By FW reporters
THE GOVERNMENT is planning to buy a farm so it can prove to the farming industry that its vision for agriculture is workable, farmers weekly has learned.
DEFRA officials have been ordered to scour the country for a mixed farm of about 400ha (1000 acres), which the government will manage in line with its Strategy for Sustainable Food and Farming.
A spokesman told FW that Prime Minister Tony Blair had once pledged his priorities were “education, education, education” but it had now changed to “environment, environment, environment”.
Buying a farm was an unusual step, but the government is determined to show farmers that they have nothing to fear from wildlife-friendly farming methods, said the spokesman.
“We are looking for a farm with a dairy unit as well as arable ground and grassland, so we can set up a demonstration farm of interest to all producers,” he said. “We want to show what can be done, if you try, in terms of the environment and marketing.”
Plans for the marketing of produce are already under way. The spokesman said in order to add value to food produced on the farm, the plan was to market it under the brand name “Farm Labour”.
“We want to make the most of the government link,” he said. “We could have Cherie-flavoured yoghurt and Prescottage pie complemented by plenty of hard cheese,” he said.
To reinforce the green image of the farm, all staff will have to wear green boiler suits, but only red Wellingtons will be tolerated.
A source in the Treasury told FW that chancellor Gordon Brown was taking a personal interest in the purchase of the farm, as he hoped it could also be used as an educational resource for Labour MPs.
“He wants all MPs to work on the farm for a week each year,” said the Treasury official.
“No-one has yet expressed an interest though so we have devised a system to allocate jobs.
“Broadly speaking it”s based on names. Management of the farm will be handed to Calum MacDonald while Frank Field will be conscripted to do the tractor work.
“During the summer recess, Jack Straw will be drafted in to tackle harvest operations – we hope it will be a fool-proof system,” the official said.