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Britain needs one million farmers, say campaigners

Ecologist

9th April, 2010

City workers and allotment farmers needed to reverse dwindling farm workforce

Britain's dwindling farm workforce is driving the UK towards monoculture farming and destroying our biodiversity, say campaigners.

A report last year, 'New Blood', from the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) said the industry needed 60,000 new farmers over the next decade.

However, organisers of the Oxford Real Farming Conference, set up earlier this year to challenge conventional thinking on farming, say this figure is inadequate.

'The current thinking is that farming needs to be cheap and monocultured and therefore as simple as possible,' said conference co-organiser Colin Tudge. 'We now have a situation where fewer than one per cent of the population works on the land: that's a precarious position.'

Tudge and fellow organiser Graham Harvey, author of The Killing of the Countryside, are running a debate on the issue at the Real Food Festival next month. They say Britain needs polycultures and diverse cropping patterns adapted to local conditions.

'Farms should be mixed and must therefore be labour intensive — because well-balanced farms are complex and need very high standards of husbandry,' they said.

Tudge said the new supply of farmers was likely to come from city dwellers and hobby allotment farmers who could gradually move on to becoming smallholders.

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