‘Buy local food to maintain the look of the countryside’

January 25, 2015

Lulworth farm shop products

PURBECK PRODUCE: This hamper of products includes organic flour, lemon curd, milk from Craigs Dairy, parsnips, organic tinned tomatoes, free-range sausages, mushrooms and freshly baked cinnamon swirls and sausage rolls. These can be found at Holme For Gardens Farm Shop in Lulworth.



AT RISK: The countryside scene from Glastonbury Tor down towards the town is as a result of grazing on the Somerset Levels. Local farmers will be involved in agri-environment schemes to maintain this look.



WHY should the South West public back dairy farmers and their colleagues at this crucial juncture?

I will endeavour to answer this question with hard facts to understand the wider context of what we are facing. Supermarket buyers for Tesco, Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Lidl didn’t create our unique environment down here, small business and conservation organisations or their suppliers.

Down here in Dorset, some people on social media responses to dairy feature pieces have provocative put downs such as ‘grow veg then and get some exercise’ and ‘if they didn’t get subsidised by those dreadful townies they would have to diversify like so many other people, obviously it is a cushy life or they would all go out of business’; and ‘I’ll stand by what I said, you will never see a poor farmer’

Here is one food fact from a previous post on a Christmas basket. If a cheese maker is paid £1.39 per kg for their cheese direct from the farm and is paid £6.62 per kg at the supermarket end, there is a gap of £5.23 being swallowed up in processing and packaging. How exactly does a farmer get ‘subsidised’ by these figures?

Perhaps these anonymous individuals. might like to address the facts below as to who does the work if they and their colleagues in other sectors are not there to do it? Oh yes, it is probably too dirty for them and too much like hard work.

Some of these contributors I assume will have properties in suburban areas adjoining farmland and rural areas. If the countryside has signs of neglect, their house values will drop. Will they go and get the hedge strimmer or brush cutter out and do the countryside maintenance themselves for no financial gain? Somehow I doubt it.

These businesses have been family-run for generations and they are working seven days a week, 365 days a year. Perhaps these two individuals might like to swap places for a week on the family dairy farm and see how long they would cope?

To illustrate the link between producers (dairy included) and their environment, view the website of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that lists food and drink businesses, their products, environmental sustainability and their role in the management plan of the area. Take these businesses away and the designations are not worth the paper they are written on.

If you buy local produce when and where you can from farm shops and delicatessens or asking your supermarket branch where their milk or other product is local, you are ensuring money is kept in the local economy and is being put into countryside maintenance as well as supporting the business.

Dorset, Somerset and the New Forest have their proportionate share of the 190,000 kilometres of public rights-of-way that criss-cross public and private land and have contributed to some of the 50,000 kilometres of hedgerow planted since 1990.

If agri-environment schemes are failing, why is it that farmland birds like goldfinches, Stock Dove, whitethroats and skylarks have seen their numbers increase in recent years? Woodpigeons and jackdaws have also doubled.

Many farmers in our locality have conducted soil protection reviews – this considers soil-related problems such as soil structure, organic matter, erosion, compaction and damage to landscape features.

There has been a long-term decline in fertiliser nutrient applications. Nitrogen and phosphate applications have reduced by 30 per cent and 57 per cent respectively between 1990 and 2012.

Furthermore 70,600 ponds were created by agri-environment schemes between 1997 and 2007 and they are responsible for over 6,781 of fenced water courses.

Buying local food supports small businesses, who in turn look after the environment and safeguard the area for tourism and helps us to focus on exercising in lovely areas and this should motivate healthy living.

  • To find out more, it may be worth going to the local country shows and letting people from across the rural community, including dairy farming, explain what they do or attend an Open Farm Sunday event.

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