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Farm to Fork, the new book exploring our farming future

New book ‘Farm to Fork; the challenge of Sustainable Farming in 21st Century Britain’, from author and farmer Joe Stanley, explores our food system and farming future in a time of great change.

Joe Stanley with his beloved Jack Russell Terrier, Ted.

The new book, Farm to Fork, by farmer, conservationist, and author Joe Stanley, is most simply a diary of a year in farming life. But that year happens to be rocked by political, social, economic and environmental change. Whilst the target audience of the book may not be farmers themselves, they will be pleased to hear a fellow farmer describe the hardships and joys of the professions in a balanced and accessible way.

The title may imply that the content is going to be entirely Regen Ag focused, but what Joe Stanley has created is an inclusive introduction to modern British farming. To summarise Farm to Fork rather reductively – it is ‘everything a modern farmer wishes the general public knew about farming’.

Farm to Fork is written in the post-Brexit landscape, where farms face monumental change to their payment structures and our food supply chain is under greater scrutiny than ever. At a time when our food, and how it gets to our plates, is hitting the headlines there remains a massive lack of knowledge amongst the non-farming public about exactly how modern farming works. The book is heavily focused on our food chain, and pushes for a more sustainable future with less reliance on imports. At a time when farming sectors are facing crisis to due to supply chain issues it has never been more important for the public to understand the system behind the headlines.

A foreword from NFU president Minette Batters lays out the modern economic problems facing farmers while the main book reminds readers of the age old problems of weather and nature. But it is not all doom and gloom, being overwhelmingly positive about farming and its future role in the UK. It’s evident that Mr Stanley feels passionately that through supporting farmers we can help mitigate the country’s food supply and environmental issues.

Farm to Fork; the challenge of Sustainable Farming in 21st Century Britain published by Quiller Publishing, now available from all major book sellers

From the outset farmers may be wary of a book around sustainable farming, as so much of the rhetoric in the media paints a picture of farmers being the enemy of the environment who need to change their entire practice. However, the book takes a well-balanced approach. Current practices are covered with both their positive and negative aspects, with the aim being to educate, not preach.

Mr Stanley’s own family farm runs at 720 acres of grassland and arable, broken up with the woodland, streams, stone walls and hedge rows you expect of an English farm. And the style of farming being promoted is in many ways a very traditional English system, good crop and livestock rotations, with more thought on soil health.

The book is broken down into seasonal chapters, charting the different tasks a farmer undertakes throughout the year and showing the wide variation in farming. It opens in the autumn months with cultivation, a good place to give an introductory lesson on soil health.

Throughout the book, there are subtle reminders of the physical and mental dangers of life as a modern farmer, sprinkling in safety tips, which can only have positive effects on the next generation of farmers, and remind non-farmers the cost of their food beyond the pound sign.

It ends with a call to action for the reader to get out there and learn more about farming, and think a little more about farmers as they face the radical overhaul of their environment and payments.

Whilst the book may not teach established farmers anything new, it’s certainly one they’ll wish more people would read. It also serves as a fantastic guide for anyone interested in getting into farming, and its accessible style, designed to inform not patronise, will hopefully make it a hit with young farmers across the country. It also explains in some detail, but in an easy-to-absorb manner, the unique and historically unequalled problems facing the modern farmer.

It is, at its core, a love letter from one farmer, to an entire industry.

Have you read the book yet? Please share your views with us on this story, or any other farming issue by emailing us at views@farmersguide.co.uk

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