This article appears in the spring issue of MyGreenPod.com Magazine, distributed with the Guardian on 07 April 2017. Click here to read the full digital issue online.
Farming – and therefore food production – may be among the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, but that presents a major opportunity: greener everyday working practices could be the key to a sustainable future for generations to come.
In fact, with 85% of the UK’s total land footprint associated with meat and dairy production, farmers are perfectly positioned to be environmental stewards and pioneers of sustainable business.
‘As a sector, food and farming contributes to about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions’, explains Richard Clothier, managing director of Wyke Farms, ‘but there’s huge potential for change. If we expect shoppers to change their lifestyles it could be too late; we have to develop practical solutions to minimise our impact.’
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The quest for practical solutions has led Richard to adopt what he calls a ‘practical environmentalism’ in the day-to-day running of Wyke Farms in Somerset’s Brue Valley. He’s tackling two of the major challenges facing farmers everywhere – carbon emissions and water usage – in order to make his 150-year-old family business as environmentally sustainable as it can possibly be.
A happy side-effect is that Richard’s methods are proving a source of inspiration for others in the area, and helping to transform the wider farming sector from within.The solar panels at Wyke Farms’ HQ are a great example: they sit on the farm roofs, visible to staff and visitors alike, powering the ice banks required to chill milk from body temperature. These banks need to work hardest on hot, sunny days, which is precisely when solar panels generate most power. The neat cycle is a perfect advertisement for renewable energy, and many visiting farmers have been inspired to install a similar model on their own buildings.
An addition that’s even more impressive – though not quite as easy to replicate at home – is Wyke’s Anaerobic Digestion Plant, which transforms organic waste into clean energy. Cheesemaking byproducts and farmyard manure are mixed with local waste, including apple pomace from nearby cider makers and breadcrumbs from neighbouring bread manufacturers, to generate electricity and gas. The electricity powers the cheesemaking process, with any surplus sold to Good Energy. The biogas is cleaned up and put back into the grid to run Wyke’s boilers and power the local town of Bruton.
‘The government has to create the right environment to help farmers to feed the world in a greener way. Over the next 10 years world populations will grow; the large Asian and Indian populations are becoming more affluent – we have to fi nd ways to produce the foods that they want to eat in a way that won’t harm the environment.’
managing director of Wyke Farms
With all operations powered by solar and biogas, Wyke Farms is the first completely self-su fficient dairy brand. Richard’s achievements were recognised last year when Wyke became he first dairy brand in the UK to receive the Carbon Trust Triple Accreditation for water, carbon and waste. The farm has also been the Guardian Sustainable Business of the Year for three years running – 2014, 2015 and 2016 – and Richard was named Business Leader of the Year at the Green Innovation and Finance Awards.