‘Investing in landscape is food for thought’

July 28, 2014


PATCHWORK QUILT: Looking down on the Somerset Levels from Glastonbury Tor. It is the highest point for miles around and lies very close to the centre of the county.

SM View 1

SACRED VIEW: This is countryside looking out from the village of Bloxworth.


Phil Samways

SUPPLY CHAIN: National Trust tenant farmer Phil Samways of Langton Matravers shows some of his locally-grown pork at a community event at Holme 4 Gardens nursery near Lulworth. This pork, along with other meat and locally grown fruit and veg supports the local food sector, particularly fresh ingredients for pubs and restaurants.



TOURISM groups and business organisations must be made aware of the success they make off the environmental stewardship carried out  by Dorset and Somerset’s landowners, farmers and smallholders.

I write this piece as the country show circuit is in full swing and this week it is the turn of the New Forest Show at Brockenhurst, although many Dorset and Somerset producers join their New Forest colleagues there.

The South West consists of Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall and Gloucestershire and it employs a fifth of the total industry workforce in the country. The 78,000 folks working in the region help to generate £2.7B for the region’s economy.

The region makes a play on how it tries to cut the amount of miles food travels and this is born out through the 37,000 jobs that are supported in the manufacturing food and drinks sectors plus a number of the 111,000 directly employed in food and drink retail.

Two thirds of the 85 per cent of the land farmed in the South West is under agri-envionment schemes. These schemes are crucial in maintaining the landscape for the benefit of the tourism industry and are done in conjunction with other land use organisations such as the Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the National Trust.

Figures from the Countryside and Community Research Institute suggest that across the country, for every £1 invested spent in environmental stewardships, the output generated leads to £1.42 spent in the local economy within 40 minutes of the farm.

So for Dorset, that results in an overall £3M profit; a £3.9M bonus for Somerset and for Devon, the largest county in the South West, it is a £6.7M bounce. Many of the figures I’m using are provided by NFU South West.

A little under one per cent of farmed land in Somerset used for horticulture helps to generate nearly over 27 per cent of fruit and vegetable production in the South West. This is particularly born out if you realise the county is home to a significant part of the cider industry.

Exactly a fifth of the industry’s workforce is employed in agriculture and the earning potential will have a knock-on effect for the supply chain industries underneath these primary producers.

Dorset is the smallest county in the South West. It has a higher proportion of cereals grown and also has the highest population of goats. They also have 178,000 cattle and 176,000 sheep.

Wiltshire has the lowest number of cattle and sheep in the region but tops the poll when it comes to production of total cereals, spring barley, wheat and peas.

To put all these figures in some sort of perspective, the country is declining in self sufficiency. In 2012 UK farmers supplied 62 per cent of our food and 76 per cent of the foods there are can be grown in this country.

Despite a rising population, self-sufficiency trends can be reversed in certain circumstances. Strawberry production doubled from 44,000 tonnes in 1991 to 96,000 tonnes in 2012.

A spokesman for the NFU said: “There will always be some foods – due to temperature, soil type or sunshine – that we can’t grown in Britain. Greater self-sufficienty doesn’t mean limiting or reducing imports – it means building on what we are already good at which is to produce more British food.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rebecca Goodlad July 30, 2014 at 8:14 am

A very good report making an important point that self-sufficiency is essential for our nation. Thanks Matt.


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