I can remember times when no one knew a ‘poor’ farmer but those days have long gone and with the vagaries of EU farming policy and aggressive food sourcing of the major supermarkets there are many who struggle to make a decent living off the land.
As the Prince of Wales claimed in a recent foreword for Country Life too many of the population undervalue the farming role, especially aspects of the job taken for granted. Those in the cities and urban areas see the countryside as somewhere to enjoy a Sunday afternoon drive or a walk with the kids. The consensus is that they treasure the rural idyll but have little appreciation of the work that goes into maintaining the way the landscape looks.
In most areas farmers are the mainstay of the rural community and the thread that links the ecosystem. They maintain hedgerows and dry stone walls. They plough and furrow countless acres. They are the guardians of beautiful landscapes that form the backdrop for insects, birds, butterflies and bees. They provide jobs in areas where few exist.
Not only do we need to champion their role, we need to protect their very existence in the way we source our food. It helps but it is not enough to simply buy meat, eggs and produce locally. When faced with imported food on the supermarket shelf we need to back British even if it means spending a little more. That way we can keep more value in the rural food chain and make grocery buyers reflect that in the range of food that supermarkets stock.
Supporting the farming economy works both ways as the ecosystem becomes more sustainable and the beauty of the landscape is enhanced for locals and visitors alike. What price do we place on that? As more of the population polarises around urban areas then the more we will value escaping into the countryside for a holiday, weekend or Sunday drive. It’s worth keeping that in mind as you head to your favourite shop this weekend.