“Theological” is a striking word to apply to an argument about farming. It was used to describe one approach to organic farming (and I suppose to take an oblique pot at the Prince of Wales) by Martin Haworth, Policy Director of the NFU. He is talking of people who think that organic farming is “intrinsically better for the environment, for the consumer, for the farmer”, ie me, among others.
He thinks “there is a market for this type of production (organic food) and it makes sense to fill it, but it must be market led.” With breath-taking hypocrisy, he adds piously:
“You can’t dictate what people produce.”
The NFU seem to me to do little else.
And what is all this market-led claptrap when you get down to it? People buy what they are told to buy by advertisers, choosing from what is available.
Which brings me neatly back to education.
I am looking for a way of getting the free-range/organic message across to the general public. It doesn’t have to be a theological way, though obviously it is a much wider message than one that simply appeals to people’s greed.
STAY ON A FARM www.farmstayuk.co.uk had a stall on Winchester Farmers’ Market. This is the traditional way of finding out about farming. Their brochure is full of mistakes, but the website has much valuable information. On a rough estimate, I would say about > of the farms listed are working farms.
LECKFORD ESTATE, STOCKBRIDGE, HANTS.
This is John Spedan Lewis’s estate, still owned and run by the company. (The middle name is included when you’re talking about the individual as opposed to the company.) They grow apples, pears, mushrooms and potatoes for their supermarket, Waitrose, and you can also buy them, and their apple juice, from the farm shop. The fruit is huge, tasteless and perfect-looking, supermarket style, though you can also buy the smaller Waitrose-rejects here.
The estate also is huge and well manicured. There is much heavy machinery and no boast that the produce is organic. I did see the chicken housing in the distance (looking remarkably like the holiday housing for John Lewis ‘partners’), but so far, my requests for more information have not been answered.
Also part of the estate is LONGSTOCK PARK NURSERY www.longstockparknursery.co.uk .
I could be wrong, and I hope to know more, but I feel that this whole enterprise, set up as a socialist empire, has been taken over by market forces. Maybe big business with a kind face can work. I have yet to be convinced. But if it can, it will be only at the cost of eternal vigilance. This looks to me like efficient industrial farming.
These are “theological” arguments.
We get confused and angry so easily when anyone mentions god or the soul. Perhaps it’s worth defining “theological”.
“God” is shorthand for “important things that don’t go into words.” Religions are languages, particularly misunderstood because they are dealing with non-verbal realities. So I think Martin Haworth is right and organic farming is more than a method of efficient food production. It’s up to us to define what more.