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Farming Matters: Jim Beary - 'Focus must be on healthy, sustainable and affordable food'

Jim Beary is a mixed upland livestock farmer in the Peak District and a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

It was recently reported that Treasury adviser Tim Leunig had implied that the UK did not necessarily need its own farmers and could rely solely upon imports to feed our nation.

 

Yet, fast forward just a few weeks and we now find ourselves in a situation where countries across the world are in lockdown. All but essential trade has come to a grinding halt.

 

All the while, our supermarket shelves are being emptied at a rate never seen before in Britain.

 

The circumstances we are all living through today certainly casts serious doubt on the theory that we can function as a nation without our farmers.

 

This unfolding pandemic is going to affect the lives of all of us for years to come. Many difficult times lie ahead of us and the situation is already drastically changing the way we go about our daily lives.

 

Local butchers, greengrocers, bakeries and farm shops have experienced an influx of new customers in a matter of days, due to larger retailers being inundated with demand and as a result of stringent new travel restrictions.

 

Suddenly sourcing our food has become something most people have had to seriously think about, to an extent which many people have, in all likelihood, never considered before.

 

We may well see a return to more local and seasonal produce in the short-term, but we must be mindful of the danger of simply falling back into old habits once this crisis is over.


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Butchers, greengrocers, bakeries and farm shops have experienced an influx of new customers.
Butchers, greengrocers, bakeries and farm shops have experienced an influx of new customers.

Credentials

 

Before Covid-19, I believe British agriculture was beginning to make some good progress in terms of improving the quality of our food and our environmental credentials.

 

What is clear to me is that it has never been as important for us to keep this momentum going. We absolutely must continue to enhance our soils and our natural environment in order to provide high quality nutritious food which can help keep our nation as healthy as possible.

 

But our role goes further still. The farming sector has got both huge potential and undoubted ability to become a bedrock for people’s health and wellbeing, as well as being a stabilising force for the economy.

 

The opportunity to capitalise on what farming in this country can offer us all has been glaringly overlooked for far too long and now is the time to awaken ourselves to its true potential, as farmers and as consumers.

 

As consumers, we should seize this time to rethink our eating and buying habits.

 

Farmers, meanwhile, should give serious consideration to how they farm and the supply chains should adjust accordingly.

 

My farming journey began as an intensive pig and beef farmer’s son in an era when farmers were encouraged and rewarded for producing as much as possible.

 

Nowadays, I produce food in a very different way inside the Peak District National Park where I farm in my own right.

 

It is crucial our focus as farmers today must be on producing healthy, sustainable and affordable food for all.

 

Our new reality, as we grapple to overcome this global pandemic, makes this challenge more important than ever before in peacetime Britain.

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