Cllr Kevin Pressland: This country should value practical rural life and food production

Rural life and food production

Green Councillor Kevin Pressland is a passionate campaigner for nature and the natural environment.  His understanding of the threats faced by the natural world is based on expertise gained from a 40-year career in horticulture, garden design and sustainable land management:

I am sure the wider public would like to understand more about farming/horticulture, where their food comes from and the multiplicity of management considerations that could be made pending on topography, markets, ethicality etc.

I believe the public are interested to know more if the opportunity is given to them. Countryfile, Rare Earth and Farming Today are great programmes but there are many more ways to accrue understanding on these issues.

As Minnette Batters, the retiring National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President has expressed with exasperation, food producers are not being valued (or words to that effect). This government seem to be intent on watering down the food standards of production by enacting trade deals that could damage farming and the standards of food production in the UK.

Our lowest UK standards are designated under Red Tractor logo, we need to do better than that and I know many farmers do, and I for one applaud them.

Farming could flourish more with the right support mechanisms, but with all farmers/landowners participating as they have the privilege of this land. Sadly bureaucracy, I suspect, is deterring many and some land tenancy agreements can be constraining.

Projections are that only 50% of farmers are likely to take up the new Sustainable Farm Incentive and/or Environment Land Management Scheme and  Landscape Recovery Schemes. Yes, farmers have often been pulled in negative ways by bureaucrats/politicians and that’s caused bad policies that have been forced sometimes on farming/horticulture.

Stephen Briggs, a farmer and Nuffield scholar, who enacted agroforestry in the form of alley cropping on his farm in the Cambridge Fens shows there are ways forward that have a multiplicity of positive benefits. He says: “Nature doesn’t ‘do’ monoculture – it stacks different elements in time and space.”

He introduced agroforestry on his farm two decades ago, utilising the “up and down space” and reaping the rewards of improved diversity and soil health.

In this video ‘Next Steps with Regenerative Agriculture’ – Stephen Briggs – Agricology (just published), he shares some of the benefits it has brought his business, along with steps he believes need to be taken to convince more farmers to give it a go. In the video he shows how farming can be more financially remunerative.

The following resources provide practical tools and information to help boost the three ‘bs’ on farms – biodiversity, the soil microbiome and your business; from establishing perennial wildflower areas ( How to Successfully Establish Perennial Wildflower Areas – Agricology )

Green manuresPerennial green manures – an Innovative Farmers webinar – Agricology ),

Putting IPM into practice   A Practical Guide to Integrated Pest Management – Agricology  and

Applying soil health principles on a larger scale Soil health at scale – Agricology .

Coventry University is carrying out some research investigating if small-scale, diverse polycultures (meaning two or more crops grown on the same plot at the same time) can contribute to biodiversity and nature conservation in the wider landscape.

Three reports Cranfield University and UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have produced for Defra on ‘Evaluating the Productivity, Environmental Sustainability and Wider Impacts of Agroecological compared to Conventional Farming Systems’ are now available and make for some interesting reading. Check them out here Science Search (defra.gov.uk).

Food production in the UK matters and we need to encourage the direction of travel to regenerative farming that includes organic, permaculture, agroforestry, minimum tilth systems away from glyphosate use to undersowing and oversowing systems.

Farmers/horticulture need support to achieve this whole transition.  We need more initiatives like Innovative Farmers www.innovativefarmers.org  a collaboration with farmers practically on the ground with scientists collecting the data to determine efficacy.

Heres hoping more Kent and Thanet farmers will consider the above. I know many people would be supportive of their courage to make these changes, it’s in all our interests after all.

www.kevinpressland.com

18 Comments

  1. If farmers and landowners did not sell the land for housing ,think of all the extra food they could grow

    • Indeed – but everyone has their price, and developers know that. A better solution would be to refuse planning permission.

    • The Local Plan dictates the number of houses TDC has to build, and where they can and cannot be built.
      The LP reserves the Manston site for aviation only use. Which is a shame, because that means several thousand houses are being built on greenfield sites around Birchington, and so on.

    • It’s only going to get worse for our farming community as when Labour gain power they have promised to build a million homes a year, going way beyond what’s being built now. Coupled with Labours let them all in policy on immigration, our farmland will disappear at rates faster than ever seen before to satisfy Labour’s lust for house building targets.

    • It’s only going to get worse for our farming community as when Labour gain power they have promised to build a million homes a year, going way beyond what’s being built now. Coupled with Labours let them all in policy on immigration, our farmland will disappear at rates faster than ever seen before to satisfy Labour’s lust for house building targets.

  2. Very timely article Kevin and raises some good points.
    As the Labour Party hold over 50% of Thanet seats on the local Council I would be interested to hear what they have to say on the subject given its importance to the local environment and economy.

    • Unfortunately the local plan is what it is and can’t be amended.
      In other words – the farmland allocated for building can’t be ‘de-allocated’ regardless of who runs the council.
      Worth remembering that the Thanet Independent are responsible for the inclusion of farmland for building on in the first place.

  3. It appears the replies to Kevin’s article are fixated on the sale of farm land rather than the equally serious issue of sustainable farming and/or environment land management.Whilst I agree there should be stricter controls on the sale of green field sites it does not oviate the negative impact local councils/ bureaucrats/politicians hsve caused with ill founded policies over many decades.My question remains : what does the Labour run council of Thanet have to say on the matter of sustainable farming without watering down on food standards?

    • Mark – not a lot as I think it’s beyond their ability to apply any commercial logic. Just look at calibre of Labour Councillor’s and you will not find a lot of business acumen. Out with spade and grow another money tree!

      • They’re too busy virtue signalling on overseas conflicts to do anything for the people who actually elected them.

      • If that is the case how disappointing….Perhaps the answer would be to deselect those in question at the the most opportune time and replace with more compentent & freethinking persons.

  4. I can’t believe there are still some under the illusion that if you build house’s on Manston airport it’ll save our farm land, it won’t, house building is an aggressive money making machine for builders and government alike, all of our local farmland is owned by universities etc, I believe Cambridge university have a huge chunk in Thanet and if they want to sell it, they will.

  5. Excellent article. We all need to support sustainable farming and buy local, and chemical free for a myriad of health benefits.

  6. No one has mentioned the race to grow poorer quality food caused by imported food that is produced at lower cost than that in the UK. This is due to the free market, brought about by Brexit folks. Tomatoes from Morocco for instance!

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