wilfred ej 2 hatAs government policy advocates exporting food to China – delighting speculators and middlemen – Small Heath raised Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, who specialises in producing gluten-free meat products and cheese, proposed at the ongoing Oxford Farming Conference that economies of scale were overrated and that size was not important to British agriculture.

ionwenAt an earlier event, former Women’s Food and Farming Union president Ionwen Lewis, who raises beef in Ceredigion, said that politicians often thought of family farms as a ‘grade two farming operation’, but a recent United Nations conference in Brussels highlighted that family farms are ‘a force to be reckoned with’:

“We have to remember that the larger farms only account for 16% of food production, Family farms produce 85% of the world’s food.”

Wilfred said that adopting large-scale production methods would be disastrous for the nation, animal welfare, the environment and the public These methods entailed keeping animals in smaller spaces while increasing risks to human health through the excessive sewage produced and large-scale use of antibiotics.

factory farm run offSee New York Times on America’s problems of ‘run-off’

Wilfred‘s conclusion:

“Mega-farms have taken farming to a frightening level of efficiency. . . Larger farms follow the money rather than what’s good for consumers . . .Farmers need to get consumers onside, but mega-farms will just increase the gulf between farmers and the public.

“Rather than trying to be as cheap as possible we should be the country with the highest standards and quality. If we follow that route the rest of the world will be forced to catch up.”

And – as a Selly Oak reader recently contacted us to point out – 2014 is the UN’s International Year of Family Farming, which aims to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing world attention on its significant role in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.