FW Opinion: Empathy between city and countryside works both ways

The NFU’s decision to invite Archbishop Justin Welby to speak to a farmers’ rally this week was an interesting meeting of mind.

One is an organization that is seen in some circles as having a rapidly aging workforce that struggles to identify with much of modern society, and the other is the Church of England.

These perceptions are not always correct, I hasten to add.

About the Author

Andrew Meredith

Editor of Farmers Weekly

Andrew has been the editor of Farmers Weekly since January 2021 after working in the business and crops office. Prior to joining the team, he worked on the family cattle and sheep farm in the central highlands of Wales and studied agriculture at Aberystwyth University. In his free time, he is normally found continuing his research to find out which store sells the best Scottish Eggs in London.


Speaking at the Fourth Henry Plumb Conference, before the 96-year-old former NFU and European Parliament president, the archbishop said parishioners are coming forward to be ordained at the fastest pace in 30 years .

A lot of life in the church then, and a lot in agriculture as well.

See also: Farmer Time project extends to 400 schools

His speech was a useful reminder that the great challenges facing UK food producers are still less significant compared to many farmers in the global Anglican community.

Many try to grow crops in countries torn by conflict or facing catastrophic weather events.

Yet despite all the stability we enjoy, nutritious and affordable food is still not available to everyone.

Few would disagree with the Archbishop’s aspiration for food justice – a fair price for producers that remains accessible to the poorest consumers.

The second part of this equation is just a shadow of the very credible claims made by farmers that food prices must rise to cope with soaring input costs.

In the week that Arla took the strain off producers by raising the price of milk right off the farm – surely it makes sense to ask consumers to pay a few more pennies on the other end?

Yet if these marginal increases are replicated in all types of food and other monthly bills, many more families could soon be faced with a choice between adequate nutrition or heating this winter.

Is this the problem of agriculture?

It’s easy to admire the hard-line farmers who say that food production is a business like any other and that it’s not their job to feed the world, just to provide for their families by making selfish decisions about food. way to use their land that keep them in profit.

You may see more of this breed come to the fore as direct subsidies are removed and we are more than ever at the mercy of the markets.

But there are also arguments for those who think that agriculture has a more important role to play in society than just making a margin – such as making costly long-term decisions to improve land and support the way of life. rural life in the broad sense.

Whatever your perspective, it is essential that consumers maintain a positive image of us and that we are not scapegoats as an industry if there is a looming cost-of-living crisis.

This means that the gap in understanding between city and country is as small as possible, and that is why I strongly support the excellent Farmer Time initiative.

This allows farmers to regularly make live video calls to schools to tell children more about life on the farm – and more farmers are urgently needed to meet the demand.

Our industry is in desperate need of good publicity like this.

But in return, we owe it to these children and their families to do more to understand what their lives are like and to lobby on their behalf, as well as ours.

Farmers certainly cannot solve society’s problems and provide everyone with three meals a day on their own, but empathy is a two-way street.

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