The importance of social enterprises such as The Community Farm to the future face of farming is being recognised at the highest levels of government, both in the UK and Europe.The Farm has been invited to feed-in to Defra’s Future of Food and Farming Consultation, alongside our colleagues at the Soil Association and Land Workers Alliance. And in March, Molly Scott Cato, Green Member of the European Parliament for the South West of England and Gibraltar, paid us a visit. She met with myself, Board members, staff and volunteers to find out more about community growing and gather our views on agriculture, post Brexit. The MEP sits on the EU parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and will also be submitting a response to the all-important Defra consultation. Feedback from us at The Farm, will form part of her report.
Food and agriculture in the UK is at a crossroads. As Brexit approaches we will be faced with many questions as to how we want to shape farming for the foreseeable future; the protection of our soil and the countryside; the real cost of unsubsidised farming; food poverty and security; and our health.
Brexit will change the price of imported produce into this country and withdraw all current subsidies. We will address the latter by creating our own system which may be less lucrative for farmers – many of whom rely on this income stream to make profits. However, we do have the opportunity to create a system that rewards good soil health, decreases reliance on the use of antibiotics and pesticides and encourages new entrants in to smaller scale agroecological farming. This would have the knock-on effect of increasing countryside biodiversity, addressing the loss of birds and small mammals, as well as improving the general health of the population through access to food which is fresh, seasonal and less contaminated.
Creating conditions that are more favourable for agro-eco farming could well encourage an influx of new entrants into the sector, helping provide more ethical food to local economies and food systems. But where will they farm? Access to land is one of the biggest factors holding back growth in the farming sector, whether it’s large organisations who buy land as investment, land prices rising disproportionately to the rate of inflation, the cost of living, or land owners who are unwilling to offer land rental for farming projects.
Addressing this issue through local council and central government incentives will be key to addressing food security.
The Brexit debate presents a unique opportunity for us to have our voice heard and to promote an industry that looks after the environment and society. Change is coming, and The Community Farm will certainly be a part of it.
- Ped Asgarian
April eventsIf you’d like to learn more about food, farming and the natural world, there are lots of opportunities to join us on the fields this April. www.thecommunityfarm.co.uk/events/
Lakeside Retreat Weekend - 14 and 15 April
Join Ecowild for a relaxing weekend of mindfulness at The Community Farm.
Family foraging – 21 April
Earthwise is joining forces with expert forager, Martin Bailey for a seasonal Pick and Cook Day on the wild side.
Community Farmer Days - every other Saturday from 28 April
You’ll learn lots about growing and food production, have the opportunity to try your hand at farming and meet new people.