My friend and foe Jody Scheckter, the 100mph organic racing driver, recently was heard to describe organic food as having a ‘Gucci’ image—I hardly need to explain what he meant. I think he’s right, and it’s unfortunate, because as he then said, organic food should be the default choice for everyone. Without it, and without overall less intensive food production, we’re off to hell in a handcart because we simply cannot go on creating mega dairies, mega cows, mega salmon, hedgeless and lifeless prairies…
To feed the world’s growing population? Humbug and hypocrisy. When was the last time you saw a farmer who was worried about starvation somewhere else? He or she, pressured by the worldwide meg-corporations, sees the only route to farming survival as being bigger, cheaper, blander, harder, and faster. Fuelled by the corporate new toys and technology.
Organic’s got a pretty poor name currently, and it might originally have been a poor choice of descriptive word, but hindsight is marvellous, and easy. But whatever we mean by organic, and overall it means less intensive, more sensitive, less battling, more empathy, warm not cold, gentle not hard, slow not fast, you’ve got to admit it offers more solutions than any other form of food production. You see, it really values everything that goes into it, and everything that might benefit from it. Animals, hedges, beetles, the soil; the farm staff have proper jobs, with variety and initiative; the customer, the consumer, is buying something other than just protein in a packet.
The 2 million shoppers in the UK who put something organic into their mouths each week make up a market that’s about 2 million people bigger than it was 25 years ago. They have chosen to take a route that flies in the face of the route that time normally takes us down. A route that is more expensive (on the surface), a route that requires directions and instructions, a route that takes time, in seeking product out and then preparing it for eating; a route that overall is harder work, at a time when everyone wants to make everything easier!
Why do they do this? Well, I speak as someone who has watched this place, Eastbrook Farm, almost literally blossom over the mere 15 years I have been here. And some things are bigger than they used to be, even though I can be rude about big. Bigger hedges; bigger trees; smaller fields in some places; more—yes more—deer, hares, and, mixed feelings, badgers; birds of prey and their prey, the songbirds. Pigs that seem hardier than ever, touch wood; the nucleus of this pig herd has been here for 20 years, a drop in an aeon, but they and the terroir here have welded themselves together. As Helen the boss says, the vet’s visit is to check happiness levels, not to administer antidepressants.
I love it. I cannot imagine farming or producing food in any other way. I cannot imagine treating livestock in any way other than this, (unless we can continue to improve our methods from the animals’ point of view). I eat the same way (except that Ginster’s pie on the motorway occasionally)….