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Show our farmers some love

Soil Association’s Helen Browning explains why support is required in the shift to nature-friendly farming
Show our farmers some love

This article first appeared in our Love issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 09 April 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Last year was difficult in so many ways.

People from every walk of life felt the toll of a global pandemic and, increasingly, political polarisation.

While navigating our way through these challenges became an understandable priority, our efforts to determine the way forward for our environment and climate were left with little of the attention they so desperately deserve.

2021 is a crucial year in the fight to start restoring what we’ve lost: a safe climate, abundant nature and healthy food.

Now is the time to come together to transform the way we eat, farm and care for our natural world, with real solutions that can deliver real change.

Our farmers deserve some love

The pandemic has brought deserved attention to our farmers. They’ve toiled harder than ever as essential key workers to keep our shelves stocked and our economy moving.

Our farmers have adapted their processes and donned additional PPE to ensure safe delivery of our produce. They have expanded their output to accommodate home deliveries and veg boxes, and to support meal programmes to keep the vulnerable in our society fed.

They did all of this under a heavy shadow of uncertainty as the UK prepared to leave the EU. And their work continues.

Effecting change in farming

As we move into 2021, we must do more to bring the right support to these vital businesses – both on the ground and through influencing farming policy – to ensure that UK farming can face the uncertainty ahead while also working in synergy with nature and the environment.

It can be done. Over the past year alone, the Soil Association has secured lasting change on several fronts. The Agriculture Bill now lists soil as an essential natural asset and farmers will be rewarded for protecting or improving soil quality. This new Bill also ensures scrutiny for future international trade deals.

Innovative Farmers, the Soil Association’s farmer-led research network, celebrated its 100th Field Lab (and counting); over 85% of the farmers involved said they had learned something from taking part. But there is still so much to do.

Moving to agroecology

Helping our farmers, organic and otherwise, in the successful transition to nature-friendly farming (agroecology) will ensure they can grow us healthy food while caring for wildlife, soils and water for the benefit of future generations.

We know that an agroecological – or ‘regenerative’ – approach to farming would help climate change adaptation and mitigation, reverse the biodiversity crash and provide healthy food for a growing population. But making this switch is a huge challenge.

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