Despite a plethora of aids to modern life, it seems we are all busier than ever these days. We become so preoccupied with what we have to do that we don’t take enough time to think about why we are doing it. But, taking a little time to think about why we do what we do now, can help us kick off 2020 with a renewed sense of purpose in life and re-energise us.
With many people on holiday at this time, I have some time to reflect on events of the past year and contemplate what another new year might bring. A break from the normal routines, is particularly valuable to someone like myself who is perhaps not the most effective time manager. I am able to stop rushing around for a moment and think about what it is I am really trying to achieve in this world.
Around 10 years ago, I began to fear for the future of British dairy farming. The power of the supermarkets, the disconnect between farmers and consumers, the increasing industrialisation of dairy farming and the rising number of farmers quitting milk production, all conspired to fill me with a growing sense of unease. I realised I was caught up in an industry almost entirely driven by output, or production for production’s sake, as I now call it.
During my many years spent running large farm business, the widely adopted dairy industry blueprint for survival (and kudos for many) has been based on more; more cows, more inputs, more milk. More, more, more. Farmers have been told to concentrate on delivering the ‘raw material’ and leave others in the supply chain to add value and market the product. This has led people to lose sight of the fact that the real value in milk is instilled at source, in the fields, in what cows eat, in the way we farm and care for cows and the environment.
There, in the last paragraph, lies my ‘why’ and I like to remind myself of this. I love cows and the countryside and I am privileged to have spent my whole life amongst them. The reason why I set up Free Range Dairy Network (FRDN) and I do what I do is because I believe I can make a difference in this world. I was sick of seeing farmers and cows become slaves to an industrial machine and people being denied the chance to make an informed choice about the kind of farms their milk comes from. I want to promote a better understanding of the true value of cows in fields.
Back in the summer of this year I attended the Real Food Gathering, organised by the British Holistic Medial Association (BHMA). In a blog I posted after the event, I referred to a presentation by Lawrence Woodward, from an organisation called Whole Health Agriculture. Lawrence spoke of how organic farmers farm for health. That, in his opinion, was their purpose – the reason they farm the way they do. I’m not sure that this the uppermost in the minds of organic farmers, but it certainly offers a more rewarding purpose than the production for production’s sake mentality that I explained earlier.
Our Free Range Dairy Farmers farm with purpose of producing great tasting milk and maintaining a traditional farming system, founded upon the seasonal grazing of cows. That’s why they are proud to make a commitment to give their cows the freedom to graze 18 hours a day, for a minimum of 180 days a year.
Reflecting on my own sense of purpose, or mission in life, I am reminded that I didn’t set out to sell milk. I don’t want the success of FRDN to be measured by the litres of milk sold under the Pasture Promise label; I want it to be defined by the number of lives we can change – the lives of farmers, cows and consumers. But supporting those that join our scheme, in their efforts to sell free range milk, is key to helping farmers committed to keeping cows in fields win the reward they deserve and gives you a chance to show your support for our cause.
Understanding what motivates us to do what we do is very empowering. I have read a number of articles on the subject. But, nowhere have I found the subject better explained than in The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. This simple story of an Andalusian shepherd boy and his search for treasure is my favourite book and I have read it so many times. If you are wanting to make changes in your life in 2020, I recommend it.
Before midnight strikes tonight, I urge everyone not just to make resolutions to do new things, or do things differently, but to consider why you want to do things differently or something new. Let’s all start 2020 with a renewed sense of purpose and work together to make this world a better place.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!