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.’
Click here to find out why Wyke Farms’ Extra Mature Cheddar is a MyGreenPod Hero.
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.
The ethical production methods are also reflected in the final product: Wyke Farms’ cheddars clinch award after award for their great taste, beating off competition from rivals all over the world.
Wyke’s success has inspired countless other farmers to adopt more sustainable practices, but Richard feels more help is needed from the top. ‘The farming sector must address its carbon footprint, focus on soil health, minimise run-off and act on water usage’, Richard tells us. ‘It’s possible to change the entire sector, but we need to work together. Farmers must be encouraged to strive for net positive and rewarded for enhancing natural capital.’
It’s unclear how much government support farmers will receive post-Brexit, but Richard isn’t letting uncertainty over future policy stand in his way. Wyke is helping to transform the industry from the inside, offering a premium of 00.25p per litre to milk suppliers who adopt greener working practices on their own farms – whether they choose to install small anaerobic digesters, solar arrays or water recovery systems.‘We’ve also become a corporate member of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming)’, Richard tells us, ‘which promotes environmentally responsible farming and helps farmers produce good food to high environmental standards.’
Another aim of the partnership is to help inspire positive change that will trickle down through the supply chain. ‘It’ll signify a step towards the overhaul in farming practices we so urgently need’, Richard says, ‘while also helping to meet the needs of shoppers who are joining the food revolution.’
Win a lifetime’s supply of renewable energy
50% of our food is imported and 60% of the fuel used to generate our electricity comes from a foreign country, often travelling up to 2,500 miles before reaching the UK. But other options are available; making a simple switch to greener energy for your home or business, or buying food from local producers, can make an immediate impact that benefits everyone.
In fact, switching to a 100% renewable electricity and green gas tariff – like the one offered by Good Energy – can reduce your personal carbon footprint by up to a staggering 50%, which is why it’s a switch Richard Clothier is promoting. ‘We want to get our shoppers thinking about where energy and food come from’, he says, ‘so we’re running a competition with Good Energy to help contribute towards a cleaner, greener future.’
The top prize is a lifetime’s supply of 100% renewable electricity, worth over £20,000, and 20 runners-up will receive a one-year supply of electricity. 50 Somerset produce hampers – full of Wyke’s Somerset Cheddar – are also up for grabs.
To be in with a chance of winning any of the prizes, just pick up one of the 5 million promotional Wyke Farms packs and enter the unique code online at wykefarms.com/goodenergy.
Click here for more on Wyke Farms’ award-winning cheese and sustainability initiatives.
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