Farmer Focus: Next year we will produce the least food ever

2024 will be the year the farm will produce the least food it has done since I began farming. On the other hand, it will produce more wildlife, more trees, more renewable energy, and more non-farming income than it ever has.

The farmer in me feels sad, and even rather guilty, but the business owner and environmentalist in me is very pleased.

It all depends on what makes you tick, or, as it was put to me recently by a manager with a farm entirely in environmental schemes, what gives us validation.

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About the author

Andy Barr
Andy Barr farms 700ha in a family partnership in Kent. Combinable crops amount to about 400ha and include milling wheat and malting barley in an increasingly varied rotation. He also grazes 800 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle and the farm uses conservation agriculture methods.
Read more articles by Andy Barr

Questioning myself, I find for me it is producing food. It’s in the blood as they say, and I think perhaps most farmers are the same, which is probably lucky for the rest of the population.

David Attenborough finished a recent Planet Earth episode with an explanation about the need to cut meat consumption to save the planet, but as often happens, there was not time to go into the details.

It would seem obvious that cutting down rainforest to graze cows is bad for the planet.

But perhaps grazing animals on the 3.5m hectares of permanent grassland in England that is unable to grow crops might be necessary to produce enough sustenance for everyone.

He also talked of the potential of indoor farming. I have looked at these systems for many years, thinking they might be a possibility for me to keep up my food production.

So far, it seems to be an all too familiar tale of wafer-thin margins coupled with high energy consumption, and the vulnerabilities that it brings.

Mr Attenborough did, however, conclude by expressing his confidence in the ingenuity of mankind to come up with solutions to the “feeding the world with less resources” conundrum.

I share this optimism and look forward to adopting exciting new techniques to boost my production again.

Happy New Year to you all.

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