The nation has forgotten why farming matters, reveals survey

The nation has forgotten why farming matters, reveals survey

Despite being a country of green rolling fields and fertile farmland, a survey released today by LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) reveals that British adults have lost touch with farming and its valuable contribution to the food they eat. The survey of over 1,000 GB adults reveals that many don’t know that simple foods such as bacon, porridge, bread and sausages originate from British farms and one in three adults have never visited one.

The findings come ahead of Open Farm Sunday on 10 June, when hundreds of farmers up and down the country will be holding open days to help educate the public about the link between food and farming.

The majority of land in the UK is dominated by farmland, which produces 60 per cent of all the food consumed in this country. Yet the survey shows that 35 per cent did not know that porridge comes from a British farm, 23 per cent of people did not realise that bread originates from a farm and 22 per cent did not believe that sausages and bacon originate there. The knowledge was even lower with younger adults, with 29 per cent of 16-24 year olds failing to recognise that bread originates on a farm, 34 per cent that sausages and bacon come from a farm and a massive 47 per cent did not know farmers are responsible for producing porridge.

The survey also showed a clear divide between rural and urban regions with large cities such as London and Birmingham showing less recognition of the foods produced than the more agricultural South West and East of England.

The findings indicate that the awareness of farming’s contribution to the food cycle is in danger of being forgotten because younger adults and those with children have little idea of what goes on in a modern farm and can’t pass this knowledge on to their children when educating them about food provenance and choice.

There are 195,000 farms in England, 37,000 in Wales and 51,000 in Scotland, yet 29 adults (and 42 per cent adults aged 16-24 years old) have never been on a working farm and for those that have, the experience is a distant memory as 31 per cent haven’t been on one within the last four years.

The trend is apparent with both city dwellers and rural inhabitants. The Scots top the list of those who haven’t visited a working farm, followed by 36 per cent Londoners and 32 per cent Mancunians. People living in the South West and East Anglia are most likely to be familiar with farm activities as 85 per cent and 81 per cent say that they have been on a farm. However, the large agricultural communities of the West Country, Somerset and North Yorkshire appear to have the closest farming connection. Forty-seven per cent South Westerners and 30 per cent of Tyne Tees’ residents say that they have visited a farm within the past year.

Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), who will today (Friday 8 June) hold an Open Farm Sunday event at his farm said: “As champions of British farming, the NFU welcomes opportunities to educate the public on why farming matters.

More than half the food consumed in the UK is produced on British farms, yet the public, and especially young people, are unable to make this connection.”

Open Farm Sunday is organised by LEAF, a national charity that helps farmers to care for the environment and the wildlife that it sustains. The campaign aims to educate the public on the work farmers do to care for the land and to encourage us all to appreciate the countryside around us. When asked whether they thought farmers play an important role in helping to protect and preserve the British countryside, 73 per cent of people asked agreed that it was. Amongst 16-24 year olds, this figure was slightly lower but more than six in 10 still agreed. Even though the majority agreed farmers should protect and preserve the countryside there was relatively low awareness of the work farmers actually do.

When asked to name (from a list of options) which activities British farmers are doing to help the environment, 31 per cent did not know. Forty per cent recognised that farmers are reducing the use of non essential chemicals, and that they are encouraging wildlife and replanting hedgerows (both 35 per cent) and are sowing wild flowers (19 per cent). However, they do not associate carbon reduction activities with farming.

Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of Linking Environment And Farming said: “Open Farm Sunday is a great opportunity for consumers, young and old to visit a local farm and find out why farming matters so much in the 21st Century. Farmers will be on hand to explain to visitors just what they do to protect the land and the wildlife and of course to produce safe, wholesome and affordable food for us all.”


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