Top

A Sustainable Future

Beyond the farm

Working with others

As stewards of the land we feel it is part of our responsibility to share knowledge and ideas, engage in discussion and contribute to future farming policy.

We collaborate with farmers and organisations who share our values and are working towards a more sustainable future. We believe in the importance of using the farm as an educational place which demonstrates sustainable farming practice. On this page you can find information about our policy and campaign work, collaborations with other organisations and projects and our food and farming conferences.

A new National Food Strategy

On 27 June, Defra’s Secretary of State commissioned Henry Dimbleby to conduct an independent review to help the government create its first National Food Strategy for 75 years.

Along with many other farms and food businesses, we submitted a response to the public consultation which closed in October.

Click here to read our full response.

Sustainability Metrics

In collaboration with the Sustainable Food Trust we have initiated and maintain our own benchmarking system which measures a range of sustainability metrics including soil, water and biodiversity.

At present, most farmers and land managers participate in multiple and overlapping sustainability assessment schemes, required to satisfy several different stakeholders including government, certification bodies and food companies. It has been estimated that worldwide there are more than 100 different on-farm sustainability assessment tools in existence, and consequently, food producers are subjected to unnecessary expenses and time-consuming bureaucracy in meeting these compliance requirements.

Since the group started in 2016, we have contributed to research, including a gap analysis and pilot studies. We will soon be testing this framework on farm as part of the tests and trials of the Environmental Land Management Scheme.

Click here to read more about the project.

Click here to read the report, Sustainability Assessment: The Case for Convergence

“The work has been invaluable in setting out how to develop metrics which can be used to reward farmers, not just for improving soil health and increasing biodiversity, but also building human and social capital and strike an important balance. These kinds of high quality contributions to our consultation will help our policy to evolve.”

Former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove MP, speaking about the Metrics Project in 2018

We are members of the Campaign for Local Abattoirs which was established in 2018 by the Sustainable Food Trust and National Craft Butchers. The group was set up following the publication of the Sustainable Food Trust’s report which showed small abattoirs have declined by a third in the past decade. Small abattoirs are essential for the survival of local meat production, enabling farmers to slaughter only a small number of animals at a time and returning meat to the farmer for them to sell direct to consumers. Without these abattoirs we would not have a traceable local meat supply in the UK. Small abattoirs are also important for animal welfare, shortening the journey time to slaughter, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the meat by reducing its food miles.

Click here to read the report A Good Life and a Good Death: Re-Localising Farm Animal Slaughter

Click here to read the CFLA’s response to the National Food Strategy Consultation

Clear here for the CFLA submission to the National Food Strategy

Click here to read the CFLA response to Defra’s Health and Harmony command paper

Click here for a parliamentary briefing paper on local abattoirs

Farming and Climate Change

Towards Net Zero Carbon Emissions

Our July 2019 conference organised in partnership with the Sustainable Food Trust and the National Farmers’ Union, brought together 300 people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including farmers, policy-makers and scientists. The aim was to discuss how we might meet the challenge set by NFU President Minette Batters of achieving net zero carbon emissions from UK agriculture by 2040.

Conference Sessions

Keynote Speeches

In the opening plenary of the conference we invited NFU President Minette Batters to set out her vision for net zero agriculture. Australian regenerative farming pioneer and author of ‘Call of the Reed Warbler’ Charles Massy spoke about the need for an ecological approach to farming. While co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Gail Bradbrook called on farmers to rebel and Martijn Wilder of Baker McKenzie shared his thoughts on the challenge ahead.

Click here to watch the talks.

The Science

This panel explored the science of climate change and how emissions are measured. Through taking apart the figures and looking at them in radically new ways, the panel ultimately makes a solid case for the value of ruminants.

Featuring: Professor Michael Lee from Bristol University and Rothamsted Research, Professor Myles Allen from Oxford University and Professor Dieter Helm, Chair of the Natural Capital Committee.

Click here to watch the talks.

Any Questions

In this lively session of ‘Any Questions’, with a farming slant, chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby, an array of queries were put to a panel featuring NFU President Minette Batters, Richard Benyon MP, Professor Michael Lee, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson and CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust Patrick Holden.

Audience questions included, “Are high farming yields the enemy of nature?” and “How can we convince consumers to pay more for their food?”

Click here to watch the session.

Case Studies

This session featured a selection of farm business case studies which integrate emissions reduction with the production of high quality food and the maintenance of natural capital. Chaired by Susan Twining of the CLA, session speakers include Henry Edmunds of the Cholderton Estate; Rancher and author Nicolette Hahn Niman; Richard Williamson of Beeswax Dyson and Simon Fairlie, farmer and author.

Click here to watch the talks.

Making it Pay

How can we make sustainable farming profitable?

In this session, Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper discussed how we measure and value biodiversity and carbon. Robert Appleby of ADM Capital stressed the importance of profitability in sustainability, as well as the need to transition from a linear growth economy to a circular one. Farmdrop’s Liz Hosmer presented the food company’s sustainable business model, focused on delivering quality, local food, whilst Dieter Helm argued admirably for a ‘Green and Prosperous’ land which can only be achieved if we preserve our natural capital.

Click here to watch the talks.

The Future of UK Farming

April 2018

At The Future of UK Farming conference organised with the Sustainable Food Trust and held in April 2018, we explored what the future might hold for farming in the UK post-Brexit, setting out the opportunities and discussing how farming practice might become more sustainable.

Conference Sessions

Keynote Speeches

Placing health at the forefront of his agenda, Michael Gove MP, speaking as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, presented a hopeful vision of change and renewal. He asserted, “There need not be a tension between growing healthy food and securing a healthy environment.”

Crediting the Secretary of State for his good work, NFU President Minette Batters went on to trace the past twenty years of British farming, She explained her vision for a future of active farming businesses that are “sustainable, profitable and progressive.”

Valuing Sustainability

Chaired by Patrick Holden and joined by Edward Parsons of the Waddesdon Estate, Dieter Helm of the Natural Capital Committee, Helen Browning of the Soil Association and Andrew Sells of Natural England, this panel discussed how to transform the economic environment for sustainable food production by empowering farmers to deliver measurable public goods.

Polyface Farm

American pioneer farmer Joel Salatin introduced Polyface Farm, describing the system he has developed for more than 30 years in the management of a beef herd, pastured poultry and pigs. Joel dissected some of the paradigms and buzz words used in the world of farming today, and reveals his “10 benchmarks of truth”.

Soil

This session linking soil, plant and animal health was chaired by Landscape Architect Kim Wilkie, and featured soil expert Joel Williams, Hylton Murray-Philipson and Tom Heathcote from the Blaston Estate in Leicestershire and Rob Havard of Havard & Co Organic Farms.

The panel discussed which methods of production have the potential to rebuild lost soil fertility, promote integrated nature conservation and create viable and profitable business models for producers in the future, as well as considering how government incentives could help accelerate this change.

Small abattoirs

In this session on small abattoirs and on-farm slaughter, the panel highlighted the crucial need for local abattoirs in order to support local meat production. Chaired by Tim Morris of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, the session featured Policy Advisor to the SFT, Bob Kennard, small abattoir owner and butcher John Mettrick, producer of top-quality “ethical scotch beef” Robin Tuke of Hardiesmill, local Authority Environmental Health Officer Natasha Jenkins and Paddy Hoare of Fir Farm.

The Role of Livestock in Future Farming Systems

From Theory to Practice

In November 2016 we co-organised a conference with the Sustainable Food Trust exploring the role livestock can play in sustainable farming systems. This event featured Joel Salatin, an inspirational rancher from Virginia, USA, and was attended by HRH the Prince of Wales. The conference brought together a wide range of farmers from across the UK interested in learning how to implement sustainable practices on their farms.

“Everything I want to do is illegal!”

In this film from our 2016 conference, Joel Salatin talks about how the safety of food is being confused with the sterility of food, and how this is impacting farmers; Nina Purcell from the Food Standards Agency talks about the role of the FSA and how they hope to educate consumers about the risks of food; Thomas Harttung speaks about his experiences in Denmark, setting up a vertically integrated food business; and Christine Page from Smiling Tree Farm explains how small-scale on-farm processing is vital for her farm in Shropshire.

Images courtesy of Chloe Edwards Photography