M&S has committed to sustainable agriculture through a new five-year collaborative programme designed to help its Select Farmers gain resilience to the biggest environmental challenges they face.
The ‘Farming with Nature’ programme will provide farmers with industry-relevant, specialist support in the areas of climate change, biodiversity, soil health and water usage to help them to become more sustainable and deliver measurable improvements to their businesses.
Farming With Nature
As part of the project, the own-brand retailer has established 17 Indicator and Innovation Farms across the UK, spanning fresh produce, dairy, beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken and eggs.
The farms will be supported by M&S-funded specialist industry partners from The Wildlife Trusts, the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and Fera (The Food and Environment Research Agency).
Learnings from these farms will be shared through knowledge transfer events with other M&S Select Farmers and the wider industry.
Steve McLean, head of agriculture and fisheries at M&S, said: “We know that farmers are facing significant challenges, with uncertainties around Brexit, climate change and changes to farm support.
“Adapting to these pressures will require innovation in farming practices and we are determined to support our Select Farms as they find new ways to meet the environmental challenges we face.
Our approach is about providing practical support as well as helping to play our part in closing the gap between customers and agriculture.”
Speaking to Agriland, Peter Kennedy M&S agriculture manager said sourcing locally was “logical” from all aspects.
“From an M&S point of view, we are working to ensure we have some innovative products which take quite a lot of work in terms of research and development. We maybe do that work with one processor and trying to emulate that across regional areas is quite difficult.
“However, it makes logical sense to work where you can with local suppliers that are meeting your standards and are meeting your requirements,” he said.
There’s a stronger customer message from local farms and local stories, as well as benefits from a sustainability and transport miles perspective.
“We are working more and more on that to ensure customers have [a local] offering.”