I was recently asked to write a blog for a sustainable products company about what I thought sustainability meant to me as a farmer.
The company makes items such as cutlery sets and drinks containers, among other things, out of bamboo.
It made me think about what the word actually means and if we are truly able to live sustainably in this modern era.
Sustainability is a word that is bandied around like no other, apart from maybe Brexit.
It’s a word that has been so overused that people who claim to be living sustainably have forgotten what that is actually like.
Whenever anyone talks about environmental sustainability, farmers and food producers are usually top of the hit list, mainly because we are the custodians of the land and are front and centre in the fight for ecological balance.
We often get a bad press, and rarely does the fantastic work many farmers do in trying to keep that balance win the coverage it deserves.
On the frontline
I’m not so naïve as to believe that farming in this country, as it stands today, is totally sustainable.
We have a lot of work to do to improve soil condition and stop the decline of many species of wildlife, and farmers are on the front line in combating climate change.
We live in an age where consumers believe it is sustainable to ship an avocado across the world, yet the beef that is produced two miles from home pollutes the atmosphere too much.
Today people believe growing vegetables under plastic in Spain and hauling them across Europe is more sustainable than going to the local market or farm shop to top up on their groceries.
We live in a time where sheep farmers are basically giving away their wool – one of the most sustainable fibre products on Earth – because people would rather buy a cotton shirt that has been produced for only a few pence in China.
We throw perfectly edible food into landfill simply because there’s a date printed on the packet. This is far from sustainable, nor is it acceptable.
If we want to live more sustainably we need a country-wide change in opinion, on food and the way we grow and use it.
Education is the key to this, and to dispelling the many untruths that are spread around about farming and its impacts on the environment.
We need to meet the public on their home turf, change our tack and convince them that they should buy British-produced food because it is the most environmental, economic and ethically sustainable choice.
Social media, for all its pitfalls, is in my opinion the place to do this. Online we can shout about the good work we are doing to combat climate change, share the high welfare standards we uphold, showcase the industry and present it in a positive light.
Maybe then we can encourage people to support their farmers and help us to continue to improve our environment and leave it in a better state than we find it for the next generation.