THE need for an integrated industry and the vital role that the Womens Farming Union plays in linking producer and consumer were stressed by Norfolk farmer and agricultural journalist David Richardson in his speech to the WFU conference which was chaired Meg Stroude.
Geoffrey John, chairman of Food from Britain, followed Mr Richardson on to the platform at Easton College, Norfolk, to address the 126 members and guests from across England, Scotland and Wales.
British farmers, processors and retailers led the world in the production and distribution of quality food, he said, and all sections of the food industry, including farmers and growers, must recognise the challenge of winning a larger slice of the export market.
Food and drink exports were expected to have risen by 10% in 1994, from £8.8bn, he said. The total UK market for food and drink was around £95bn, 85% of which was supplied by domestic producers. The UKs food and drink sales represented just one tenth of 1% of the estimated total trade in the EU, which gave a 99% opportunity.
He explained that Food from Britain had offices in six European countries, and one in the USA to guide, assist and provide practical help to potential exporters, while an office was soon to be opened in Japan where western products were in demand.
Jayne Thornally, NFU field manager for East Anglia, gave members an insight into how they could interest primary school children in farm produce by forming a liaison with local schools. Taking fresh produce into schools, explaining its origin and best preparation, and taking parties of children around the farm at various times of the year were ideal ways of bringing the countryside closer to this generation, she said.
David Lawrence, principal of Easton College, opened the afternoon session. He spoke of the variety of courses offered by the college and explained how the curriculum has had to change to accommodate market demand.
Felicity Daniels, farmer, school governor and WFU member, then spoke of her experiences in opening her farm to local schools over the past 15 years. She described how she had worked with school staff to fit farming into the school curriculum. Pond dipping, soil sampling, lessons on buildings and architecture, and various stages of cropping were among the examples she gave of her rewarding work with schools. She urged other WFU members to follow suit by contacting local schools and working with teachers to give children an understanding of farming and the countryside.
THE Womens Farming Union aims to link the producer and the consumer, and to promote British farm produce. It has local branches nationwide, and postal membership is available to those who live in remote places. Membership inquiries to and details from: Womens Farming Union, Crundalls, Gedges Hill, Matfield, Tonbridge, Kent TN12 7EA (01892-722803).