Farming in the UK is a much-maligned practice for those with short memories. As Carla Carlisle wrote in COUNTRY LIFE recently, Farming Today, the must-listen Radio4 programme which starts every rural landowner’s day, has become an unfortunate litany of falling prices and botched legislation.
However, contrary to the opinion of some, there are many reasons why British farmers are undergoing something of a renaissance. From the ongoing rise in the popularity of organic food, to the sheer numbers of people attending farmers’ markets all over the country, buying local and buying British is once again part of the food-lovers’ agenda.
British food enjoyed one of the worst international reputations of any cuisine throughout the seventies and eighties, but towards the mid-nineties high profile chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver, in their respective ways, came more to the front of the national consciousness and helped to redefine the image of British food, first to the Brits themselves, and then to the rest of the world. Suddenly people started to care where their meat was from and whether their fruit and vegetables had come hundreds of miles to the table. And now, with such an emphasis on global warming and carbon emissions, consumers are even more keen to buy produce which has been produced close to home. And as a result British farmers, who in the meantime have been quietly been getting on with what they do best, have once again come into their own.
Farmers’ Markets continue to spring up all over the country, and COUNTRY LIFE conducted a quest last year to find the nation’s favourite farmers’ market, which proved to be a difficult task, such was the outstanding quality of the markets which already exist. And as more spring up you can find out where your local market is and when it’s held through the national farmers’ markets website at www.farmersmarkets.net.
Fantastic local produce is at the heart of what British farmers excel in producing, and the huge growth in farmers’ markets has allowed many farms which were suffering hard times from low farm gate prices, and the attempt at the reform of the CAP to branch out.
Diversification ? as in dairy farmers learning how to make and market their own cheeses? has been a great success and Countrylife.co.uk’s long running series on local food producers featured many farmers who had done just that. From specialising in rare breeds of sheep to online portals which bring together food and drinks from all over Scotland for people to buy online, farmers are working to ensure that the growing demand for high quality British food and drink can be met.
Below please find some of our favourite, web savvy farmers who sell wonderful produce online: