At The Future of UK Farming conference this past April, we explored what the future might hold for farming in the UK post-Brexit, setting out the opportunities and discussing how farming practice might become more sustainable.

The following films capture the sessions in full and include a series of thought-provoking questions from the audience.

The Future of UK Farming with Michael Gove and Minette Batters 

Placing health at the forefront of his agenda, Gove recognised that human health is integrally linked to how food is produced and so the health of the environment is of equal importance – “there need not be a tension between growing healthy food and securing a healthy environment,” he asserted. The sustainability of the UK food system was placed front and centre and extended to include the need to sustain rural communities and culture. In 20 years’ time, he wants the UK to be a leader in sustainable food production, championing high animal welfare, healthy soil, increased wildlife on farms and less waste – it is a hopeful vision of change and renewal.

Crediting the Secretary of State for his good work, Minette Batters opened her keynote by saying that it is great to be working with a politician who can finally put “the importance of farming, the environment and food production very firmly on the political map”. Minette went on to trace the past twenty years of British farming, arguing that we are in fact starting Brexit with solid foundations, having halved our use of pesticides and inorganic fertiliser over the past twenty years, and with the growth of assurance schemes such as Red Tractor and LEAF to underpin our development. She explained her vision for a future of active farming businesses that are “sustainable, profitable and progressive”, delivering for all incomes. She welcomed the Secretary of State’s plan to enhance the reputation of the UK food system at home and abroad, stating that, “We’ve never needed a bigger bolder plan for food production than we do today.”

Small Abattoirs and On-Farm Slaughter: The Future of Local Meat

Without urgent action to support small abattoirs, does local, traceable meat have a future? How might we address the need for more local slaughter facilities, to create shorter supply chains for organic grass-fed heritage breeds, and enable more successful marketing for them; and what are the existing challenges and barriers small abattoirs are facing in the UK?

A panel of experts in the field discussed these questions and more, with on-farm slaughter and mobile abattoirs suggested as possible solutions.

Chaired by Tim Morris of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, the session begins with Policy Advisor to the SFT, Bob Kennard examining the decline in the number of small abattoirs, falling in the UK from 30,000 in the 1930s to 248 today. Small abattoir owner and butcher John Mettrick explains the problem with economies of scale and regulations affecting, for example, waste collection and ante-mortem inspection. Producer of top-quality “ethical scotch beef” Robin Tuke of Hardiesmill gives six suggestions for setting up an on-farm micro-abattoir based on his own experience. Local Authority Environmental Health Officer Natasha Jenkins sets out the potential for the exemptions awarded to small-scale poultry and wild game to be replicated for similarly small-scale red meat. Finally, Paddy Hoare of Fir Farm discusses elements of the Campaign for Local Abattoirs including the design of a mobile abattoir to allow on-farm slaughter.

New Models for Local Food Systems

Are there new, emergent, re-localised models that can challenge the current orthodoxy and revitalise local markets? Our panellists explored this question during a session on ‘New Models for Local Food Systems’.

Adrian Dolby, Head of Agriculture at Buccleuch in Southern Scotland, explains how one of the largest privately-owned land holdings in the UK, at over 82,000 ha, provides farm tenants with opportunities to develop their farming potential and maintain economic viability. Caroline Grindrod, co-founder of Primal Meats – an on-line meat business selling 100% organic grass-fed meat, explores how and why she combines holistic management, regenerative agriculture and environmental conservation for the benefit of human health and by default the health of her farm animals and the land. Farmdrop’s Ben Pugh sets out how the ethical grocery company came to be and the challenges they continue to face, whilst Darina Allen, founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School explains how her school does its utmost to ensure that they remain sustainable both environmentally and culturally.

Films of the other conference sessions will be added shortly.

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