We can choose how our farms will operate.

Farming is one of the human race’s oldest activities – in the UK it was introduced around 5,000BC, brought in on a wave of Mesolithic migration from the Middle East (the weather there was a bit kinder to early farmers!). It would take another 2,000 years before it overtook hunter-gathering as a source of food.

It is no exaggeration to say that both our society and our landscape are the product of farming – the excess food that farming provided drove the surge in population, it shaped the countryside as a patchwork of fields displaced ancient forests, it determined who did what, who owned what, and how people and commerce interacted. We are all the descendants of farmers.

But do we have any real connection with farming anymore? We drive past them, go for walks in the countryside, perhaps hear about them on the radio, or worry about some of the practices we hear about.

Maybe it’s time to reconnect and use our individual choices as consumers to choose the future path for farming.

Here is what you can do to shape future farming.

Product Miles

The UK produces only 53% of its food. The 47% that we import, taking into account average distances and trade volumes, multiplies our total food product miles by 10!

A fantastic advantage of UK produce is the result of reduced product miles: taste and freshness. High quality produce, that does not need to be preserved to travel across the globe, tastes considerably fresher and better.

According to DEFRA, the three largest value imported commodity groups (at 2018 prices) were fruit & vegetables, meat and beverages. (Beverages are pretty much always comprised of two things: water and farm produce).

We will likely still want ‘exotic’ foodstuffs such as avocados or bananas, but the UK can supply everything else if we make the right choices. Not just cutting product miles, but boosting local farming communities too. And, possibly, increasing food security ahead of the next crisis!

The farming industry will increase supply to meet local demand, and you generate that demand: 

Ecology & Animal Welfare

Our arable crops and pastoral grazing fields shape much of the countryside. The more we get involved in understanding what farmers are doing through directly looking at the source of our food and how it is produced, the greater our influence.

Buying direct from farms gives us that influence. 

  • Check out their practices. While accreditations such as Red Tractor are very useful, there is really no substitute for looking at the stories behind individual farms as you make your buying choices.  

Local Communities

The well-being of farming is often crucial to the local economy, especially in the more rural corners of the UK such as North Wales, Northern Ireland, the Highlands, or East Anglia. 

  • Bigger farms often benefit from established distribution networks. Smaller farms are more likely to supply direct to try to improve their poor farm gate prices.  
  • Small producers often “do it their way”, increasing the diversity of our food.

Farmers livelihoods are at risk whatever the size of farm, so now is the time to support them.

Why not try something new?

Eastgate Larder makes a range of Medlar Jams and Medlar Cheese. Based in Norfolk they are passionate about growing medlar fruit and making local produce.

Bakers of Nailsea is a local butcher based in Bristol. They support local farms by selling locally sourced meat to their customers. Look for local brands, that home deliver when buying your meat.

Bon Accord has made a recent and successful comeback to the drinks industry, try some of their delicious products, or look for other local drinks brands.

Check out your local area to find fresh and local produce.