While Newark is rightly proud of its rich farming heritage and local produce, we are all aware of the challenges facing our farmers and rural communities. Nobody chooses agriculture for an easy life – but the uncertainty around Brexit will surely be causing a headache for those who rely on the EU for seasonal workers, subsidies and trade.
The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission was established in 2017 with one mandate - to look afresh at the food and farming system, the countryside and rural economies, and to help shape a vision of a more sustainable future post-Brexit. Their newly published report titled ‘Our Future in the Land’ is a breath of fresh air and an antidote to much of the doom-and-gloom we’ve seen in the news lately. It suggests how we can develop sustainable food and farming businesses, with a focus on healthy, locally-grown produce and sustainability.
The report comes off the back of an inquiry involving businesses, members of the public, civic societies and relevant organisations and resulted in 15 recommendations.
Of particular interest to farming communities is the idea that the countryside can be a ‘powerhouse for a fair and green economy’. Among the recommendations are investment in skills and infrastructure to support rural businesses, along with sustainable housing provisions and investment in technology.
As we look to safeguard the future of agriculture, it is also reassuring to note that the commission would like to see the launch of a National Nature Service, designed to harness the skills of the next generation. With backing from the public, the report suggests farmers are capable of unleashing a ‘fourth agricultural revolution’ – which places sustainability high on the agenda.
Whether or not you work directly in food and agriculture, or simply enjoy the local produce Newark has to offer, we all have a vested interest in the future of the countryside and the rural economies it supports. Nobody knows what is going to happen post-Brexit, but I hope the report highlights how, with the right support, UK farmers can make the most of new opportunities that lie ahead.