Selling off county farms means you are failing society
The Somerset councillor who tries to defend the sale of County Farms justifies his Council's action by saying that it is important to use assets to pay for services now, and secondly, that most of the farms are being sold to their tenants. Not good enough!
Councils, like all government, have a responsibility to provide for the future well-being and socio-economic resilience of their communities. The present is always difficult, and it is always tempting to rob the future to pay for today – but it is indefensible to do so.
If demand for social and other responsive services is expanding at a faster rate than population then it is important to consider how we can manage that growing demand. Jamie Oliver, in his efforts to improve school food, shows the way. Improve the quality of nutrition, the environment and the self-awareness of individuals, and we stand some reasonable chance of balancing dependency with self-reliance – demand can be managed if we are positive. If we simply give-in to the demand by selling off long-term assets to pay for it then we are cutting off society's nose to spite the future's face!
Equally, climate change is a reality – a long-term one which demands urgent action now to ensure that the opportunities to flourish are not denied to future generations as the result of short-term, self-centred thinking and action now. Such short-termism, often driven as much by the contaminant of partisan politics in local government (which tends to focus on elections to the exclusion of the public good) is neither good budget management or good policy.
If we do not ensure entry into farming for young people, if we do not nurture a public farming resource which can research, evolve, sustain best practise, new techniques, new thinking and young talent, then the likelihood of sustaining a society which is robust, self-reliant, innovative, content and healthy is going to lessen – drastically. The pressures which beset us – be they negative, like climate change, or positive, like new technologies, all demand that the basics of society are well-founded – and the provision of food is as basic as it gets.
Any Council which is considering divesting itself of publicly-owned farms (or worse still, has already surrendered them) will be failing the society which they are charged to govern. The County Farms estates are elements of a national farms estate – a vital and irreplaceable resource which we should be expanding, not reducing.
To have the additional ignominy of a Secretary of State who clearly enjoys food but has a destructively cavalier approach to ensuring that the land essential to create it can be concreted and tarmacked, whilst his colleagues round the corner at DEFRA continue to passively cluck as county farms estates are eroded, should merely make us resolve all the more strongly to stand and fight for our farms.