Ensuring farming gets fair recognition for its part in the food chain will be one of the priorities of Lake District hill farmer Will Cockbain, who has just taken up his new appointment as the north west’s Food and Farming Champion.
Mr Cockbain is certainly determined to champion the cause of the region’s farmers and ensure their multi-faceted role is acknowledged by the public through his new position as part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Strategy.
“The SFFS’s new policy document is currently being produced and I’m keen to see greater emphasis given to the farming end of the food chain,” says Mr Cockbain.
“Food produced in the north west has received much prominence as part of the rural recovery programme following foot-and-mouth and that has been well deserved, but without the farmers there would be no food to shout about.
I’d like to see the farming end of the food chain now get the recognition it deserves – and not just for the food it produces.”
Farming Swaledale ewes and suckler beef at Rakefoot Farm, near Keswick in the heart of the Lake District, Mr Cockbain earns his living in an area well accustomed to dealing with the public.
“The region has still got a lot to tell consumers about farming.
Every part of the food chain has to be profitable, but without a sustainable farming sector there won’t be any food.
“We need to flag up farming in terms of the benefits it will increasingly bring to the environment and the landscape and also to things like the leisure time of consumers and even the water they drink.”
Mr Cockbain is keen to develop stronger links with the supply chain to ensure more locally produced food is consumed in the public sector such as schools and hospitals.
He wants to hear from farmers so that a dialogue can be maintained between the practical side of the agricultural sector and the SFFS.
“I hope farmers will see my role as something in which they can have an input and make clear their feelings about issues and projects they believe deserve my attention.”
Mr Cockbain is confident that the experience he brings to his new job – both as a working farmer and from his role as NFU spokesman for the Less Favoured Areas – will help him bring a valuable impetus to the region’s SFFS.