This Conference and the process leading up to it have been about searching for the bedrock on which to build sure foundations for the future of farming. We are often told that the basic realities are the global free market and our efficiency and ability to compete. Many farmers on the other hand instinctively see themselves feeding their own country and letting other farmers do the same. There is great wisdom in this. A world dominated by corporations, trade, speculation, and money is an unsafe place for farmers.
Farmers also know that climate, soil, plants and animals are more profound realities. Led by Ivor MacDonald the Conference wanted to assert an even more fundamental reality.
The first two ACF Conferences that I attended in the mid 1970’s revolved around expositions of this triangular pattern of relationships involving God, people and the natural world, that Ivor has been talking about. I remember being a little impatient the second time perhaps because we stayed in Genesis, however, I now see that this thread runs right through the Bible and it has become the foundation of much of ACF’s work over the 40 years since. This understanding needs to enter our bones. It is the basic reality in which farming happens. This basic reality is not the global free market or competition with farmers elsewhere in the world. In what follows, Peter Carruthers was mainly on one side of the triangle, the one involving relationships among people, but it is a part of this wider reality.
Pointers to the future of farming in the UK
• The real context for farming is as a pivotal point in the relationships of humans, with God, with the Natural World, and among themselves. This reality demands for many a radical change of mindset.
• Food is not just a commodity to trade: it is the staff of life uniquely able to be a focus of family, community and social life.
• Food security at home and overseas should be a matter of urgent concern.
• The World can be fed without ruining ecosystems.
• Agriculture and health are closely linked.
• Farming activity and familiarity with the land can enrich peoples lives. This can be especially true for people who are disadvantaged, disabled, or marginalised.
• Participation in food production by the many rather than the few is thus a laudable goal in all agricultural policy making. Pathways for new entrants to farming are vital.
• The current experience of flooding is a reminder of the reality of global climate change. Reducing agricultures contribution to this and on the other hand adapting farming to meet it are overwhelming priorities.
• Everything to do with farming should be viewed in the long term perspective.
• Science is a God given opportunity. However, its fruits should be assessed ethically rather than applied just because they are available.
• Farmers need to retain control of seeds, husbandry practices, and indigenous technical knowledge and experience. Mechanisms should exist for sharing this.
• Like marriage, farming is not to be “entered into lightly or irreverently” and nor is it to be viewed by policy makers and leaders through a narrow economic lens.
• Hallmarks of Christian farmers will be humility, harmony and hope.
Some issues began to emerge without firm conclusions. Most of these centred around the appropriateness of different technologies and business organisation. In future issues we will run articls on each of these.