Two producers have risen to the top to be crowned overall food and overall drinks winner at this year’s Fine Farm Produce Awards.
Today see’s the publication of a major new report on food and farming in the UK, called ‘Square Meal’, by ten organisations, including the National Trust. Rural Enterprises Director at the Trust, Patrick Begg (http://twitter.com/NT_Pat), takes a look at the focus of the report and the challenges ahead.
“The last week has been one of soaring highs and depressing lows.
First, was the most inspiring of visits to Knepp Castle Estate near Horsham in West Sussex, where Charlie Burrell has been re-inventing a thriving, lowland estate. His 2,000 acres has gone, in just over a decade, from a scoured, arable/dairy financial black hole, to a landscape dripping with natural health and economic possibilities.
This was followed by the House of Commons debate on implementing the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) in the UK. It was a dispiriting and familiar trip around the threats to agriculture from administrative burdens and regulatory hurdles to the reinforcement of apparent entitlements to cash. These are issues, of course, and they do need to be dealt with.
But there’s a need for a much bigger debate and for thinking that breaks free from the bureaucratic and self-interested doldrums. We need to look beyond CAP and to address the constraints that farming’s dependency on it has created.
So we’ve been delighted to come together with a range of organisations to kick start the debate. The ‘Square Meal’ report , published today, sets out the scale of the challenges around food, nature, environmental protection, farming livelihoods, diet and health and challenges the political parties to rise to these in framing their manifestos for the forthcoming election.
There are a range of specific policy responses which we believe are critical to future progress. These include: ensuring public procurement leads in the purchasing of sustainably produced food; stopping using ‘production efficiency’ as the key metric for success; and making a much more effective and concrete response to the call for ‘bigger, better, more joined up’ habitats which Prof John Lawton enshrined in his vital report on the future of nature.
We’re also asking for much more leadership from Government. Without this, it’s hard to see how the big leaps we need can be made. We want a long term vision in place that blends the farming, food, environmental and social sectors much more coherently and we need Government to address market failures and to reward those delivering public benefit complemented by a properly embedded ‘polluter pays’ principle. We hope the ‘Square Meal’ report will kick-start this conversation.”
Changes are happening in a National Trust café near you. With the introduction of our new food policy, expect something fresh and local at your special place soon. Clive Goudercourt takes time out to tell us more about his part in the new food initiative.
Who are you?
Clive Goudercourt- Development Chef for the National Trust
What does a development chef do?
A lot of it is around developing recipes and menus that can be utilised by property teams, the cafes and outlets. There’s a lot of engagement in it as well, listening to teams and customers, what the best sellers are, the best sandwich style, that sort of thing. And then looking at recipes that we currently use and see what way we can adapt them to make them more attractive in terms of value to customers with the aim to make it a more enjoyable experience.
What is the new food policy and what’s different about it?
What’s different about it is at the moment there’s a whole team driving this policy, with a greater skill base about how we can drive our core food strategy forward. Its about giving customers what they want, but also doing that in a way that’s in line with the Trust’s values and beliefs around food. So procurement, production, utilising English produce, things like that.
What do you hope to achieve through the new food initiative?
I hope that we can use more local products and utilise more local producers of food. Showcasing farmer’s work produced on NT land or in NT properties. A really good example is Jeremy Benson (one of our tenants in Gloucestershire), whose juice drinks are now in every Trust outlet. Another great case includes the Wimpole estate in Cambridgeshire, where they produce huge amounts of produce at the farm on the back of a large investment going into the local land.
Ultimately what id like to achieve is all about our catering outlets serving and selling food that our customers find very enjoyable, and hopefully encouraging them to come back for more so that our restaurants and cafes become more of an integral part of the visit to a NT property. I want us to have a compelling offer, representing great value out of the food we make in the kitchens on premises.
Do you have a favourite NT Cafe? What’s your special place?
I love them all for different reasons; I still have a long way to go in getting round them all. The project that I’ve been working on for the past year has been taking me around 8 or 9 different places. The combination of things I appreciate the most are the location of the property, the environment of the kitchens and the teams that work in there. I don’t really have a favourite place, however if I had to choose it might be the place I originally started work with the National Trust, which is Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. It’s my local place and being where I started it holds special memories for me.
What’s the best thing about working at the National Trust?
The best thing about working for the National Trust for me is the diversity of the teams, you can visit two properties close to each other but be completely different in what they do and offer. From big cafes in stately homes to remote ones in the peak district of Derbyshire, to tiny little ones in the middle of a town centre, I just think its such a diverse business in catering that we’ve got. Being a part of that and actually being a part of this new food policy at a time where we’re starting to drive it forward and make a difference with the teams we work with is terrific. For me it’s the combination of people, places and the ethics behind what the Trust stands for when it comes to food.
You can discover more about the Trust’s enticing new food policy in the summer edition of the National Trust magazine, including news about the involvement of Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett, and a recipe for a sumptuous summer salad.
The Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD) is focussed on restoration and development of heritage in rural areas. Rural areas are the back bone of Indian culture, which in turn, is recognised as one of the most vibrant cultures in the world.
A good proportion of India’s population lives in the rural areas; which means that the agriculture remains the prominent employer and remains the main source of livelihood and economic activity.
Admittedly, technology is rapidly changing our life styles, and one has to factor in the impact of this change on rural India as well.
Although, the windfalls of applying appropriate technology in the rural areas, especially in agriculture and allied fields, are heartening, total dependence on modernisation is not desirable and has to be avoided. This can be achieved right from the formative years of children, when they have just begun acquiring knowledge.
Culture, Education and Development
It is commonly believed, in development circles, that social and cultural development in rural India has been slow. But on the other side, it has the positive view, which non submission to modernisation has actually preserved our heritage, culture, identity and held us together in rural India.
The trust “ITRHD” is pursuing a culture-sensitive approach to development, and in the process felt the need to better understand cultural diversity and how it affects/ marks on the process of development. Many festivals, fairs, melas denoting the rich cultural heritage of the area fall in cyclic and sequential manner and boost the business of the area. The cyclic and cascading effect of the above process is the reason behind the development and prosperity of many a culture rich civilisation.
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan said, “ The aim of education is not the acquisition of information, although important, or acquisition of technical skills, though essential in modern society, but the development of that bent of mind, that attitude of reason, that spirit of democracy which will make us responsible citizens.”
Indeed, a sensitive and comprehensive education system would help to shape the younger generation into ethically correct and socially conscious youth /adults.
Culture and education cannot be separated but are complementary to each other and interface at various junctions. Both are interwoven in various ways. While culture impacts the quality and purpose of education, whereas education brings a sense of pride in our culture which is manifested in all stages of individual growth.
Primary education is where it all starts and the child begins to respect the importance of a value based life as she/he sees things and events happening, and the behaviour of others, around. The trust has adopted a unique model in imparting elementary/primary education so the youth is focussed on preservation of culture and heritage.
ITRHD has set up a primary school “Chacha Nehru Primary School” in village Hariharpur, a village famous for its classical music tradition which is 400 years old. Harihar pur is a village in District Azamgarh, up in North East India. The school which started in Feb 2013 has 64 registered and enrolled children in the age group of 4-6 years. Priority has been given to poor and marginalised girls.
The school is run by female teachers belonging to the same village, who have been formally trained as primary school teachers. The majority of them are daughters-in-law, so the resource remains in the village even after marriage!
The school offers mid day meal which is a very balanced, freshly cooked meal, where most of the provisions are donated by the villagers.
The happy atmosphere and nutritious food are the biggest attractions for the children and they are too keen to attend the school. The children are often present on the school premises much before the school start time!!
The school building (currently on hired premises) is being constructed, again on land donated by villagers, partly funded by British Council and mainly through corporate CSR funds and donations.
The school is a unique example of community, NGO and international agency participation in development through all its stages of coming up- designing, planning, construction, conceptualisation and implementation.
Croft Castle – Wood Pasture Restoration
Wood pasture is a medieval form of agricultural/horticultural land management, a very early form of permaculture, where two or more crops can be raised on the same piece of land. Traditionally, widely spaced trees were grown in meadows grazed by cattle and/or deer. This provided meat for the table and a wide variety of materials from the trees, depending on species and location. The trees were protected from the grazing animals until they were big enough and their branches were well above animal browsing height. These trees were then typically cut at a height of approximately eight feet every 3 to 25 years depending on the desired material. The trees provided a great variety of materials: firewood, tool handles, leaf fodder, small diameter timber, fencing material and bends for the ribs of ships.
The practice of pollarding was enshrined in law dating as far back as the Magna Carta. Common people were granted the right of Estover, which allowed them to take material from trees on common land, often in Royal Hunting Forests, but expressly forbade them from cutting down trees. This gave pollard trees great significance for commoners.
The practice of pollarding considerably extends the natural life of many tree species. For instance a beech tree would normally live about 300 years by which time it would have blown over in a gale or from root decay, collapsed due to fungal trunk decay or succumbed to one of several pathogens. A beech tree which has been pollarded for the majority of its life however, can live for more than 600 years, oaks for more than a thousand years. The old pollards develop very fat squat trunks with small crowns.
These trees with their small crowns have a reduced risk of blowing over or getting torn apart in severe winds, they are also less susceptible to drought with their reduced volume of canopy to support.
These ancient trees are extremely important culturally, for their great natural beauty and for the exceptionally abundant wildlife living on and within them. They support very rare lichens living on their craggy bark, rare fungi decaying the heart wood and very specialised dead wood invertebrates digesting this decaying wood.
Pollarding died out in Britain in the 19th century and many of the old wood pastures succumbed to secondary woodland. One such site is a lapsed wood pasture at Croft Castle, 47.0 hectares of which was let on a very long lease to the Forestry Commission prior to the Trust acquiring the property. The Trust and the FC are now in consultation regarding the restoration of this nationally important site. The Trust’s 5.0 hectare in-hand portion of this wood pasture has already undergone restoration with lots of the naturally seeded trees having been removed and grazing being re-introduced later this year. Without this kind of intervention the ancient old trees would be killed by the more vigorous young conifers growing above them and casting them into perpetual shade.
Sadly, when the Forestry Commission first took over the lease of the land in the 1950s, the significance of ancient trees was not fully understood or appreciated. This meant that many of these wonderful old trees were purposefully killed by ring barking around their trunks with an axe, luckily some of these trees miraculously survived this destructive treatment. The site is littered with dead hulks with axe marks demonstrating how they died. I would like to think that we live in a more enlightened time and that the remaining pollards and their future offspring will be safe at Croft and other Trust properties.
Brian Muelaner – Ancient Tree Adviser for the National Trust. I advise on how best to manage these special trees to preserve their natural lives. I am often among trees many hundreds of years old, some are a thousand years or more and still quite healthy. I am coordinating a national survey of all ancient and notable trees on Trust land. To date we have recorded a remarkable 25,000 trees and still have many more properties to survey. I am also compiling an inventory of the hundreds of Trust avenues.
- The Weekly Witter is a regular Monday mouthpiece for our many specialists to talk about what’s on their minds at the moment.
A report commissioned by two of Britain’s biggest farmers suggests that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposals present an opportunity to improve existing Entry Level Stewardship in England.
The changes to agri-environment schemes suggested in the report would create a more environmentally, financially and socially sustainable approach to agriculture, helping farmers, the environment and wider rural communities.
With over 220,000 hectares of farmland between them, the National Trust’s and Co-operative Farms’ report comes at a time of intense speculation about the future of CAP, with fiercely debated proposals to ‘green’ farm subsidy payments, growing EU pressure to cut funding for rural development schemes and domestic calls to “rebalance” rural development spending “in favour of competitiveness.”
Land Stewardship in England Post 2013 offers a series of practical recommendations to improve agri-environment schemes, with transferable lessons for other countries.
The report analyses the perceived gap between the entry-level scheme and the higher tier, the opportunities to enhance the upland farming scheme and the overall implications of the proposed ‘greening’ of Pillar 1. As a whole, the report’s recommendations could help to ensure that money invested in agri-environment delivers for public benefit, ‘future-proofs’ farming and protects the natural resource base upon which the English countryside and agriculture depend. Patrick Begg, Director of Rural Enterprise at the National Trust, said:
“Successful, long-term farming is about the careful stewardship of precious natural resources. Without that principle in place, it’s hard to see how we can continue to produce food and the other natural services that our land offers: clean water, locked up carbon, fuel for heat and power and productive soils. We believe that the economic future of farming will increasingly centre on how this stewardship is delivered and supported.”
“For British farms to remain in business we need to act now to secure a future for them. ‘Future-proofing’ farming will need us to direct support payments to activities that benefit nature and the wider environment and in ways that work with existing farming systems. We need to move environmental stewardship into the heart of the standard farm business and not leave it as a bolt-on, which is how agri-environment schemes have often operated in the past.”
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is currently reviewing how it will deliver the next generation of rural development schemes, which will run between 2014 and 2020. But it is likely that the Government will have less funding available. Defra currently chooses to spend the vast majority (80 per cent) of its EU ‘rural development’ funding allocation on agri-environment schemes, covering 70 per cent of farmland in England. David Watson, Head of Arable Operations for The Co-operative Farms, added:
“Our report shows that any new policy for environmentally sustainable farming must be practical, straightforward and deliverable.”
“We believe the recommendations of this report will provide genuine food-for-thought for Defra and Natural England, the two bodies responsible for the design and delivery of agri-environment schemes in England.”
“To secure a viable future for farming and rural communities, we must refresh entry-level stewardship in a way that not only makes it fit-for-purpose, but that ensures it becomes the cornerstone of rural development. This in itself would provide the continued justification for maintaining the current level of spending on agri-environment.”
A number of individual farmers and organisations were consulted in the preparation of the report, including the NFU, Country Land & Business Association (CLA), Campaign for the Farmed Environment, Tenant Farmers’ Association and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
A Lake District landmark has just become a National Trust destination with a difference.
The popular Sticklebarn pub in Great Langdale now has the status of being the only Trust-run pub in the country. That means NT staff behind the bar, serving the very best local fare, and sharing their knowledge and expertise of the outdoors with the thousands of visitors who come to this valley
The National Trust already cares for a huge amount of land in Great Langdale, and owns several farms, car parks, a hotel and a campsite. The addition of Sticklebarn will provide a new focal point for the valley, as a destination in its own right, but also as a gateway to all this valley and its environs have to offer.
Visitors are already seeing the benefits of the Trust’s ownership. More than £40,000 has been spent upgrading the public toilets located between Sticklebarn and the neighbouring National Trust car park. They now have changing facilities, perfect for those who have been walking, climbing, biking and bouldering on the Langdale fells.
And a new menu is in place in the pub featuring some of the very best local food and beer. Visitors will be able to try the likes of Cumbrian tattie pot and steak and local ale pie after a hard day on the fells – with some of the food sourced from the very fields which surround the pub. Many of the beers on offer will be from Cumbrian breweries too.
Jeremy Barlow, the National Trust’s General Manager for the Central and East Lakes region, said: “The Sticklebarn has been a key part of life in Great Langdale for more than 40 years and is already a popular destination for walkers, bikers, climbers and campers, as well as day trippers.
“We’re really excited about the opportunities this acquisition will give us and the benefits there will be for visitors. Even the most frequent visitors to the Lake District often don’t realise exactly how much of this amazing landscape the National Trust cares for. Running the Sticklebarn as a Trust pub will raise our profile immeasurably in a valley which is renowned for its outdoor activities but, more importantly, it will place our expert teams at the heart of the action, sharing their knowledge about this region and what it has to offer.
“Great Langdale is the perfect destination and, thanks to our acquisition of Sticklebarn, you can now eat and drink there, as well as sleep there, play there, and find your own special place there – with the added benefit of being able to tap into the Trust’s expertise.
“‘Field to fork’ takes on a whole new meaning when you can see the farmland where your dinner was born and raised by some of the Trust’s tenant farmers. The aim is to source as much food as possible from, firstly, the Langdale valley, then Cumbria, then more widely across the region and the UK. The same will be true of the beers on offer with the majority coming from Cumbrian breweries.
“And not only will visitors enjoy the Sticklebarn’s location at the heart of the Lake District, but they will also know that all the pub’s profits will be used to care for and protect the land around them.”