Here are some suggestions of questions you could ask producers and the kind of responses you can expect to hear…
What gives you the most joy on your farm?
Skylarks singing, peewits calling, partridge covey, flowers in the meadow or hedges. You’re looking for a farmer who shows empathy and love for his land and his surroundings….
Do you welcome customers to your farm?
Do you have open days? Invite customers to visit? How do you engage with your local community?
Do you make it easy for wildlife to move through your farm?
Plant hedges, fill-in gaps, remove barriers, create green or blue networks…
What matters most – neat and tidy or space for wild life?
Very tidy farms tend to be poor for wildlife – wildlife likes a bit of rough.
Hedge or fence?
Hedges provide a home for much more wildlife than wire fences.
Plough to the edge or flower rich margins? What’s more important to you?
You would expect to hear that field margins and hedges are managed in such a way as to encourage a wide variety of wildlife and pollinators which play a huge part in the cycle, diversity and resilience of the farm.
Beetle banks or pesticides?
Beetle banks are strips of rough grassland running through arable fields which are refuges for many predators of crop pests, like ladybirds and spiders. They greatly reduce the need for pesticides.
Nitrogen or worms?
Good farms have healthy soils. This means good populations of earthworms and other soil life. Artificial fertilisers like nitrogen, applied in large amounts over many years, destroy the soil fauna and soil structure.
If farmers and/or growers are labelling their products as any of the above they must hold a licence with one of the organisations below:
Interested in Permaculture?
You will find more and more small producers are looking at growing and managing their holding by practicing permaculture. If this is something that interests you it would be a good idea to visit www.permaculture.org.uk to find out more. There are also many local permaculture groups.
British (native) breeds?
Our native breeds have evolved over centuries to suit the diverse geology, flora and fauna of the British Isles and are as varied as our islands are. They thrive on the indigenous pastures they were bred for and rarely need supplementing with cereals (hard feed). Whether you’re looking for wool, dairy or meat products you should find something distinctive and exceptional from our British breeds.
How much of your farm is given over to nature?
Good practice says that a minimum of 5% should be allocated specifically for, and managed for, wildlife.
What do you intend to do about the loss of ash trees?
Ash dieback disease is likely to result in the loss of the majority of our ash trees. Farmers should be planning now to replace these trees. The Forestry Commission or Woodland Trust can help with more information on ash dieback visit:
Will you pass on a farm with more or less soil?
Healthy soil is fundamental to sustainable agriculture. Yet most farmland now has sterile, poorly structured soils because fertility is maintained solely by the application of artificial chemicals. And soil is allowed to wash away into our rivers, depleting this vital resource for many generations to come. Responsible farmers take care of, and value, their soils.
Are you carbon neutral?
Farmers should aspire to use as little fossil fuel as possible, using green energy wherever possible. To compensate for the fossil fuels they do use, they should increase the carbon stored within their soils and plant more trees.
If you’d like to explore more here are some organisations which delve deeper into the subject: Farmers’ Markets, NFU, local agricultural collages, local smallholders’ associations. Search for sustainable grass fed meat, organic free-range hens, small dairy businesses, local cooperatives.
Have more questions? Want to know more? Please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Move on to buying clothes and fabrics…