Farming and local produce in Britain is of the highest quality, but farmers are not the best at advertising it, according to John Martin, part owner of Nunton Farm, near Salisbury.
John and his father oversee and run the 500-hectare dairy farm which houses about 800 cows. They employ five full-time staff and one part-time.
The 28-year-old father of three is the fourth generation of farmers at the Nunton farm, which his grandfather set up in 1929 with 25 Ayrshire cattle.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board – the levy board which represents farmers, growers and others in the supply chain – do research and promote farming, but John said more needed to be done.
Recently, the family farm moved one of its fresh milk vending machines to Wilton’s South Street car park to boost sales and bring people closer to the product.
The two machines, in Wilton and at the Nunton site, have sold 119,368 litres since July, 2017. John said people he meets out and about and on the farm’s open days, are curious about farming, but – in general – don’t know much about it at all.
“UK standards are very high, and we produce food to a very good standard, compared to other countries in the EU, but we aren’t very good at advertising it,” he said.
“We need to give people clarity, so people aren’t misinformed and actually want to support farming. We need to make people think twice and understand that animals here are treated better.”
The cattle spend most of the year outside, feasting on grass but go inside from October to January, depending on weather conditions. Each cow is capable of producing about 6,000 litres in a lifetime and they, as well as the environment in which they live, are treated with respect.
“We need to engage more with people, schools and social media. If we can tell a story to make people better understand how farming works, and how good it is to the environment and biodiversity, they can get behind it,” John stressed.
Farmers face challenges
“There aren’t many farmers of my age – the average is around 55 or so in the UK. Social media is big these days, and the older generation maybe don’t have the ability to use it, but maybe that’s the way we need to go,” John emphasised.
But more pressing issues face the farming community.
“We talk about and help each other through challenges, such as Brexit, which is a looming cloud; we don’t know what to expect. Farmers tend to deal with it. But trade will be an issue, especially if cheap food comes in from elsewhere: then farmers will get paid less.”
Nunton Farm is doing well, but farmers across the country rely on subsidies to survive. Last year, UK farmers received £3.5 billion through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
While the EU has brought many good things to the farming community, John said blanket rules, such as the three-crop rule which forces farms with more than 30 hectares of arable land to grow three crops, with the main crop not exceeding 75% and the two main crops not exceeding 95%, should be more targeted.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) says the Government must provide certainty for the future of British food and farming on trade and welfare standards, taxes on imports and exports, immigration policy, additional red tape, and farm payment rules when the UK is no longer part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
NFU President Minette Batters who farms near Downton, speaking on September 11, said: “Today is the NFU’s annual Back British Farming Day. There has never been a more important time to show support for Britain’s food producers.”
“We are highlighting the importance of farming to the national economy, celebrating great British food and asking 50 critical questions which need answering ahead of October 31.
“In the event of a no-deal the UK will be forced to trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. That means UK farmers will face higher taxes on exports, such as 48% on lamb currently traded with the EU at a zero tariff; and we risk British food standards being sacrificed in future trade deals with products entering the UK that would be illegal to produce here.”