Farming News - Countryfile star Adam Henson on veganism & the future of farming

Countryfile star Adam Henson on veganism & the future of farming

16 Dec 2019
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

Farmer and Countryfile presenter Adam Henson has spoken on what he wants to see happen after Brexit and the future of farming.

Adam was recently at Somerset's Butcombe Brewery to celebrate the three millionth bottle of his beer, Rare Breed, being made.

The beer is the result of his passion for sustainable farming.

It has ingredients from all over the West Country, with Maris Otter malting barley, aromatic Fuggles hops as well as Cascade and Amarillo hops and the purest Mendip spring water.

Somerset Live sat down with Adam to talk about his sustainability ethos, his thoughts on the climate crisis and what he thinks the agriculture community needs to get out of Brexit.

Adam, who voted to remain within the European Union, hopes the UK gets good trade agreements with Europe and the rest of the world when it leaves the EU.

Adam said he has been left totally dismayed by Brexit over the last three years, but does see the arguments for both sides.

He said: "I'd be calling for good trade agreements, remaining to be able to trade fluidly with Europe and having the opportunity to trade with the rest of the world.

"I just hope agriculture isn't sold cheap. The food supply chain is a multi-billion pound industry that employs millions of people and we need to look after it.

"It's also a huge part of our heritage and our landscape the agriculture systems that we have all over the UK."

He has spoken in the past about his dedication to sustainability on his farm in the Cotsworlds and in encouraging others to be more sustainable in the wider farming community.

Adam was asked how he wrestles with accusations that farming, particularly beef farming, has been a negative catalyst for climate change.

He said: "I think in agriculture we are very good at what we do in the UK with our legislation.

"But I also think we have our responsibility to check and measure what we are doing.

"At the moment it's very hard to measure the agricultural impact on the climate on a farm-by-farm basis.

"So me and my business partner are looking at what we spend on fuel, and our output on machine, what we use in the way of pesticides, what we feed our animals, where they go for slaughter and all those sorts of things we are drilling into, to make sure that we are comfortable and confident that we're doing the very best we can.

 
Countryfile star Adam Henson was at Butcombe brewery celebrating the 3 millionth bottle of his beer (Image: Fluxx)

"And I think you will find an awful lot of farmers are the same.

"And if we are measuring us against the rest of the world, we are doing better than anywhere else in the world, as far as our impact on climate.

"But we still do have an impact and we have got to think about how we can produce food and minimise that impact.

Adam said cattle seems to be getting the blame, possibly incorrectly.

He said: "Grass fed animals, beef, the cattle, are getting the fingers pointed at them a lot.

"Yet those animals on hill land, on permanent pastures and areas of conservation grazing are using that grass to create protein that no other animal could, only ruminants.

"And when you don't plough the land, and you don't turn it over to grow crops, it's less carbon sequestration so the carbon is kept in the ground.

"But if you import beef from the other side of the world, particularly if it is in feedlots where they feed it Soya which causes deforestation, displacement of other animals and the fuel to get it here, then it's far more damaging.

Adam thinks there is a problem with public perception caused by unbalanced news.

He said: "The damaging thing is when there is unbalanced news, or fake news, the general public misconstrue, or misunderstand.

"And sadly there is large section of society who don't get the opportunity to go to farms and see animals and understand the British production system and they are easily convinced by things that aren't necessarily true."

Adam says people just need to make informed choices.

He said: "If you drink soy milk as a vegan which is imported from Brazil, I mean what is the impact of that? How can you say I am not eating beef, just choose the right beef from the right people that is correctly sourced. It is all about balance.

"I think that sometimes people get quite vicious about it and their anger is fuelled by the worry of climate change and the damage we are doing to the environment which is definitely justified. I'm worried about it to, but it's about choosing the right fight.

"So, you know, Lewis Hamilton saying he's not going to eat beef to help the planet but driving around in a fast car and flying in a private jet? I mean for goodness sake."

Adam added that beef gets too much attention which distracts from other environmental issues such as plastics, fuel consumption, food waste, obsity.

He said: "I think there are bigger fish to fry than beef."

He added that "people can eat whatever the want" and that his job on this planet as a farmer is to help feed people in a sensible and sustainable way.

He said: "And if they want to eat more vegetables, I'll grow more vegetables, that's an opportunity for me.

"If you are going to preach make sure you have got the facts right."

Adam also spoke about the future of farming, saying that "the world is quite unstable" and that it is "really important not to rely on imported food."

He said: "We need to be more self-sufficient, we are only about 60 per cent self sufficient now."

Adam said the key for the future is to have agriculture in the national curriculum, at GCSE level.

This would, he thinks, make sure all of the population has an awareness about food production and that children understand where their food comes from.

"It's worrying that people are so disconnected with where their food comes from, if I had a magic wand I would change that to make sure that people aren't swayed by misinformed propaganda, whatever that may be."