Last year we worked hard to create good food for all, produced with care for the natural world. None of this would be possible without you, our members and supporters.
We believe in good food and making a sustainable livelihood from the land; working with nature in ways that stand the test of time. In 2017 we worked with farmers, growers and researchers to find practical solutions to farming’s most pressing challenges.
Here are some of our favourite stories from 2017!
Our bold proposals for future farming policy have had real impact with politicians and policy makers at national level. Our Future of British Farming report, published in March, set out six game changing ideas covering: soil, organic farming, animal welfare, trees on farms (agroforestry), farmer-led innovation, and public procurement. Since then, we’ve seen each of our proposals taken up and championed, including by government ministers, alongside other campaign wins, such as the ban on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides. Our achievements have included agroforestry’s inclusion in the government’s Clean Growth Strategy as an effective measure to help tackle climate change. New funding for soil health monitoring has been announced and soil gets a whopping 57 mentions in the 25 Year Environment Plan. A draft animal welfare bill has been published amid a flurry of pledges to improve - not just to maintain – animal welfare standards. The Environment Secretary recognised the ‘amazing work’ done by the organic movement and pledged public money to help more farmers convert to organic. The links between public health, food and farming are eventually being made across government. Brexit and new trade deals still pose many risks to achieving our vision, but these political commitments and policy changes are absolutely essential steps along the path to a better food and farming future that we can all see, feel and taste - in our countryside, villages, towns, cities, schools, hospitals and homes. And none of these successes would have been possible without your support.
Finally, after years of campaigning, the government acknowledged the vital role of soil. In 2017, we kept up the pressure with our Save our Soils campaign, reaching millions of people and, as a result, George Eustice committed to putting soil health “at the heart” of agricultural policy and centre stage in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. This is a huge step forward and we couldn’t have done it without your support. The Minister for Agriculture also recognised that “no one understands more than organic farmers the value of a fertile soil that’s cared for”. Our CEO, Helen Browning spoke alongside Michael Gove at the Sustainable Soils Alliance parliamentary launch, when he committed to fund soil health monitoring. Though the signs are good, words are always easier said than done, so this year we’ll keep up the pressure on government to recognise the vital importance of soil carbon and the role of organic farming in saving our soils.
Did you know that of the £450 million of UK taxpayer money spent on agricultural research, only 1% of that goes to farmers? Innovative Farmers, part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, are working to change this. We’re proud to work with more than 400 leading farmers who run ‘field labs’: practical trials set up to find solutions to some of farming’s biggest problems. Organic and non-organic farmers are teaming up to drive agricultural research forward by trialling alternatives to the controversial weed killer glyphosate; finding the most nutritious beneficial grasses, herbs and clovers for grazing livestock; and working co-operatively across hundreds of farms to improve our impoverished soils. Without your continued support we wouldn’t be able to make such a huge difference. Heading into 2018, we’ll continue to empower the progressive farmers who can make real change possible.
Our campaign to reduce the use of routine antibiotics in farming has seen amazing success in 2017. The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, of which we are a founding member, has been a vocal leader in tackling the threat of growing resistance. The Alliance chalked up their first victory when the British Poultry Council announced that for the past year all the chicken companies in the UK had stopped using fluoroquinolones (the World Health Organisation believes them to be ‘critically important’ for human health). After a year of high-profile parliamentary debates, campaign activity and growing momentum, the Alliance also celebrated DEFRA’s recent statement on a 17% cut to antibiotic use in farm livestock. To draw the year to a close, we launched an influential new report increasing the pressure on big supermarkets to make further reductions to their antibiotics use. 2017 was a game changer for cuts to routine antibiotics, but without a shift in farming systems we know we’ve still got a long way to go. That’s why we still need the help and support of our vocal members, whose generosity is allowing us to push for meaningful change. We thank you all for helping make the difference.
In 2017 we worked towards making organic food, farming, and sustainable land use the norm for shoppers and businesses.
The Best of Organic Market awards (BOOMs) made a big splash earlier in the year: celebrating the best and brightest organic producers. There are thousands of organic producers, like Jan Billington of Maddocks Farm Organics who know that “We need to produce our food more wisely, working towards a situation where we can abolish food waste entirely”. Maddocks are just one example of the 6000 businesses we work with to improve the way we shop, eat and live. Every year hundreds of new organic brands are created, concerned with addressing environmental issues and providing the very best quality. They are making a real difference – and we feel privileged to work alongside them.
Eating organic whilst out and about has never been easier with Organic Served Here. In November research found that half of all 18 to 55 year olds would choose a restaurant where they knew the menu was sustainably and ethically sourced. That’s where Organic Served Here comes in: it’s a simple way for diners to support eateries that are committed to serving organic. Over the last year customers have voted with their feet with a huge growth in the number of restaurants and cafes signing up! We’re excited to be part of this growing movement of conscious diners who are making organic food a staple of every high street.
Over the last two decades we’ve worked to protect and sustainably manage millions of hectares of forest around the globe. One of the 2,500 influential businesses we certify is CORAMEHL, a co-operative made up of local people working in and around Honduras’s protected ancient forests. If we are serious about halting climate change we need to protect these amazing environments. By supporting thousands of small enterprises, like CORAMEHL; we are not only encouraging sustainable management but also working with local businesses to sell their timber on the international market. By working alongside local co-operatives we can push for sustainability, protect a fragile local economy, and allow forests to remain a key part of our fight against climate change!
We want to see a healthy, thriving population; buying, growing, cooking and eating good food
Why is our work on food important?
Food for Life Schools are making a real difference on a national scale by helping pupils learn about cooking, growing and where their food comes from.Thousands of students have been inspired to view food differently. Our partner, Greenfield Community School, saw how their use of food to create positive change in the classroom spilt over into the wider community. Parents and children have been learning food lessons together with after school classes responsible for providing practical advice on anything from shop budgeting to packing the most nutritious school lunch. It’s a win-win for parents, children and the School. The results of building these healthy relationships with food are clear, with pupils in Food For Life schools eating around a third more fruit and vegetables than pupils in comparison schools. Across the country Food for Life is working hard not only to develop young people’s understanding of food, but also introducing the idea of sustainability and that the world’s resources are by no means infinite.
Our 50 Sustainable Food Cities are taking a joined-up approach to solving some of cities biggest food challenges! To tackle food poverty, one of our Sustainable Food Cities, Cardiff, has launched ‘Food and Fun’. This summer club is making a real difference, giving schoolchildren, living below the poverty line, a healthy nutritious lunch when there’s no option of a free school meal. Meanwhile in Lambeth, local market traders have worked together to launch the People’s Fridge, allowing traders and food businesses to share their food excesses with those in need. These imaginative initiatives are helping tackle some of our cities most urgent food-related challenges.
The Soil Association’s Better Care programme demonstrates the vital role that good food can play both nutritionally and in tackling isolation. At Linson Court Care Home in Batley, children from the nearby Field Lane Primary School have worked alongside residents to build a run for hens. John, a lifelong farmer, and resident of Linson Court, has helped teach visiting children about the best ways to care for them. It’s all about getting children and older people to work together. And by encouraging co-operation on food projects we are passing down valuable knowledge to the next generation. Creating these intergenerational links are part of Better Care’s plan to work towards a whole setting approach to their resident’s food experience, including food cooking, growing and story sharing.
Out to Lunch has proven that we can quickly change restaurant menus to offer children healthier and more sustainable options. Last year our Out to Lunch campaign – which ranks restaurants and food served at popular visitor attractions into a league table based on health and sustainability criteria – caused a number of major transformations across the country. After featuring at the bottom of last year’s table the National History Museum overhauled their menu, introducing more meat-free options and committing to sustainable fish. Whilst in preparation for this year’s ranking, Weatherspoon’s, Brewers Fayre, Strada and Beefeater introduced more veg to the children’s menu. These wins prove that our league table can make big businesses think seriously about the food they serve and how by changing their menu, they can have a huge impact on the millions of meals eaten by families every week. We owe the success of Out to Lunch to our thousands of members who have given us unshakable encouragement and backing throughout the year.
If you share our vision of good food for all, produced with care for the natural world, let’s make a difference together.
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