We need to talk about farming

On a recent visit by HRH The Prince of Wales to mark the official opening of the new FarmEd centre above Shipton, he stated:

“What you are showing people and introducing them to is of great importance in terms of regenerative agriculture and reminding people of the absolutely critical importance of the health of the soil, building soil fertility, capturing carbon.”

The FarmEd mission is to provide learning spaces and events that inspire, educate and connect people to build sustainable farming and food systems that nourish people and regenerate the planet.

When Adam Henson and BBC Countryfile made contact I jumped at the chance to put the case for regenerative farming. You see, farmers find themselves in a unique position. They not only produce our daily bread, they can also cool the planet with farming methods that lock in carbon. And farmers provide places for us and wildlife to thrive. Farmland covers most of the countryside. In England, 74% of the land is farmed. So whatever happens on it matters and, as consumers of food and farm produce, the decisions each of us make will make a difference.

Remember 1962? Farmers do. It was the year of their birth. The average farmer is 59 years old. It was also the year the not very snappily titled Common Agricultural Policy(CAP) was introduced, designed to support farmers across much of Europe to feed a growing population by producing plentiful and affordable food. It did, sort of.  Critics of the CAP draw attention to it worsening the two big issues of our time – climate change and the loss of wildlife. We did not foresee the massive rise in diabetes and coronary heart disease either, the result of poor diet. Overfed but malnourished!

So what next? Well, farmers like me won’t receive normal subsidy for much longer. Eighty-eight thousand English farmers are under notice that their support payments are going to be phased out over the next few years. This is important as, on average, support payments make up a third of farmers’ incomes.

Here at FarmED, we are passionate about finding ways that farming can work alongside nature to capture carbon and cool the planet.  We run a not-for-profit farm and food education centre for farmers, policy makers, academics, students and the general public. We provide learning spaces and events that inspire, educate and connect people to address the issues of our time – climate change, food production and biodiversity loss.

Find out more about our events and keep in touch by subscribing to our newsletter at www.farm-ed.co.uk or follow us @RealFarmED.

Ian Wilkinson
Founder of FarmEd

August-September 2021