Changing the conversation about health

‘For 50 years, we haven’t used a single kilo of pesticide’: Patrick Holden responds to Times article on the future for sustainable farming

An article, Farming today means thinking of tomorrow, by journalist Alice Thomson published in The Times newspaper this month examined future farming methods, discussing the ongoing conflict between those who produce food and environmental campaigners.

Here, Patrick Holden, CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust, who has run a mixed community farm in Wales since 1973, responds to the article in a letter that was also printed in The Times

“Alice Thomson is right: only a new contract between food producers and the public will create conditions for the fundamental transformation of our food and farming systems that is so urgently needed if we are to feed the world, address climate change and restore the biodiversity that has been lost during my farming lifetime.

“On June 18 we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the application of sustainable farming principles and practices on our 300-acre mixed dairy farm in Wales. For half a century we have not used a single kilogram of nitrogen fertiliser or any pesticides.

Patrick Holden is a founder of the Sustainable Food Trust; he has run a mixed community farm in Wales for more than 50 years

“Witnessing the long-term impact of the application of sustainable farming principles gives me hope: our yields of grass, milk and cheese are increasing, our fertile soils are capturing carbon and our bird, small mammal, insect and wildflower populations are ever more abundant.

“Our report ‘Feeding Britain from the Ground Up’ shows that if such systems were scaled nationally, we could maintain our present levels of consumption of UK-produced staple foods if we ate differently and wasted 50 per cent less food.

To finance the agricultural transition, the Sustainable Markets Initiative, a new coalition of banks, insurance companies, investors, water and food companies, is working to enable sustainable food production to be more profitable, thus ensuring that we move from farming being part of the problem to part of the solution.”