Speaker – George Barker ‘From Carthorses to Computers’
George is a retired farmer and a member of Northallerton Probus. He comes from a family which has been in the area since at least 1587.The earliest Barker he has been able to trace was born in that year in Burton Leonard. His forebears have farmed there, in Whitwell and Scruton. He has published a book with the title of his talk and so it was no surprise that he was well prepared.
He was born in 1933 and went to Northallerton Grammar School. From his early years, he had responsibilities on the farm. Every morning and evening, he milked a cow. The price of milk paid to the farmer was 3d per gallon, but this increased to 5d with the establishment of the Milk Marketing Board in 1936.
George’s father and uncle had shared a farm, but when this was sold to finance the purchase of his uncle’s half share, a fraudulent bank manager stole the proceeds. Consequently, his father then became a tenant on the same farm.
The first tractor, a Fordson, came to the farm in 1944. Even with the arrival of this modern machine, by 1950, farming had hardly changed for 300 years. At the end of World War 2, the newly modernised kitchen had calor gas lighting.
In 1949, George’s father had a stroke and George left school the following day, even though he was about to take his School Certificate examinations. Work was physically demanding and he had to carry sacks of grain weighing up to 18 stones.
His grandfather helped him to buy Thornbrough Farm in Northallerton in 1960 for £14300. In the same year, he married Molly Thompson. He started to keep pigs, but in 1962 he went back to dairy cows, starting with a herd of 10. The first milking parlour was bought second hand and transported from Sunderland in his newly purchased pickup.
The very bad winter of 1962/63 saw George with a herd of 20 cows and a pregnant wife. The hard frost meant that they had no running water on the farm from mid January until March 10th. Their first son was born on 26th March.
In 1970, he imported the first pedigree Holstein cattle in the area. The milking parlour expanded to match the growing size of the herd. This grew through a home made parlour for 50 cows in 1969 through another hand made facility in 1987. The disaster of BSE had a good outcome. Government compensation paid for a new computerised milking parlour. In 1986, George planted the first maize crop in the area. In 1994, he won Dairy Farm of the year. In 2005, the farm was sold. George had started with 112 acres and finished with 240.
George had been a poultry judge and a question from the audience was ‘how do you judge poultry’? The reply was that it is not very different from humans. You look for bright eyes and good feathers. In response to a second question, the Barkers apparently came from Denmark in the 12th century.
The photographs illustrated an entertaining talk covering early days on the farm, social events and trips with the Young Farmers, fashion in farming and pictures of the farm from the early days until it was sold.