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Why is efficient farming based on grass?

News Icon 01/08/2014

What an inspiring day! Yesterday, I was in the company of progressive farmers passionate about raising their animals on grass. I was honoured to be the opening speaker for the Bossington Estate Grassfed Forum, where I shared experiences from Farmageddon including reasons why I see land-based farming as the efficient, humane and planet-friendly way of producing decent food for everyone forever.

I was followed by author, journalist and The Archers story editor, Graham Harvey. In Farmageddon, I wrote about how everything from government policy, subsidy money, industry advisers to magazines, have for decades encouraged farmers down the intensive route. Graham used to work for leading UK industry magazine, Farmers Weekly. Graham recalls the time he wrote an article in New Scientist about how intensification of dairy farming was a real concern for animal welfare. It was soon made clear to him that if he wanted to write for Farmers Weekly again, he wasn’t to write any more stories like that!

Graham spoke movingly about a farmer he knew moving away from intensive monoculture to mixed farming and how as a result, the farm is coming to life. He spoke about how corporate power has long ruled British agriculture and how farming has become more about GDP than feeding people. Graham sees returning animals to pasture as a big part of the future; if you put animals back on the land, “everything comes right”, he said.

The special guest speaker was Carrie Balkcom, Executive Director of the American Grassfed Association, which she started in her kitchen in 2003. Carrie grew up on a cattle ranch in Florida and has a lifelong connection with farming. She spoke about how the word ‘sustainable’ has been corrupted, often used as little more than greenwash. When talking about the way forward for farming, Carrie prefers to talk about “restorative” or “regenerative” farming, something that I couldn’t help but agree with, particularly as an outspoken critic of the way ‘sustainable intensification’ has been hijacked.

The day was courtesy of William Buckley and Sarah Jane Fairey, whose 1100 acre Bossington Estate in Hampshire is an approved supplier to the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association. Delicious lunch was served at Will and Sarah Jane’s latest venture, an artisan restaurant, Chalk Valley Burgers in Southampton, using ingredients from only pasture-raised animals. Sitting in the relaxed atmosphere, I couldn’t help but notice the three Good Awards proudly on display, received from Compassion in World Farming for commitments to animal welfare.

Grateful thanks to Will and Sarah Jane, to John Meadley of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association who chaired the speaker panel, and to everyone who participated in such a welcoming, insightful and energising day.

To get your copy of ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’, click here.


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