Environmental journalist George Monbiot and National Trust director general Dame Helen Ghosh were ridiculed at the Oxford Farming Conference today when they told the audience they would like to farm ‘water’ and ‘beauty’ if they were given the chance to own their own enterprise.
The two panellists, taking part in a discussion on agriculture’s future after the CAP, were answering a question from a member of the audience who asked what and where they would farm if they could go anywhere, and how they would turn a profit.
To audible groans, Mr Monbiot said: “I would farm water and devote my efforts to receiving public money for keeping water on my land to ensure communities downstream were protected from flooding while maintaining rich habitats.”
Dame Helen followed with her answer, saying she would farm ‘beauty’ and encourage tourists to visit her farm to appreciate the wildlife and biodiversity on offer.
Twitter was quick to react to the comments:
Dame Helen told Farmers Guardian after the event: “As my full answer made clear, beauty is only one output from great farming, but one which the public values very highly. That is why so many farmers benefit from income from tourism and access that it produces.
“I do hope my answer during this light-hearted point of the panel discussion has not been misinterpreted.”
Minette Batters, NFU deputy president, was also on the panel and said she would keep her business finishing Angus cattle because she was too passionate about it to do anything else.
Guy Poskitt, a grower, said he would like to turn his hand at farming in New Zealand.