Adam Henson: The farmer's friend
PUBLISHED: 15:32 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 15:52 01 February 2016
The Prince of Wales may have made some controversial statements, but he's an informed champion of rural Britain
How much of your weekly grocery shop comes from the UK? Do you go looking for food and drink that originates in the Cotswolds? These are questions that have been asked for decades but which are being raised again.
We’ve been encouraged to support British producers for as long as I can remember. Way back in 1968 a campaign called ‘I’m backing Britain’ tried to boost productivity and around the same time shoppers were being spurred on to ‘Buy British’. In truth, neither tactic had much success but nearly 50 years later, the spirit behind those crusades lives on.
Over the last couple of years the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has been very vocal about our food self-sufficiency. NFU figures state that at the moment 60% of the country’s food needs come from farms and producers in the UK. However they predict the figure will drop to just 53% over the course of the next 25 years. If those numbers prove correct and we end up relying on imports for almost half our food, the organisation is worried about future jobs in farming, food security and the rural economy. In fact to press home its point, the NFU has its own campaign, ‘Back British Farming’, accompanied by a Union flag logo.
But one recent intervention in the debate came from Gloucestershire’s best-known resident, and stole the headlines. Although you have to expect that to happen when a member of the royal family speaks out. The Prince of Wales called on shoppers to buy home-grown produce instead of imported food. It was part of his wider support for family farms and his long establish belief that consumer choice can help save the countryside. However, the Prince doesn’t just talk about these issues; he also takes action. Last year he celebrated the fifth anniversary of The Prince’s Countryside Fund with a reception at Highgrove. Among the people invited to the event were numerous farmers, herdsmen and country businesspeople who had been given a helping hand by the fund. They were among the 160,000 people who have benefitted from the £6 million distributed in grants during the charity’s first five years. Helping keep pubs open in isolated villages or training the next generation of hill farmers might not have an obvious link with the food that goes in our shopping baskets; but healthy, thriving rural communities are more likely to attract farm enterprises and investment.
Of course not everyone agrees with Prince Charles and some of his previous statements have proved controversial. But when it comes to boosting British food, he’s clearly the farmers’ friend and an informed champion of rural Britain. After all, in the Cotswold region we have a wealth of delicious produce of which to be proud.
Our fruit and vegetables include Evesham asparagus, Primrose Vale strawberries, cabbages and cauliflowers from Chipping Campden and potatoes from Stroud. The choice of cheeses range from Single and Double Gloucester, Cotswold Brie and Cerney goats’ cheese all the way to Charles Martell’s famous Stinking Bishop. Then there is wonderful meat like Gloucestershire Old Spot pork, Withington Woods wild venison and Gloucester beef.
I could go on to include elvers, Tewkesbury mustard, elderflower presse, apple juice, Cotswold Gold rapeseed oil and a whole array of bread and baked goods, cider, perry, wine, beer and much more.
It’s no wonder that so many local producers have been recognised and rewarded at the Cotswold Life Food and Drink Awards over the years. But to keep them in business we have to buy their products. As someone who is Cotswold born and bred, I couldn’t agree more with the Prince when he says that we need to do everything we can to keep our farmers farming
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamHenson