Back in 2016, many British dairy farmers faced a difficult choice: accept a price for their milk that was lower than the cost of producing it, or shut up shop. Supermarket price wars have contributed to increasingly tight margins and it has become ever more difficult to make a living as a farmer, with a number of farms dangerously close to operating at a loss. With many farmers already maintaining large debts, some have been forced to make the life-changing decision to close their business.
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The acute situation in the dairy industry reflects a more general growing reality in the food and farming sector as a whole: that the true cost of food isn’t reflected in the price we pay for it. This problem doesn’t just affect how farmers are paid, either. The failure to price food honestly leads directly to detrimental impacts on the environment – on biodiversity, soils, water use and our climate – as well as to negative social impacts on our health and in our communities.
Last year, Triodos Bank supported research which found that sustainable food like organic was, while sometimes more expensive at the till, cheaper overall when these other impacts were taken into consideration. Organic farming works with nature to minimise negative environmental impacts by avoiding the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers, prohibiting the use of GM crops, and ensuring high standards of animal welfare – all the while, providing farmers with greater security for their business. That’s one of the reasons why we’re passionate about investing in organic and sustainable food and farming businesses: because we believe that a sustainable food and farming system is key to a healthy food culture, a healthy planet, and a healthy society.
People are increasingly becoming interested in where their food comes from, and the Abergavenny Food Festival is a wonderful opportunity to connect food lovers with the people responsible for producing what they eat and drink. The brainchild of two local farmers keen to showcase high quality British produce amidst low consumer confidence following the BSE crisis, the Festival is now riding high in its 20th year and looking likely to attract more than 30,000 visitors over one weekend this September.
Taking place against the backdrop of a medieval market town, the Festival prides itself not just on its delicious local, small scale, ethical and organic food but also on encouraging people to think about where their food comes from and why provenance matters. The two-day event generates an estimated £4 million for the local economy, drawing food lovers and culinary heavyweights alike to the rural setting.
Simon Crichton, food farming and trade manager at Triodos Bank, says: “The values of the Abergavenny Food Festival converge with Triodos Bank’s own, and we’re proud to support the many businesses and organisations represented both at the Festival and across the UK that are creating positive change. Food and farming represents a major part of our lending because we believe sustainable food is one of the most important ingredients for a better world.”
In 2017 alone, Triodos supported over 330 such organisations across Britain, from the Soil Association to Riverford, from restaurants and cafés like River Cottage and the Folk House Café to independent supermarkets like Better Food in Bristol and HISBE in Brighton.
Each is unique, but together they make a huge positive difference to society, producing almost 16 million organic meals per year. And when farmers receive a fair price for their products, they become more likely to stay in business whilst caring for their animals, providing better quality food and looking after the environment at the same time.
As Soil Association’s Chief Executive Helen Browning puts it: “Food and how we produce it has the power to transform lives. Now is the time for a vibrant movement to transform our countryside, provide opportunities for new entrants, and provide plentiful, safe, and nutritious food. Choosing organic means helping reverse the catastrophic decline in wildlife and reducing your own exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals. You’ll also be helping to support the farming families who work hard to grow our food with care for the generations to come.”
The Abergavenny Food Festival takes place 15th-16th September 2018 and we’re proud to be supporting the Festival and the sustainable food movement.
Want to know more about the food and farming businesses we work with? Come visit The Farmyard on 16th September at 13:00 for Resilient Farming in Volatile Times, a panel discussion with Triodos Bank’s own Simon Crichton, or visit Triodos Bank’s stall in the Market Hall all weekend.
The Bath Soft Cheese Co. – Cheese and Wine Market
Calon Wen – Upper Brewery Yard
Da Mhile organic farmhouse distillery – Cheese and Wine Market
Hobbs House Bakery – Upper Brewery Yard
Hodmedod’s – Upper Brewery Yard
River Cottage – The Castle
Riverford – The Castle
Stroud Brewery – Cheese and Wine Market
The Tomato Stall – Upper Brewery Yard
ABERGAVENNY FOOD FESTIVAL
Abergavenny Food Festival was started in 1999 by two Welsh farmers in response to the lack of consumer confidence in British produce caused by the BSE crisis. It now attracts more than 30,000 visitors to the town every year.