News from the Farm Gate by Milly Fyfe
Harvest 2015 has been a real mixed bag. It’s been wet then dry, wet then dry and left many farmers frustrated as they just want to get the last bit finished when the sun shines so they can park up the combine again for another year.
Food provenance and farm gate prices have been highlighted in the media recently, mainly milk and lamb. Having returned from a honeymoon in New Zealand not so long ago, I understand what food miles it takes for lamb to travel from the other side of the world to our plates. What is absurd is the fact that we have the most wonderful produce within a few hundred metres from our doorstep’s but the major retailers cannot see the woods for the trees – always price driven or what is deemed to be available or ‘in season’.
UK Lamb is available in abundance at this time of the year and frankly lambing season seems to last for an age so the availability argument doesn’t wash with me. What is most ironic is that New Zealanders find it hard to afford lamb produced in their own country. That’s what I found out whilst I was there. NZ consumers are charged much more for their own lamb than when it lands on our doorstep it is perceived as cheap meat. But then the New Zealand consumer and government have a mutual respect for their farmers who are paid a fair price and probably a premium to export elsewhere too.
Something has got to give. Farmers cannot continue to operate on a shoe string or have fingers in lots of pies to help ride out the storm. Working for R.A.B.I. at the coal face I understand
everyone’s frustrations. I gave a church sermon on the work of R.A.B.I. recently and I was asked by the congregation ‘what is the charity doing to shake up the industry and lobby for change?’ The simple answer is that it can’t. It’s not a political organisation however, what it can do, and what as a charity we do do, is promote what effects the price drops are having on the welfare of farming families. It can also work with farming organisations that do lobby and also get behind campaigns that promote buying British like Love British Food Fortnight and British Lamb Week.
The consumer is on our side. Many people tweet me and say ‘how can we help?’ And the simple message is to trust the tractor and buy British. But I think there is a lot more that can be done. I think we can encourage more people to eat lamb. I don’t think it is eaten enough.
Lamb is a versatile meat but isn’t particularly accessible for younger consumers to eat on the go or quickly. Not like chicken. It has that stigma that generally older people only eat lamb, probably chops or a lamb shank, and the perception that it’s quite fatty. Our local butchers have some great ways to make lamb easier to cook, with lamb burgers, sausages and lamb koftas. If only we had the appetite for lamb like we have the appetite for cake when the Great British bake off airs! I can see it now; the Great British Lamb off. I’d cook a shepherd’s pie.
I was contacted recently about getting involved with a Love British Lamb Week campaign which took place between 1st and 7th September. What a wonderful idea. I hope everyone gets behind more campaigns like this and we see more lamb on the menu at home, in restaurants and pubs across the land and of course the supermarket shelves. I do hope that the retailers start talking our language soon as they can’t keep cutting off their noses to spite their face. I don’t think we are asking too much to support UK farmers and pay more than the cost of production so everyone can make a living, surely?!
As we move into autumn, the R.A.B.I. calendar is brimming full with events and campaigns. Why not keep up to date, follow us on twitter @RABIEastMids or like our facebook page – search Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution – East Midlands region.
To get in touch with Milly Fyfe, Tel: 07525 323450, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on twitter @millywastie
The R.A.B.I. confidential helpline number is: 0300 3037373.
The next R.A.B.I event is our welly week campaign from 31st October – 7th November.
Why not organise a fun event in your wellies to help raise funds? Visit www.rabi.org.uk for more information