Farmer’s face rising fuel, feed, insurance, labour and transport costs to produce the nation’s food, these need to be shared with consumers.
UK livestock farmers are being criticised for what are insignificant methane gas emissions. Despite what some learned professors tell the nation on Radio 4’s Farming Today programme, our cattle’s emissions compared to those in North and South America, are but a pin prick in an ocean.
The media, and apparently some popular soaps preach inaccurate information to their audiences. One East Enders character apparently recently ranted about how livestock farmers are ‘criminals’ as we pollute the atmosphere, cause deforestation, floods and droughts. No doubt viewers assumed this referred to British farmers.
Last week the South of England Agricultural Society held a conference titled, ‘The Role of Agriculture in Healing Society’. The excellent chairman was Anna Hill, presenter of BBC Radio 4 Farming Today.
The theme was to explore the future of farming and land management in today’s world, which since COVID has seen increasing numbers of the public wanting to experience firsthand the marvels and healing powers of the countryside.
Barbara Bray, Director of Alo Solutions which drives and delivers food safety in food supply chains and develops sustainable nutrition strategies for food businesses, concentrated on eating ‘healthy’ food’. She wisely confirmed that it is not the amount of food we eat that keeps us healthy and sustained, but its quality, including British grass-fed beef and dairy. As she quoted, “We are what we eat, eats”.
Sir Charles Burrell, owner of the Knepp Estate in West Sussex, has devoted the past 17 years to rewilding his 3,200-acres. His presentation highlighted what he considers are the benefits of allowing nature to re-claim the countryside, and his belief that the public should be welcomed into the countryside for their wellbeing and recovery from ‘mental health’ issues.
Dan Burdett, who manages two organic dairy farms, is passionate about improving the health and diversity of farms, and regenerative farming practices with a view to creating greater resilience in our food supply chain. We got the impression that although he recognises the advantages of encouraging public access onto farms, he is also wary of the consequences of too much unregulated access.
Lastly Robin Hobson, chairman of Laurence Gould Partnership, agricultural consultants, spoke about his work with young disadvantaged people who gain confidence, self-esteem and developed teamwork and independence skills while visiting and working on farms and the countryside. The amazing influence Jamie’s Farm has on young people who spend time on this charity’s farms, is also testimony to this.
It was clear to us all that the countryside is what it is because it has been managed by generations of experienced farmers with a mixture of livestock and arable production. Its beauty is because of livestock farming, not in spite of it.
Yes, the public should be able to enjoy these open spaces. We know the countryside does have healing, health, and wellbeing properties.
However, the big question left hanging in the air as Anna Hill tried to reach a consensus, was, “Should farmers be compensated for opening up their farms to the public”?
Some clearly felt they should, others felt that if this were to become the public’s right, no farm would remain safe from rampaging hikers, bikers, ravers, and the responsible rest, who may assume all farmland is public property. We should be wary this could become another form of ‘land nationalisation by the back door’. So, is education via the media the answer?