Rural economies throughout Europe, not just the UK, have been neglected politically for years, and the people living and working in them are angry and upset for having been ignored. From Brexit in the UK, the “Gilets Jaunes” movement in France and the Five Star government in Italy, to the growing tensions in Spain, Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe, the status quo has been rejected.
From the UK perspective, whether or not we stay in or leave the EU, there will be change. That much is clear from the Agriculture Bill, Environment Bill and the Stacey Report, which sets out the direction of travel the government has in mind over the years to come.
Yet politicians cannot be blamed for all of the mess: globalisation has destroyed the cohesion of rural economies, benefiting the multinational companies and the metropolitan elites who share the spoils. We have to rebuild that cohesion using all the tools of modern technology at our disposal. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that governments take notice of what we say and want and then act. It’s no good, for example, government demanding the highest standards of animal welfare unless they make the large manufacturing companies and supermarkets pay farmers fair and proper prices for their livestock. Equally, it’s no good government demanding the highest standards of animal welfare if it is directly responsible for draining the life-blood out of the small abattoirs, many of which have gone out of business recently, only to support the largest abattoirs with grants out of the taxes we pay.
It’s up to us, collectively, to fight these inequities (and many more besides) and force the government to listen and act. Everys is starting down this road with a series of podcasts with farmers, rural businesses, scientists and others, so that we can all learn more about each other’s businesses, share ideas and support what we all demand.
Making these podcasts has been both fun and informative. Everys is also supporting the Sustainable Food Trust where it can, particularly in its campaign to halt the decline of small, low throughput abattoirs. Its reports make the case for changes to farming that, by and large, we all support. The link to their website is set out below.
There are six podcasts for you to listen to:
- Sally and Roger Maynard farm near Exeter. They describe how they diversified their farming operations over the years into, amongst other things, the outdoor toy business, and discuss the important business principles that they consider key to success.
- John Coles describes how he diversified into the meat trade, establishing a low throughput abattoir on his farm. There were 200 when he started 40 years ago; only four remain. The rapid decline in the number of small abattoirs is putting the niche, high-quality livestock producer out of business.
- Steve Williams and Pete Woodham-Kay started a charcuterie business just over four years ago in Steve’s garage. They now have an industrial unit full of equipment required to cure, using “only salt and natural Exe and Clyst Valley air”.
- Andrew Parr is the fifth generation to run the family’s oak bark tannery business in East Devon – the last oak bark tannery in the whole country. At the beginning of the last century, Devon had 160 such tanneries. Andrew supplies top quality leather to the Northampton shoe industry, saddlers and the French and Italian fashion houses.
- Professor Michael Lee runs Rothamsted Research at North Wyke near Okehampton and he cogently sets out the scientific case for both keeping red meat as part of our diet – although less of it – and for drinking more milk. Indeed, he believes that the decline in milk consumption is already having profound effects on our health.
- Catherine Broomfield writes for the farming and national press about countryside matters and argues that the Agriculture Bill will only work if every element of it is implemented.
Sustainable Food Trust – https://sustainablefoodtrust.org/