Voices from the field

By Lindy Sharpe

2nd July 2019

This work was in collaboration with the Food Research Collaboration. Interviews were conducted by Lindy Sharpe.

Can farmers champion health?

It seems self-evident that a primary objective of farming would be to support human health.

Farmers’ choices about what they produce and the methods they use, and the policies that frame these decisions, have enormous potential either to improve or to undermine public health, with linked benefits (or costs) to both the environment and the wider economy. But human health is not prioritised in agriculture policy, either at present or in the policy that is proposed, at least for England, after the UK leaves the EU.

Is this a huge missed opportunity? Or a reflection of the reality that farmers, at the beginning of long, complex supply chains, are too remote from health outcomes to be able to take them into account, or too focused on the business case to be able to prioritise something so intangible?

In collaboration with the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, we interviewed a range of farmers to ask them whether, and in what ways, human health featured in their work and decision making. Our report presents a selection of their responses, in their own words.

Note: this report was originally published on the RSA website (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), which hosted the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission between November 2017-April 2020.