Some of you might have read the ‘Dairy is Scary‘ piece published in the Guardian’s opinion section last week. It was incredibly polarising and quite understandably angered many, including myself. There are always two sides to every coin and good journalism should I feel take both into account. I understand that this was an opinion piece coming from the vegan side of the argument, but it was cut-throat even by radical standards.
When I was asked to write a more balanced piece defending the interests of the other side I jumped at the opportunity, but it was tough (indeed impossible) to make all the points I wanted to within an opinion piece of 1000 words. I settled on trying to raise the profile of other farming bloggers, who illustrate their day-to-day lives and the realities of farming clearly and openly, as well as defending the image of farmers. The final piece is available here.
For many reasons farming as a process and vocation, and farmers themselves, have become increasingly distanced from the majority of consumers. Everybody eats but not everybody truly understands the full implications of food production – socially and culturally as well as economically and ecologically. This is partly down to education and partly down to everyday daily life – geographical distance as much as anything else.
Farming is a tough existence – indeed my dad never really actively encouraged me to enter the sector even though he had worked in it his entire life. However, it is absolutely critical at the same time. Without an economic use for land in the countryside, landscapes would rapidly change (and even though I personally support a degree of rewilding in certain places, productive food landscapes should be viable and indeed thriving). British farmers produce crops and livestock in the face of extreme competition from abroad. I’m generalising here, but they work in the face of immense regulation, meaning that British food is some of the safest and of the best quality in the world. I wish that more influencers who have a national stage would stand up for them, so that it’s not just left up to the lobby groups such as the NFU. It’s up to all of us to support farmers. There are means of finding out more about farming and farmers as individuals – you can follow them on twitter, easily engaging directly with them or you can read farming blogs or listen to podcasts. You don’t have to read the Farmers Weekly to understand what is going on in the farming world.
They might be giving you road rage at the moment as they rush around the countryside, in and out of fields completing their spring cultivations and spraying etc, but spare a thought and think about what it would be like if they weren’t there; if they weren’t in business. What would happen to the jobs? What would happen to the landscape? What would happen to the rural economy and rural communities? Yes, there are problems, and it’s not all rosy. The state of wildlife of farmers, whilst in less of a steep decline than it was thirty years ago, is still perilous and there is still a lot more that could be done. But, on balance, we shoud be supporting farmers, not demonising them.