How much more can we achieve by working together?
Free Range Dairy Network has been set up as a Community Interest Company (CIC) to create just that – a community.
Farmers often find themselves isolated and unheard, living and working as they do in remote rural areas with no one to speak for them. In the meantime, the ‘industry’, steered by those who have little or no connection with the people it claims to represent, drives them on towards an uncertain destination. No wonder then that so many have become disillusioned with their place in this world.
I am sometimes accused of being divisive – pitching farmer against farmer to promote one farming system by bashing another, followed by cries of “we all need to stick together and promote all dairy farming systems”. But, stick together and do what exactly? Churn out piles of documents and visions smothered in the logos of organisations who love nothing more than a jolly good sit round a big table and a good lunch? All that seems to have achieved is to safeguard bums on seats in warm, cosy offices.
As I have said many times before, the only way we can instil value in our milk is to differentiate it from the billions of litres of commodity white stuff that is traded so poorly and I ask you “what better defines British milk than cows grazing in fields?” Whilst the year round confinement of dairy cows seems to be on the increase, I believe that something like 80% of farmers are still committed to grazing their cows. So, Free Range Dairy is seeking to build a community that embraces a large portion of the 10,000 or so milk producers that we have left.
Imagine the power and influence 8,000 producers could have if they worked together to positively promote their clearly defined farming system. Then consider how much more influence they could assert on the future direction of the industry if they won the backing of consumers, academics, NGO’s and food writers. Do you see how that community could grow? How it could force government to take notice, move us away from a culture of cheap food and disgusting waste?
This won’t be achieved overnight. It will require commitment and determination to bring about real change. But all it requires on day one is belief – a belief that you can make a difference.