Has 2020 been the year when British consumers have re-found their love of local?
As this week’s front page suggests, it would certainly seem that way as more people than ever before are turning to farm shops and local supply chains for much of their Christmas dinner.
For farming it has been one of the unexpected plus points of this year, as a normally mobile and transient population has largely been forced to spend more time at home and has had their spending habits reshaped like never before.
While agriculture has enjoyed a year of largely buoyant prices which have eased fears over the Brexit transition for many, as an industry we have seen a resurgence in people shopping local and taking a real interest in the provenance of their food and the systems in which it is produced.
This can only be a positive for British agriculture and it has been a message echoed by many throughout 2020.
In a recent edition of Farmers Guardian, Welsh butcher Will Williams said the pandemic had brought him a new, younger generation of consumer, while this week’s back page writer, Rona Amiss, has often spoken in Farming Matters of how demand has surged for her farm shop over the past 12 months.
These are positive stories for British farming and, while the supermarkets may be the biggest winners this year, especially with out of home eating all but shut down and pub doors closed, people’s love of great British produce has been heartening.
And, beyond giving the industry a positive shot in the arm it so desperately needed after years of fighting anti-farming messages, a greater understanding among the public about the sustainability and wider environmental contributions of our farming systems will be key.
Connecting with consumers about the benefits of, for example, red meat and dairy and why they are positive contributors to human health and the environment, is key if traditional farming systems are not to be undermined by claims they are bad for the planet and individuals. UK agriculture has managed to reconnect with many and it is an opportunity it should continue to seize.