A farmer whose income from producing food has been so low he has considered using a food bank is calling for Government action to address rural poverty.
James Metcalfe, a tenant farmer running a pedigree North Country Cheviot flock with his wife and father at Edale in Derbyshire’s Peak District, told his story as part of a 12-minute film, God’s Lone Country, which sets out to challenge rose-tinted images of the rural idyll and reveal the tougher realities of life in the countryside.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian ahead of the launch, Mr Metcalfe said: “Last August we were at the point where we considered giving up. We did not know how we were going to pay the rent.
“My wife and I have both suffered with mental health issues in the past and last year I was at my lowest ebb.”
Mr Metcalfe was approached by the Food Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) as part of an 18-month investigation into how policy, business and community currently shape the UK’s food and farming systems and rural communities.
“They approached me in September and it was a blessing. I was so low that talking about our problems for the film was like therapy for me,” he added.
“It was comforting to know I was not alone. I also wanted people to know not all farmers drive around in Range Rovers and wear Hunter boots. In fact I think there is a lot of rural poverty but people do not see it.”
FFCC director Sue Pritchard said: “We commissioned this film to expose the very real problems facing rural communities and give a voice to the millions of ordinary people who live in our countryside.
“The social issues they face are every bit as serious and pressing as in urban areas - but they feel unheard and overlooked by policy makers in Westminster, and society in general.”
Mr Metcalfe added: “We have considered the food bank because at times income is so low.
“How ridiculous is it that a farmer produces food he cannot afford.
“I will buy cheap food because that is what we can afford to buy yet I know it should be more expensive but I cannot afford to pay for it, so it is a stupid, vicious circle.”
The FFCC’s film, produced and directed by Just Farmers founder Anna Jones, has been launched ahead of a House of Lords report on the rural economy, due out next week.
To watch the video click here.