What do I hope for the future of farming?
What I hope for is probably irrelevant. Our countryside will change hugely in the coming years. Since the Second World War farming and countryside has been in a constant state of flux due to changing food demands and growing new crops. Farming has never been stable; but now more than ever farming has to alter to meet the demands of a planet in crisis.
What can we expect? Fields of tree planting for carbon storage; hectares of elephant grass and acres of withies to fuel power stations; drought resistant crops –sunflowers perhaps; less methane belching grazing animals and huge areas of cereals for human, rather than animal, consumption. We will become more and more conscious of energy (wind farms, solar power), food miles and food security (growing our own), and national biosecurity.
Whenever an industry undergoes massive transformation it’s hard for those involved. Change is frightening and we are not good at accepting it. But I do feel that there are huge opportunities to be had for people with sight, vocation and enthusiasm, but most of all innovation. After all we have to eat to survive. The countryside is changing and I for one will mourn it. I love the quintessential Englishness of our pastoral idle – our patchwork of fields; hedges, trees, woodlands and moorlands; our grazing animals. But preserving that in aspic is no longer something we or the planet can afford: farming and the landscape either change dramatically or we face extinction. The trick will be to guide the change in ways that create beauty and inspiration, that feed our souls as well as our bellies.