‘Please support our family farms and keep our countryside alive’

December 20, 2018

PUBLIC CHALLENGE: “If you (the general public) share the Prince of Wales’ love of the countryside and believe it matters for this generation and those to come have the privilege we’ve all had in visiting these remarkable, special places, then I urge you to support us today.” – Gardeners World presenter Alan Titchmarsh. Picture by Phil Guest.

CRUCIAL ROLES: “You often see those family farmers on the parish council, they are the ones who drive the snow ploughts or cut the trees down when they fall in the road. They are the ones that are there. “You do. It isn’t just them, it effects the schools, the little shops and it effects the landscape and what it is going to look like.” – Edward Richardson of Farm Cornwall.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Countryside at the back of Kingston on the Purbeck Peninsula, Dorset. “The last two years have not been kind to our farmers and rural communities and have left many small farms struggling to survive. Unless something is done now, the consequences for our countryside will be dire and its landscape.” – Alan Titchmarsh.

 

GARDENING celebrity Alan Titchmarsh has made a heartfelt plea to the public to buy locally to support their crisis-hit rural communities.

Mr Titchmarsh, who is based in Hampshire and a former presenter for Ground Force, Songs of Praise, Gardeners World and Pebble Mill At One, was interviewing Edward Richardson of Farm Cornwall about the importance of the small family farm and its long-term survival as it is the principal architect of the South West’s patchwork-quilt countryside.

Small family farmers used to employ small numbers of people in the 1960s but now it is just the owners or tenants themselves with limited help from DEFRA due to their size and in some cases, they can go days or even weeks without social contact.

The Countryside Fund was set up in 2010 by HRH the Prince of Wales to improve the prospects of farmily farms and the quality of rural life.

‘£1.2M spent annually helps saves lives’

The fund provides £1.2M annually to projects across the country to help secure the future of the countryside and brings individuals and businesses together and help them tackle current challenges.

The fund has also been able in some exceptional circumstances saved lives, as the constant struggle sometimes leaves business owners contemplating suicide as a way out.

When asked whether the countryside would remain looking the way it is if the small family farms weren’t there, Mr Richardson emphatically tells Titchmarsh the consequences of failing to support these businesses and their supply chains.

‘Family farms backbone of rural community’

He said: “I think they provide a backbone to the community. You often see those family farmers on the parish council, they are the ones who drive the snow ploughs or cut the trees down when they fall in the road. They are the ones that are there.

“You do. It isn’t just them, it effects the schools, the little shops and it effects the landscape and what it is going to look like.

‘They see things as very matter of fact’

“Farmers see everything in black and white if an animal needs to be put down they will slaughter it. They  see things in a very matter of fact manner. I have sat in three or four situations where people have talked about suicide.

“A person whose farm was failing and looking after his parents, one of whom they had to care for and this is increasingly another issue we see on farms and his dog was one a drug to calm itself down and he decided to take that as a means to control his depression.

‘Weighing-up the options’

“The Countryside Fund has weight-lifted an enormous amount of help and they’ve got someone who has been supported by the countryside process and they’ve got someone to hold their hand in that particular situation or guide them through it.

“It could just be for a day or many, many months to get to that point where you can turn that business around or to the point where the farm is no longer going to be a way forward where it means an exit to the farm and there is going to be a life after it.”

When asked by Titchmarsh if the Countryside Fund literally saves lives, Mr Richardson says: “I would say so, yes.”

“Views you see are under threat’

Mr Titchmarsh said: “Beautiful fields. Rolling hills, breathtaking uplands and moorlands, stone walls, hedges, cattle in the fields and sheep contentedly grazing – but it is all under great threat.”

To combat this, Titchmarsh says one of the best ways to preserve their way of life is to be informed about the Countryside Fund and in addition, I would add to buy locally this Christmas. No one is saying don’t use supermarkets, but understand the rural heritage of Dorset and Somerset, and quench your inquisition and go and visit farm shops and delicatessens and support them as and when you can.

‘Landscapes will change without intervention’

“While it (the countryside) is a place of joy for many of us, the reality for those working here can be really harsh.
“The last two years have not been kind to our farmers and rural communities and have left many small farms struggling to survive. Unless something is done now, the consequences for our countryside will be dire and its landscape.

“Currently hill farmers who produce food in some of the UK’s harshest environments make less than £10,000 each year and this unique British way of life is in grave danger of disappearing forever.

‘Support sustainable agriculture to keep landscape’

“If you share the Prince of Wales’ love of the countryside and the remarkable characters who live in it and if you want to see thriving agriculture in which smaller family farms still have their place.

“If you believe that it matters for this generation and those to come can have the privilege we’ve all had in visiting these remarkable, special places, then I urge you to support us today.”

Anyone wanting to see the full exchange between Mr Titchmarsh and Mr Richardson can view it here.

‘Buy local produce this Christmas’

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