Farmers Weekly Columnist Adam Bedford has won a writing competition about farming in 2026, run for agriculture students in Yorkshire.

Adam, a former FW College Calendar contributor, graduated from Askham Bryan College in the summer. He is now studying for an MSc in Rural Development at Newcastle University.

His winning view of 20 years time set out a farming sector growing oil seed crops to replace fossil fuels, harvesting sunlight and wind for power and exploiting GM technology to feed a growing world population.

Farmers would continue to produce food, he said, with provenance being a key issue for consumers.

He said: “I would certainly like to be a farmer in 2026; but romance, traditional and memories should not cloud this decision.”

Second prize in the competition went to Helen Ward from Thirsk who studies at Askham Bryan and third prize went to Tom Borrill at Bishop Burton College.

Read the three top entries below:

First Prize
Adam Bedford, Askham Bryan College
The Future of Farming in 2026

In the past 20 years UK agriculture has seen a step change in public attitudes about where their food is coming from. GM crop technology has progressed on one hand, and huge increases in organic food production and consumption has become a reality on the other. We have seen a seismic shift from a production focus to a system which rewards environmental quality.

Change in the next 20 years will be even more drastic. Farmers will work to a wider definition of agriculture. The agriculture of 2026 will be based not on traditional food production, but on the efficient use of land. It is a short sighted fallacy to consider the future of UK farmers as a network of glorified park keepers. The big issues of the next 20 years are population growth, energy and waste.

If we add in climate change we have a very different scenario.
Farmers will produce energy through a change in land use. They will grow biofuels, produce biogas, and use land for solar panels and wind turbines. Some farmers may produce traditional food crops not for consumption, but for other uses such as a raw material for food packaging.

Farmers will continue to produce food. Organic food will have a place, but the public will lead the way in how they want their food to be produced. The provenance of food will be the main issue, and ‘organic’ may well be a standard which is just the norm. Agriculture will be a mix of farms producing niche products, larger farms producing commodities and some farms which do not produce any food.

I would certainly like to be a farmer in 2026; but romance, tradition and memories should not cloud this decision. The future of agriculture is bright, exciting and full of opportunity…and very different.

Second prize
Helen Ward, Askham Bryan College
The Future of Farming in 2026

The future of farming will be greatly influenced by the increasingly common conscientious consumer and the government’s aims to reduce CO2 emissions.

There will be an increase in growing renewable crops such as willow and miscanthus.  Such crops will be necessary as an alternative fuel source, and a method to reduce carbon emissions; converting CO2 as it is growing, instead of only releasing carbon into the atmosphere as it is burnt.

In a more indirect way, organic farming will also have a role in reducing carbon emissions, and will play an important role in the future of farming; to prevent damage to, or improve soil condition.

The depletion of nutrients and minerals in the soil following intensive farming methods over recent decades can be limited by converting to organic methods.  Consumer interest in organics due to environmental concerns has encouraged an increase in purchases of organic products to satisfy their desire to make a difference.

Reducing the use of chemicals in agriculture will have an affect on the soil and also reduces its’ environmental impact. This will be due to the reduction of burning fuel; to extract the raw materials, process and produce the chemicals, and their application to the land.

There will be a need for crop diversity due to climate change and an increase in growing genetically modified crops. This is because climate change will effect the growing conditions (for example the predicted drought), and it will be important that crops are able to grow effectively still.

To ensure that the future generations are able to live in rural areas to work towards the future of farming, affordable housing will be required in the countryside for those linked with agriculture.

In the year 2026, farming will play an important role in assisting industry’s effect on climate change.

Third Prize
Tom Borrill, Bishop Burton College –
Farming in Twenty Years Time

In twenty year’s time farming will be very different from the way it is today. Once again agriculture will be one of the main industries in this country. With fossil fuels having nearly run out the need for crops as sources of both fuel and energy will cause demand to outstrip production.

The government will be pushing farmers to cop every acre of land they have, doing away with set-aside, as with the increased alternative uses for crops will come less available for food. This will not only increase the cost of food for the general public but the prices that farmers receive for all their produce will rise dramatically.

With the increased prices farmers receive even with the inevitable production cost increases they will be able to compete on the global market without the need for production based subsidies. There will however still be environmental subsidies to avoid the return to the days of ripping out hedges. This will benefit both farming’s image with the general public and help to counteract the effects of global warming.

The countryside will look very different. With global temperatures rising it will become possible to grow more diverse crops in this country. We will be seeing crops such as sunflowers and grapes being grown further north and it may become possible to grow crops such as soya in this country.

The organic sector will be no bigger than it is now. There will still be some demand for it but with the increased cost of food that will be seen, fewer people will be able to afford it. With increased farm profits there will be less need for businesses to look at adding value to their produce and so there will be fewer entries in to the organic sector.

There will no longer be such things as cheap food imports threatening home grown products as transport costs go through the roof making it unviable to import them, causing the price farmers receive for their livestock to be much greater than they receive now. Meat will be sold much more locally to where it is reared, due to transport costs being high, allowing farmers to deal more directly with supermarkets and so cutting out the middle man.

Overall the future for farmers looks very bright, now is the time to be expanding to take advantage of this.

Do you agree? Why not have your say on the forums