The Myth Of The Complicit Farmer
Photography by Nick Bull
You have to feel sympathy for the farming communities of Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and other circles bearing counties. Year after year their fields are targeted by the much-debated circle making force. Beyond the occasional farmer bemused by the novelty of a one-off crop circle we’ve typically seen their emotions register fairly high on the annoyance and fury scales. We’ve even heard of one individual who burst into tears because he feared the crop circle on his land could be the final nail in the coffin of his business.
Imagine these negatively affected farmers then going online to read that they’ve made the crop circles themselves, or have paid known circle makers to act on behalf. It’s going to make them even angrier. Yet this sort of tittle-tattle still occurs, aided by the wonderful ‘any gossip must be true’ ethos of social media. It’s the tale of the complicit farmer — a story we’re going to examine here.
CIRCLE MAKING FARMERS
In the late 1990s everyone seemed to know one circles related apocryphal tale. They always knew someone whose cousin worked in a nursing home. Amongst the residents would be an elderly farmer that had made crop circles during the previous decade. This chap would wear scruffy grey trousers, a white shirt that was always unbuttoned at the neck and speak with a thick rural accent. He’d bang on and on about the adventures he’d enjoyed with a neighbouring farmer; the pair would head out at night and make crop circles for a laugh. The target of the prank would vary, but it was usually the village idiot who believed in aliens, or the unpopular farmer who deserved some form of come-uppance.
If you know a little about crop circle history you’ll understand that the ‘farmers’ are a case of mistaken identity mixed in with wishful thinking. After breaking cover as circle makers in the autumn of 1991, Dave Chorley and Doug Bower became household names. In interviews and photoshoots they’d dress in the casual attire of the sixty-something everyman: white shirts and grey or black trousers; exactly the same as your stereotypical agricultural worker of the period.
Nonetheless, the myth of circle making farmers persists today, sometimes with a financial motive thrown in. In this scenario the farmers charge members of the public admission to enter the crop circles they have made.
A second version of this tale has also arisen: those circle making farmers are a bit more sophisticated — they’re much younger, being agricultural students or members of the local young farmers’ club — and get up to no good in order to bring in some extra income from the pockets of those same paying tourists as mentioned above. It doesn’t happen. You need more than a few planks of wood, lengths of rope, surveyors tape and a steady nerve to make a crop circle that will be accepted by a contemporary audience.
PAYING THE PLANKERS
Another rumour suggests farmers will actively pay known human circle makers to produce a formation on their property. Once done, the farmer will charge visitors to enter the crop circle, pocketing the profits whilst playing up the circle’s extraterrestrial origins. Although The Croppie cannot categorically state this has never happened, we have never encountered of any instances of this occurring in the 21st century. We honestly can’t see it happening either. Why?
Look at what has happened at locations owned by circle-friendly farmers, particularly the Carsons in the Vale of Pewsey (although their attitude towards the circles is now very different) and James Hussey at Hackpen Hill: open season is declared upon their land and they are repeatedly targeted. Meanwhile, neighbouring farmers become inadvertantly visited by the circle makers who don’t realise where one farm ends and another begins. Even if nothing is said in public, we can’t imagine these neighbours being particularly happy. Bring in the idea of that circles-friendly farmer paying the dark side and you’ve got quite a situation!
Unfortunately, the myth of the paying farmer has only been encouraged by the Anstygate affair of 2016. Here, farmer Karen Price was paid for a commissioned circle to be made in her fields at Ansty in Wiltshire. The pretence of a cover story was established with Mrs Price stating she had returned from holiday and discovered the formation. Visitors were subsequently able to pay to enter the circle, albeit with the money going to charity. The Croppie knows for a fact that the circle-makers were complicit in attempting to initially pass off this circle as ‘genuine’ as we have seen messages sent by one of their number to a particular photographer. But let’s not become too caught up in this event as it is a one-off on domestic shores.
So, let’s stop this ridiculous habit of blaming farmers for paying the circle-makers or picking up the plank themselves. It doesn’t happen.