THE BLOG

Why The Struggles Of British Farmers Need To Be Talked About

15/09/2017 09:28 BST | Updated 15/09/2017 09:28 BST

The career switch from JLS to agriculture probably isn't the most conventional, but becoming a farmer has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Waking up to the peaceful countryside every morning, spending most of my day outdoors in the fresh air and knowing that I've worked hard to deliver fresh, home-grown produce to someone's weekly shop is a feeling of satisfaction like no other.

Having grown up and spent most of my life living in London, moving to the countryside and taking on this new career path has ignited a newfound respect for the effort that goes into producing the food on our table, as well as the maintenance of our beautiful countryside.

And I know that I'm not alone in my thinking. A report from the Prince's Countryside Fund, 'Who'd be a farmer today?' recently showed that a quarter of us Brits like the idea of giving up their day job and working on a farm - and I would thoroughly recommend it!

However, despite my love for the industry and its lifestyle, it's not all as simple as crops and cattle. Many UK farmers are struggling to make ends meet in the current economic climate and are faced with endless issues, including cuts to government funding, the UK's higher welfare standards and the increasing availability of cheap, imported foods.

For family farmers in particular, farming just isn't what it used to be. This is due to a number of reasons, namely that commodity prices are poor, running costs are high and now the future of Single Farm Payment subsidies from the government are looking uncertain in the face of Brexit. Yet it seems that the public are largely unaware of this and still have a rosy view that life as a farmer is simple and stress-free.

While the industry contributes more than a staggering £108bn a year to the economy, the average farmer's annual salary is less than £20,000, according to the most recent Defra figures. However, research by the Fund found the public's average estimate for a farmer's salary was £46,801. The number of farmers forced to borrow money - and consequently rack up further debt - in a bid to tackle financial instability has doubled in the last decade and sadly, half of them no longer make a living from farming alone because it simply isn't sustainable. It's just one thing after another for our farmers - but there is a way you can help.

By making a conscious effort, where possible, to buy food that is produced in the UK, you will be doing your bit to contribute to the British farming industry. Collectively, we can all improve the situations farmers currently face, to show that we value and appreciate the hard work that goes into the food that you put in your shopping basket.

We farmers are a friendly bunch who will happily talk about our work. Why not go out and visit a farm so you can see first-hand what it takes to produce a pint of milk or a carton of eggs? I was sad to discover in the Fund's report that our exposure and knowledge of the countryside as a nation is declining. Only a fifth of Brits rate their knowledge as good or excellent and of these, only 27 per cent said this was down to actually going out and visiting it. The rest say they learn mostly through shows like Countryfile and The Archers!

It would be a crying shame if the British farming industry were to decline to the point where most of the goods in our supermarkets are imported. Farmers will be left without jobs; the cost of food will be at risk of increasing and the condition of our beautiful countryside will be threatened.

So spare a thought for our farmers when you next do your weekly shop. If we all buy British, we could help restore farming to the booming industry that it once was.

The Fund's report, Who'd be a farmer today?, can be read here.