- Farming, rare breed conservation and a passion for sustainability power this television personality
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Conservation is an issue close to my heart. My partners and I farm within a higher level stewardship scheme – we manage the land very sensitively and have wildlife margins with pollen and nectar mixes for pollinators. We also create seed mixes to feed birds in the winter, focusing on targeted species of farmland birds. We manage our hedgerows, rivers and areas of permanent pasture with wildflowers, too, and are proud to look after these elements of our land.
Michael Gove, Defra secretary, is keen for farmers to look after their natural environment – this works in synergy with what we’re doing: food needs to be produced sensibly and carefully to be a sustainable source of nutrition for the UK and beyond, and thanks to stringent regulations producers in the UK can really shout about the quality of their supply.
THE BIG PICTURE
I started working in the media in 2001 and present Countryfile on BBC1 on Sunday night, mainly talking about farming stories at home and around the world. From that, and because I’m passionate about rare breeds, localism and food production – on a small and big scale – and particularly about farming within the legislation that we have in the UK, I’ve come to the conclusion that we have some of the best producers in the UK and am proud to work with some producers on telling the story about their traceability and localism.
Independent retailers are already doing a lot to spread the message about food production and the origins of food, and they need to continue to be active in terms of social media, marketing and events to keep spreading the word. Also, it’s important to connect with local schools – in both rural and urban areas – going out to them and having them come to you. A surprising number of people in the UK are malnourished in terms of the food they’re eating, and it’s being said that at this moment in time more diseases are being caused by malnutrition than by infection and other diseases. Heart attacks, diabetes and cancers caused by insufficient nutrition are putting strain on resources across the world, and we must educate the masses in order to bring forth change. If we can start at the bottom and encourage people to think about what goes into their food, and to have a connection with what they’re eating, we can make a difference.
In line with this, I’ve been working with Matthew Rhymer, founder and CEO of Happerley, looking at clarity and honesty within the food chain. There are a lot of labels out there which are misleading and defective, which is undoing the work of people across the industry who are working hard to create understanding around the food industry.
Read the entire interview in the latest issue of Speciality Food, available to download for free here.