gets into just about everything in The Archers: even Brian Aldridge's current infidelity was facilitated by some entrepreneurial agricultural activity in Hungary.
LRB 14 November 2002 | PDF Download