It’s not always obvious how much effort growers put into getting affordable, safe and fresh ingredients to our plates. ECPA has recently released the first episode in a series called Let’s Cook! Following a cooking-show format the films are designed to examine the challenges of food production in the modern age, and open up a conversation.
A farmer’s perspective
In the first instalment, former Masterchef contestant and ECPA Director of Public Affairs Graeme Taylor is joined by Will Evans, a British farmer and host of the podcast Rock and Roll Farming. Together they meet in a Brussels kitchen to prepare a fresh barley salad and chat about the challenges farmers face producing food.
The recipe they follow uses ingredients Will grows on his farm in the UK, including barley, a notoriously difficult crop. “Everything wants to kill it,” he says.
Realities of crop protection
Farmers have no choice but to minimise pests and manage environmental pressures, and Will reveals how financially damaging and emotionally heart-breaking to see something you have invested time and effort in, failing in the field. To protect their crops, many farmers choose to rely on the safe and sustainable use of pesticides as part of a suite of strategies at their disposal.
In Let’s Cook!, Will explains that he uses as little crop protection product as possible, not least because these solutions imply a cost. At the same time, if the tools were not available, it’s likely that the cost would be even more significant.
Watch the video to learn about the problem he faced a few years ago with a species of particularly barley-hungry aphids: Will’s farm lost about 20% of business that year. Crop loss isan issue that affects all farmers around the world, and according to the European Union, even with the use of pesticides it’s estimated that up to 40% of crops are destroyed by plant pests and diseases globally, each year. That figure could reach 80% without their use.
Tackling food waste
Whereas farmers are trying hard to make sure that enough of their produce survives for harvest, it is also up to manufacturers, retailers and consumers to play their role in reducing waste. Studies show that approximately one-third of all food produced in the world intended for human consumption is lost or wasted. ECPA is a signatory of the EU’s ambition to make sure that Every Crumb Counts – recognising the need to support the Circular Economy of packaging and aiming to cut resource use, reduce waste and boost recycling wherever possible; and a member of the EU platform on food losses and food waste.
Age-old practices meet modern technology
In his podcast Rock and Roll Farming, Will aims to bring to life stories about modern farming – showcasing the best that today’s farmers offer and providing a platform for discussing issues that affect farmers every day.
Will created his podcast to celebrate ‘the people who get up early in the morning and put their hearts and souls into what they do every single day’. Each week on the podcast he interviews farmers and people in the agricultural industry, and meets the incredible people involved. Learn more about the show here.
Technology has played a huge part in transforming the way in which food is produced. In this episode of Let’s Cook! Will also speaks about using tech not only to provide solutions on the farm and reach his podcast audience, but also as a way to educate the next generation. Facetime a Farmer is an initiative using video-calling to connect farmers with school children. With some kids unable to make the connection between what’s in the field to what’s on their plate, communication about food production is vital.
Engagement is one of the themes that Let’s Cook! aims to explore in each episode – the agriculture industry wants to be open, interactive and focused on finding solutions for the challenges that we face growing our food. Just as Will Evans has shared his rock-and-roll farming lifestyle with the world via podcasting, ECPA invites debate and questions through its #WithorWithout campaign.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of Let’s Cook!, to be released this autumn.