Molly Biddell: Good farmers are environmentalists

Marching through London next to a life-size can of tuna and papier-mâché tree while proudly wearing my Soil Association “Worms Worms Worms” T-shirt is not my normal Saturday afternoon.

But I can confirm that joining the 60,000 other activists (in all manner of nature-based costumes) in the Restore Nature Now march was amazing.

It reminded me just how many people care about the state of our nation’s ecosystems, and reconfirmed how important, complex and privileged it is to be a farmer, responsible for managing them.

See also: Molly Biddell – the ideal piece of farmer tech, on your wrist

About the author

Molly Biddell
Molly Biddell works on her family’s farm in Surrey, in tandem with her role as head of natural capital at Knepp Estate. She previously spent time working in a research team for a rural consultancy firm, after graduating from Cambridge with a geography degree. 
Read more articles by Molly Biddell

I came home energised. A scroll of my news apps later and I was disappointed to see commentary on the event positioning farmers in direct opposition to the environmental march.

When will we get over the food versus nature debate?

Politicised news stories that pit farmers against environmentalists are so boring and un-nuanced. They fuel a defensive fire that simply doesn’t need to be lit.

We all know that the biggest risk to growing food is our degraded ecosystems.

Nature (think pollinators, well-functioning hydrology, clean water, fertile soils) is the natural ally to food production.

I will keep banging this drum until people stop asking me “what about food security?” whenever I say I work for a rewilding project.

It’s way more complex – and interesting – than a field of wheat versus a field of wildflowers.

Firstly, what exactly do we mean by food security? Isn’t nutritional security more important?

Secondly, what about the fact that we waste one-third of the food we produce? Our disastrous distribution needs addressing just as much as any production problem.

And anyway, we need resilient ecosystems to grow food in the first place.

It makes logical sense then, that as producers, we would want the natural capital we depend upon to be in the best nick possible. Good farmers are environmentalists.

We have to normalise and celebrate the fact that we can and should be both, farmers and nature lovers. We need to call out the media’s obsession with pitting these as opposites.