A recent article in a national newspaper predicted how the countryside might look in 50 years’ time.

That could be the basis for my column next month and I would welcome any readers’ ideas on the subject as we contemplate the end of one year and the beginning of another.

For this month I would like to reflect on some of the changes I have witnessed in the last half century.

In 1966 farming and food production completely dominated policies regarding the countryside. A majority of countryside dwellers worked either full or part-time on farms and there were many farm cottages occupied by existing or retired farmworkers.

Everything was geared to increasing food production and very few questioned the need to remove hedges, drain river meadows, apply pesticides by air, or burn almost anything that wasn’t wanted.

The population were aware that there had been the threat of starvation during the Second World War and Britain must be as self-sufficient as possible. Grants still existed for almost any capital investment which might help to increase production.

There was even help to control pests with the North Essex Rabbit Clearance Society issuing free cartridges to farmers.

So-called mixed farms were the order of the day with almost every farmer having some arable land and some livestock. On our own farm we had cattle, sheep, pigs, laying hens, and turkeys.

Sheep and pigs were my own favourites but the turkeys gave useful income and work for us all at a relatively quiet time of year.

Late November was the signal to start killing and plucking, and the birds were then left to hang for up to three weeks. There was no cold store so cool weather was ideal but turkeys which had not been prepared for the oven would keep perfectly well, even if the temperatures were not perfect.

The best quality birds were sold to private customers with any surplus or slightly imperfect specimens being taken to Colchester Market.

It was a common site to see dead turkeys being carried up North Hill on a buyer’s shoulder when they had just secured a bargain at the Christmas sale.

Over the next 50 years there would be huge changes in the way turkeys were prepared for Christmas as well as a change in attitudes to meat eating.

However, today’s turkey farmers take great care over their birds welfare and it is distressing to see advertising boards defaced by militant animal lovers. Free speech is one thing, vandalism another.

Within a few years of 1966 farming fortunes and practices would change completely. For a while after we joined what was then called the Common Market, farming profitability continued to improve, but then shortage became surplus.

Farmers were considered “feather-bedded”, conservationists became the new heroes, and agricultural colleges either closed or began to teach students about farm diversification, rare insects and disappearing weeds.

Farmers like myself who gained our qualifications on how to produce food and get maximum yields from the land have had to spend the next 50 years trying to re-educate ourselves to please an urban majority who take food for granted and see the countryside as a place to walk the dog or build a housing estate.

Looking back, the pendulum had swung too far one way and it has now swung too far the other.

I hope the next 50 years will see the recreation of a good balance between the attitudes of town and country, between conservation and food production, between science and perception.

That’s a subject for next month.