The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs invites…
When the invitation for the reception to celebrate Back British Farming Day at 10 Downing Street first arrived, I couldn’t quite believe it. I was convinced it was a mistake and I would turn up at the gates and be politely told to leave. However, it was a huge opportunity for me to meet and talk with like-minded people, working within our industry, and also the people working in the roles which made decisions daily. These effect everything we do on the farm and our way of life, so the reception was not something I could take the chance of missing.
Country Girl in the Big City
I decided to fly down, as we were still in the middle of harvest, it would sadly need to be a flying visit (excuse the pun). We managed to get a flight home the following morning which unfortunately meant I only got a whopping 15 hours in London. We flew into Gatwick airport and before some slight issues with the Gatwick express (there service was fantastic, I just some how managed to buy 5 tickets to Victoria instead of 2 – Opps), we made it to Victoria station at about 2pm.
I decided to have a walk to Downing Street to see where I was to go and then took a short walk about London, taking in Buckingham Place, the London Eye and Hyde Park before nipping back to the hotel room to change. At 5pm I made my way to the gates at Downing Street, after going through security we made our way into the famous Number 10.
Number 10, Downing Street
What struck me first was the fantastic welcome we all received and how many like minded farmers had also made the trip. I bumped into Harry Brown and his wife from Aberdeenshire (who won Beef farmer of the year in Scotland) proudly wearing a kilt, it was easy to spot a fellow Scottish Farmer. Another easy spot was John Davidson CEO of NFU Scotland with his NFU Scotland tie. I also met farmers from all over the UK, all there for Back British Farming Day. It was so interesting hearing both the similarity in our situations to the differences in farming policy across Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales.
Next to tap me on the shoulder was the amazing Calum McDiarmid whose enthusiasm and knowledge of sheep has always been inspiring. It was at this point that Rishi Sunak joined us in the garden. Although slightly shorter than I had imagined him to be, his knowledge and interest in farming was what really surprised me. Having just moved into easy-care sheep ourselves on the farm 6 years ago, I wouldn’t class myself as any expert on the matter. However, Rishi and Callum’s discussion on sheep was quite inspiring. Rishi was joined my Mark Spencer who is the Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries and also a former dairy farmer and thriving farm shop owner.
Back British Farming Day
Then Therese Coffey (The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) addressed us with her plans and intentions going forward for the world of farming and the support she has for local food and our countryside. She admitted, that although not a farmer herself she was surrounding herself with people that were and that had the knowledge and experience she was lacking. I believe that there are fundamental problems in our food and farming system, and I believe that it will take a collaborative effort of all farmers, politicians, and everyone else to make a difference. However, I do hope that some of the points that wonderful array of farmers brought to the cabinet will hopefully start to ignite some change. From there it was back to the hotel room – which although lovely was quite possibly the most expensive and smallest hotel room I have ever been in for a few hours sleep before slipping out at 4.30am to make my way back to Scotland.