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News from the farm

Guy's news: kebabs, cars & agricultural shame

In the fields, it is half a million down and half a million to go; leeks that is. It’s very muddy but not much else to say there, so here are some other thoughts.

My very foodie, and previously highly carnivorous, eldest son returned from Berlin for Christmas and announced that he was becoming a vegetarian; “If I can’t afford good meat, I would rather not eat it at all”. I glowed with pride before he went on to say that after a heavy night out he always ended up eating a kebab, and didn’t think his guts could take any more. Nice. Meanwhile, my gas guzzling old banger finally died and I took the plunge and bought an electric car, but then promptly flew to Sicily for New Year to look at vegetables that we intermittently truck 2000 miles to supplement the homegrown crops in your vegboxes. Before I left, my vegetarian father-in-law (possibly the most reasonable and thoughtful person on the planet) pointed out that, according to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, livestock production contributes up to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than every single car, train, and plane on the planet.

All this serves to illustrate that managing our environmental impact is a minefield of personal and collective culpability; sadly I have almost no hope for leadership from the Government, so it lies with individuals and businesses. Comparing cars and farming I find myself hugely impressed with how, within one generation, the automotive industry has embraced technology to produce cars which are massively cleaner and more efficient. I wish the same could be said for farming; in an industry that should essentially be about capturing and harnessing sunlight, environmental impact has spiralled out of control. It is thought that we consume ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food produced, while mercilessly raping the planet’s soil and wildlife. Don’t blame population increase; modern agriculture should hang its head in shame. This month’s Oxford Farming Conference, the industry’s annual right-wing, land owners’ bonanza, should have been a two day plea for forgiveness. Meanwhile, I had intended to suggest what individuals can do to reduce the environmental impact of their food but having rambled, this will follow next week.

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