We need better social science to work closer with farmers and land managers – many of whom are conservationists.
The pressures on farmers today are immense. Working out how farmers think is a seriously ignored matter and requires us to come closer together to work on common ground issues. Alas, there is still too much fear around being seen to agree with whom our tribal instincts perceive to be our opponents – Bayer and FoE in common for pollinators, NFU and rewilders working for uplands.
“When it comes to conservation, we’ve all got a shiny breastplate to remove.”
As I’ve said in a previous blog, ‘Can we frame the communication of ideas to deliver long term public benefit, rather than just paint ourselves into idealistic corners merely to garner short-lived public opinion?’
Nature-first farming is a lovely idea but it is not the only answer (organic farming vies with space for wildlife in achieving yields and higher prices are unaffordable to many consumers). As we increasingly seek to spend less on food, it’s a tough argument (not false) – but even tougher for those less well-off who spend more of their disposable income on groceries. Farmers farm for the market, policy reflects consumer demands (the market), policy dictates farming practices which impact on the environment. We are all responsible for the ‘back-story’ to the present State of Nature and the biggest challenge is still us – as civil society – in changing the way we eat and waste food.
‘Rather than stick to bucolic principles ideals, now is the time to unleash brave new ideas that benefit both society and the countryside‘ – is how I ended a letter in The Times. So here’s to all the dialogue between fabulous farmers and land managers coming together at both the Oxford Farming and Oxford Real Farming Conferences the year’s ahead.
Featured image at top credit Mike Langman’s artwork used in a South Downs farmland birds leaflet via Martin Harper’s blog on future of farming.