Local / Global

By Ruth Levene

We created this web page because we wanted a clear way of bringing the story back to some of the key factors that inspired us to make this project. Our attention and interest is endlessly moving between the local conditions of Lincolnshire’s farms, the intimate story of the land and crops and the overarching and ungraspable global narrative that is the wheat price, yields, wars and weather conditions from around the world. All of which influence the global price of wheat.

“The time was in the years immediate before foreign competition revolutionized the trade in grain; when still, as from the earlier ages, the wheat quotations from month to month depended entirely upon the home harvest. A bad harvest, or the prospect of one, would double the price of corn in a few weeks; and the promise of a good yield would lower it as rapidly. Prices were like the roads of the period, steep in gradient, reflecting in their phases the local conditions, without engineering, levellings, or averages.

The farmer’s income was ruled by the wheat-crop within his own horizon, and the wheat-crop by the weather. Thus, in person, he became a sort of flesh-barometer, with feelers always directed to the sky and wind around him. The local atmosphere was everything to him; the atmospheres of other countries a matter of indifference”  Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy, Pp209 (published 1886)

Micheal Day is an artist based in Sheffield, he worked with Ruth and Anne-Marie to design and build the Local/Global web page which has regularly updated live data feeds which tell you the weather on the farm and the current global price of wheat.

Like many things that are predicted, forecast, measured and averaged, these feeds are not precise. The weather as we all know is not easy to predict, our data is drawn from Open weather map. If you re-visit the page, you will see day turn to night, the rain fall, the mist and haze appear and on a clear night you can see the moon in its correct phase. We were keen to show the phases of the moon as there is some evidence this impacts on weather cycles and there are historic and cultural links between moon and agricultural cycles.

Finding out the Global Price of Wheat is also not an easy thing, there are many factors. In the end we decided on a calculation that came from Sarah Bell from Open Field a Lincolnshire based company that supplies inputs, seed, storage and advice to farmers. We took the Liffe (London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange) Futures ‘Feed’ Wheat Price and minus £7 from it. The subtraction of £7 per tonne was to account for the real transport cost that would come into play when dealing with real with rather than speculating as they do in the futures markets. This data is actually 1 hour old, this is the time it takes for there to be no charge on the data itself, any shorter than one hour and the data has a worth to it, so you have to pay to receive it.