The Scottish Government consultation on Scotland’s food system is open until March 29th. Claire Pollock, a farmer from Fife, shares with us what nature friendly farming and a good food nation mean to her.
Good food nation: A farmer’s perspective
What type of food do you produce?
We have a farm and a farm shop. For the farm shop we produce beef, lamb, mutton, honey and vegetables. However we also grow Oil Seed Rape, Barley, Wheat and Beans on the farm.
Ardross - wild bird seed mix next to arable crop in mid summer
How and why do you support nature on your farm?
Nature is key to everything we do here at Ardross. As farmers we have a huge impact on the land, environment and wildlife and a huge amount of responsibility comes with that. We think it is fantastic to have the support of the RSPB who are not only encouraging to do more for nature but also to help us collaborate our efforts and share our positive results. This can be seen in the work, we as a farm have been involved with in the East Neuk promoting and protecting corn buntings and the results have been great.
On our farm we do many things to support, promote and protect nature whenever we can. One of the ways in which we do through a method of establishing crops called strip tilling, specifically with a Claydon Drill. This has many benefits, including allowing the soil structure to stay intact promoting all organisms, good bacteria and of course worms in the soil. We have seen worm numbers in our fields more than double since the introduction of strip tilling. This has a knock-on effect providing increase food for birds and other animals further up the food chain as well as making our soils a fantastic spring board for our crops. This method means that we sow directly into stubbles and more often than not chop straw. Therefore, our fields are never bare which provides birds and other wildlife with protection and a food source when they may not have had it otherwise. We work very closely with the RSPB, and sow specific areas of Wild Bird Cover with specially designed mixes to ensure that the birds have food and shelter when they need it.
What does good food mean to you, and what would it take for Scotland to become a ‘Good Food Nation’?
With our farm shop I believe we are spoilt with good food. Good food to me doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive however, I believe you do need to know what is in it and how it was produced. For me the easiest way to do this is to buy local and buy from people that you know and trust. Scotland is well on its way to becoming a Good Food Nation, we have fantastic new producers popping up all over the country (especially in Fife, if I can be biased), we also have new and exciting restaurants opening each day. All of this is wonderful and it really is helping to promote the importance of good food and sustainable food production.
However, I believe education is missing; education on how to cook and also education about how food is produced, when it is produced, seasonality and why it is important. I believe this may be the missing link in Scotland’s food story. The old saying goes ‘You are what you eat’, and I think this is particularly true in this day and age. I believe as the food we eat improves people’s health and happiness will also improve with it.
Ardross field margin
In your opinion, what would need to change to make all food nature-friendly?
This is a difficult question, one I have debated many times before. I believe that the way in which farming practices have developed are a direct result on the prices being paid for their goods. For example, as milk prices begin to go lower the farmer needs to have more cows to make the same money as he was doing before, this impacts the way in which he farms. The government in Scotland have been putting wonderful measures in place to encourage farmers to work with wildlife, ensure biodiversity and promote nature including greening areas which I believe all farmers have been keen to get on board with.
However, I feel where this falls down is that as a nation we have chosen that this is important to us, our people and our country. In our supermarkets there is produce which is produced in countries which don’t value these values and then the produce is flown around the world to us. In Scotland we promote our animal welfare standards and are recognised as a country with some of the highest welfare standard in the world. Consumers see this and are proud of these standards however, there is meat in our shops which isn’t produced in this country or in the conditions we promote. I believe that it is not the responsibility of the consumer in a shop to differentiate between these. I think that nature and food production is hugely intertwined. If Scotland wants to be a ‘Good Food Nation’ and make their food nature friendly then they need to decide on the standard and make sure it is consistent, not only for our country but also to any country we are importing from.
Make sure you have your say on making Scotland a Good Food Nation with the Scottish Food Coalition e-action.
I'm now more conscious of the choices I make with meat I buy from supermarkets, e.g. I will only buy British corned beef even if it's more expensive. The meat from South American countries I imagine loss of forests as trees are chopped down for agriculture. And hopefully we continue moving in the right direction towards no plastic waste!
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