Small family farms rather than large-scale enterprises are central to the future of British agriculture, according to the Prince of Wales.

Prince Charles, a vocal supporter of British farming and family farms in particular, said the countryside was not an industrial production line and expressed concern over producers moving towards ever-larger units.

Addressing producers, ministers and farming leaders at the Farmers Weekly Awards in London on Thursday (7 October), the Prince said farmers should not refer to agriculture as an industry.

“I shudder when I hear ever-larger farms described as units,” he said in a video message to the audience of more than 1000 people.

“That is the language of the factory and that cannot be the right direction for British agriculture.

“We must resist the temptation to describe farming as an industry and prevent the words turning into reality, because agriculture is exactly that – it is about the land and the culture that those who work on it create, as much as it is about producing food.”

The Prince, who launched the Prince’s Countryside Fund – an initiative to help hard-pressed family farmers – in July, said the way food was produced mattered as much as rural communities and biodiversity.

“These are characteristics that do not fit in an industrialised landscape, but they matter to an increasing number of consumers, the long-term wellbeing of this country and its ability to sustain future generations.”

He said farmers had made huge efforts over the past decade to reconnect the public to food and build trust – something which had created confidence in agriculture and was reflected in the Farmers Weekly Awards.

“There’s an increasing amount of optimism among a number of farmers and [these awards] show why,” he added.

“The professionalism, talent and sheer hard work of the winners are the foundations on which is being built a vibrant future for agriculture in this country.”