My view recently was from atop a combine harvester watching the blades at the front whirl through the wheat and shake it into its waiting container.
Farming is part of our heritage in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. We also need to do more to ensure it remains part of our future.
A less secure world and a changing climate have put the spotlight on Britain’s farming sector.
In the last year we have seen food price inflation top 15 per cent, ongoing instability to global food supplies caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine along with recent episodes of extreme weather.
At home, we had the driest February since 1993, the hottest June since records began, followed by unseasonal rain throughout July and early August. All of this has added pressures not just to the cost of the weekly shop, but also to the food supply.
So, it was good to visit Michael, James, and the team at Park Farm recently to see the harvest in action. Peterborough is the gateway to the Fens and food makes up an important part of our local economy, whether that is the sugar beet our part of the world is famous for or mustard seed.
The locally based English Mustard Growers co-operative of farmers has been supplying the iconic Colman’s brand for generations. As someone committed to mutual values and co-operation this is great to see.
Farming is a tough but important job. The global shocks of the last few years put a spotlight on the need to grow, make and produce more in the UK, with food security being another part of our national security.
According to the latest official statistics, we are 60 per cent self-sufficient in food. The National Farmers Union calculated that the UK larder would have run empty in early August if we only had food produced in the UK to rely on.
In my view, we need a national food plan, putting farming, food production and nature on a sustainable plane.
We need to take food production seriously to ensure food is given the same focus as the environment or other vital industrial sectors. By backing British farming, we are backing British jobs, innovation, and security.
From giving farmers the support and tools to manage virus yellows disease that affects the beet harvest through to ensuring fair prices for farmers in the food supply chain, to tackling rural crime and encouraging a new generation into farming, there is much to be done.
Since being selected as Labour’s candidate to be Peterborough’s next MP, I have undertaken a field-to-fork tour, meeting farmers, businesses, and residents with an interest in food.
From working with the Co-operative on challenging retail crime to visiting many of our food banks across the city, I am learning a great deal from every visit.
Agriculture is still a crucial part of our local economy. But, increasingly, and sadly, so too does food poverty with an ever-growing number of families relying on help to feed their children and to manage the basics in life.
Visiting Park Farm’s Open Farm Weekend in June with Labour’s Shadow Farming Minister, Daniel Zeichner MP, I know I am not alone in feeling agriculture is part of our DNA.
Over 9,700 people visited Thorney this year, with nearly half taking the Farm Safari to learn more about crops, drainage, and nature.
Peterborough Museum is also currently playing home to ‘Growing Together’ to highlight the city’s local food projects and community commitments to sustainability.
Attending the NFU conference earlier in the year, I know Labour Leader Keir Starmer gets the importance of farming and rural communities as well, telling the audience, ‘Food security is national security’.
I was pleased to hear Keir say that he would work with the NFU to make it easier for farmers to trade, removing barriers for exporters whilst committing to half of all food bought in the public sector to be produced locally and sustainably.
My field to fork listening tour continues. If you have an interest in food and farming, please get in touch on email@example.com and let’s start a conversation.
We can do better than working families relying on food banks, and on rising levels of inequality in our city.
As our next MP, I will always be a champion for British farming, promoting food and farming jobs in Peterborough as we aim to grow, make, and produce more locally and nationally.
Andrew Pakes is the Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough.
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