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In your field: Thomas Carrick - 'A healthy countryside is one which produces plenty of food for its population'

Summer is over and the kids are back to school. All the rain has made it another fairly growy month, which has this corner of the countryside looking nice and green with plenty of grass in front of both fattening lambs and Mule gimmers.

With another month to go before our main sale at Lazonby, it is a good position to be in as bare fields at the end of August in the North Pennines can lead to a very hungry back end of the year.


For the kids it has been a pity the weather has not played by the rules as day after day of rain has kept them indoors too much; I honestly cannot remember the last time we had a dry August.

 

However, over the last six months we have learned to appreciate just how lucky we are to raise our families in such privileged surroundings. Freedom to play in quiet, open spaces, all the while learning plenty about how the countryside works, farming and nature alongside one another.


Our kids have spent lockdown much like other kids, being home-schooled, but also running around fields catching lambs at marking time, packing wool and ushering sheep up races.

 

Not to mention day after day swimming in the river, playing in the woods collecting snails, along with fossils and fluorspar from the abandoned mine heaps which litter this area.


It is easy to forget that for most in our country, day to day life is very different to this in ordinary circumstances, never mind during lockdown.

 

It is perhaps no wonder then that there is little understanding among our urban settled population of how farming works.


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A healthy, countryside is one which produces plenty of food for its population, all the while in a sustainable way. The first part is something which is at risk of being taken for granted.

 

Defra’s acknowledgement of the Sustainable Farming Initiative might get farming back into the frame, but how seriously Defra takes this approach will be only shown in time.

 

It seems obvious to me, however, that the new agriculture policy should have been designed with food production at its core, not as a sideline to environmental management.


The book, ’Our Food Problems and How to Fix Them’ by Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City, University of London, illustrates the importance of domestic food production, and more importantly, the perils of either undervaluing or taking it for granted.


The UK is naturally one of the most sustainable places to produce food in the world. We have a mild climate, not too hot or cold, our soils are fertile and we do not pump water out of the ground at an unsustainable rate to feed our crops.

 

We have a skilled workforce who love their jobs and given the right economic conditions, would provide plenty of high quality, reliable food which is produced to the standards that our population desires.

 

All we need is a Government which values what we have and not one which naively believes the world is awash with cheap food which we can tap into whenever we please.

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