If humble pie contained as many calories as pork pie then I would be a fat man. A very fat man indeed. Let’s face it, I would be morbidly obese.
In the past, I have written several pieces in this magazine criticising farmers who banged on about “buy British”.
It always struck me as lazy jingoism and I would just think: “Oh, stop moaning and just do a better job.”
I couldn’t see where emotive marketing would help anyone who wasn’t globally competitive.
Well, I’ve changed. Recently, I’ve spent a couple of days with the charming and enthusiastic Minette Batters and suddenly I see things differently.
She has always had a strong vision for promoting British produce and now she’s convinced me there is an urgent need to encourage consumers to support home-produced goods.
She may or may not have hypnotised me, I can’t be sure, but I’m prepared to put my hands up, declare my change of heart and eat another helping of delicious, locally reared, free-range humble pie.
In fairness, it wasn’t just the Battering that changed my mind, the circumstances are different too.
In two years time, we will almost certainly be working on the outside of a large, protected trading bloc.
For many of us, this will be our first experience the world market.
We will face competition from countries where wages are lower, the climate is better, the government support is greater and the environmental responsibilities are taken less seriously.
While I defend them strongly, the environmental and employment standards in this country prevent most of us from ever being globally competitive.
Creating export opportunities for British farm products is a lofty ambition. Our first tactic for survival must be to maximise the opportunities in our domestic market.
This is more complicated than simply yelling at consumers until they bend to our will – that is not marketing, it is bullying.
We need to promote ourselves based on good products, fair value and a compelling story about provenance and protecting British jobs.
This is more than a marketing exercise.
We will need to embrace the work of the levy bodies to help us to improve our products and processes. We will also have to get behind assurance schemes, such as Red Tractor, so we can demonstrate British produce really is better.
Most importantly, we farmers are going to have to lead by example and back British suppliers ourselves.
I was massively heartened that the Co-operative recently declared its plan to sell only British meat in its own-brand products.
In a full page advert in this magazine, Steve Murrells, the Co-op CEO, asked farmers to support them by doing their grocery shopping in Co-operative stores. I am doing exactly that.
I have switched to doing all my grocery and fuel shopping at the Co-operative. I even have a dividend card. I have to drive past the door of a Tesco store to get there and so, since I despise Tesco’s “bogus farms” branding on foreign produce so much, I give them a sarcastic little wave as I drive by.
The world that we live in is shaped by the way we spend our money and we all need to think about this in every area of our own lives.
Whether I can persuade Chris, Rhys and Aaron on our farm we need to run tractors made in Basildon rather than ones from Marktoberdorf, however, is a challenge for another day.