While I was out and about in Mendip South recently, I was conversing with a local Dairy Farmer. He told me that he was one of the last Dairy Farmers in the village (where we met) and that many of his generation were leaving farming for good, while younger folk weren’t stepping up into the profession.
He said “people will have a shock when Dairy Farming stops around here”.
Then I spoke to Max! From next month, for 12 months, Max is going to farm from his own small patch of land to achieve 100% food self-sufficiency. He says he will only eat “what I can produce, nothing else”. He is turning his abandoned small holding into a food producing farm come what may. Clearly Max is making a statement with his endeavour. Are we in danger of losing the connection with our farming irrevocably? Have we lost the plot when it comes to our relationship with eating seasonally, sourced locally?
“Farmers don’t need support, or help, they need sensible policies!” Max stressed to me. And he told me to watch the Minette Batters videos on the NFU website to start to understand the challenges facing farming today.
Why do we need to talk about farming and why is this on my plate?
Mendip South comprises of rural communities, with farming at it roots. I grew up in Hornblotton, amongst the farming communities. I now represent these communities. I am not a farmer, but I am a determined Councillor who wants to support my local community, rural community, farming community.
What is troubling farming? There is a lot to discuss, here’s just a few pointers, in no particular order.
- Rising energy costs and inflation
- The future of trade deals
- Access to available workforce (40% of growers reported losses recently, because of lack of access to workers)
- Sorting out a statutory profile for food production – making food production a primary political profile
- Climate change
- Taking land out of production
- Re-educating our eating and buying habits
- Considering large scale versus small scale (a couple of fields, does veg boxes locally, a few pigs and some sheep while there are more than 1,000 US-style mega-farms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including some holding as many as a million animals)
Max advised me, don’t just talk to me, talk to the farmers around here. I will Max. However, I will keep talking to Max and I will watch his farming experiment and learn too. I think we all need to watch, learn and talk about Farming.