The other important message which was repeated throughout the three days, in particular by the chairman David Allam, the President Penelope Keith, and visiting leading agriculture dignitaries Peter Kendall President of the NFU, Nicholas Soames MP and Jane King Editor of the Farmers Weekly and by Mark Cleverden within his livestock commentary, was the power the public have in their hands to support British farmers. They should know the providence of the food they buy and whenever possible purchase locally produced food and certainly British.
The public are encouraged to increase their questioning of where the food they buy is sourced. And pressure is now directed upon the British retail industry which is the best in the world, to source their ingredients and produce locally before venturing outside the UK.
British agriculture is a vital production unit without which the British would be left very vulnerable. In today’s world food security is an important issue, we must be able to provide the British public with basic staple ingredients.
Forget strawberries at Christmas, exotic tropical fruits and vegetables, it is the home produced meat, eggs, milk, bread, butter and seasonal fruit and vegetables which is what is required. These are essential to keep the nations’ strength up, feed the workforce, hospital patients, prisoners, and the armed forces and raise healthy, fit and intelligent offspring.
It is too easy to forget that British agriculture supports 14 per cent of the economy, and is the second largest industry in the UK, with perhaps the best opportunity for growth. With the ever expanding global population, the production of food must be stepped up to supply the increasing demand. Innovation and science through research and development are essential and continue to ensure we are pushing the boundaries and improving production.
I am concerned that the press and media regularly report that the average age of British farmers is creeping up and they paint a picture of a doddery workforce holding up a failing industry. This negative reporting gives out the wrong message and could not be further from the truth. I find it baffling that an industry which attracts vast numbers of highly motivated, intelligent and enthusiastic hard working people gets such a negative press.
Agriculture is attracts a steady flow of future and current farmers, they are the products of a variety of excellently run agricultural colleges such as Plumpton and Brinsbury. They support an industry which is highly technical with advances in crop production and related issues like GM. The livestock sector addresses matters such as mega farms, advanced breeding techniques and feeding systems. And for engineers there is scope and the opportunity to work with highly technical machinery either within the commercial farm machinery industry or operating equipment which is increasingly relying upon satellite navigation and technically advanced systems on the farm.
For the scientists there is the opportunity to work in research and development with a wide and interesting opportunities to increase food production across the sector including plant production, breeding and genetics, and GM advancement.
There are indeed older farmers still working within the industry, this is not surprising as everyone is working harder and longer, and for most of us farming is a vocation, a way of life, it is not just a job. We have embraced advanced technology, diversification and the opportunity to change with the times and by doing so increase the profitability of our business. We also mostly all work closely with our successors who will follow on with equal enthusiasm, interest and dedication to drive through improvements and best practise to ensure the future of the farms and this vital industry.
Farmers regularly attend courses, seminars and meetings which are organised by colleges, commercial agricultural companies and land agents. These are essential to ensure we keep up with modern technology and broaden our horizons and of course keep us up to date with the growing list of regulations which must be adhered to.
It is very encouraging that there is a very healthy injection of young farmers pushing the boundaries and driving innovation and diversification on farms across the country. Agriculture is a dynamic and growing industry which is responding to the demands it faces, the results of which have a steady but profound effect upon the population is supplies with food. We are mutually dependant, a fact which is perhaps not emphasised enough by us, our representatives and the media.
Carola Godman Irvine