Farming should be “claiming health as its agenda” at a time when food systems are becoming “increasingly broken”, the leader of a sustainable farming charity has said.
Speaking at the Woolsery & District Show, Caroline Drummond MBE, chief executive of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), told farmers there was a “huge amount of opportunity” to embed nutrition and health as a principal industry value.
It comes as the importance of food has been largely “forgotten” by the public, she added, as they juggle work and family life in a fast-paced society.
“Food is so important to everybody here in the UK, but we’ve forgotten that,” she told the show’s Landstalk lecture on Monday, July 29.
“A total of 50.8% of the food eaten in the UK is ultra-processed, in those microwave packets sprinkled with a few nutrients and preservatives and having lost its identity from the food you are growing as farmers.
“Our food systems are becoming increasingly broken. We’re creating a situation where, as farmers, we grow commodities. Food reserves are not only a necessary part of our lives, it also defines who we are.”
Mrs Drummond, who has headed up LEAF - the organisation behind Open Farm Sunday - since it began in 1991 and lives on a dairy farm in South East Cornwall, said with 66% of adults and 25% of year six-age primary school children in the UK being obese or overweight, farming really needs to start thinking about how it could play a role in tackling this challenge.
She said: “Whereas the challenges of infection were the big issue back in the 20th century, here in the 21st century it is the diseases that we give ourselves, one biscuit at a time. Type 2 diabetes’ annual cost [to the health service] is £12 billion, the UK advertising spend on unhealthy food is £256 million and malnutrition’s yearly cost to the health service is around £19.6 billion.
“Wouldn’t that be the £19.6 billion that we as an industry should take ownership of, in creating food that actually makes us better, not tablets. The NHS doesn’t deal in well health, it deals in illness, so we as farmers should increasingly be claiming health as our agenda.”
Mrs Drummond concluded: “Agriculture is not only important to the economic viability of this country, but also to our social and environmental health as well.
“But we are living in a ‘VUCA’ world: it is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. There are challenges that are very real, very urgent, but actually the farming industry can provide the solution for the vast majority of that.
“This is a disruptive time in agriculture, it’s a disruptive time for farming, but if we think radically and we bring the core parts and values within the industry together, farming’s time is now.”
Source: Devon Live