It has been said that as a nation we have lost the connection between farming, food and health. Yet with the population becoming increasingly urban, how many people have set foot on a farm and experienced how their food is grown and produced?
Diet and nutrition can be a very complex issue. By going back to basics and looking at it from the ground up I hope that we can help to simplify it and make a healthy, sustainable diet more accessible and appealing to all.
What we are doing?
Before lockdown I had started hosting farm visits for Primary and Secondary schools, with the help of an organisation called LEAF Education. We showed them around the farm and organised activities to engage them with where their food comes from, demonstrating the processes used to make the finished product.
With the older students we got them involved in cooking a healthy, affordable recipe (82p per portion), at the same time as teaching them about the nutritional properties of the ingredients. I found that the teachers were often surprised at how little they knew about everyday food items and I am sure this would be the same across a large proportion of the adult population in the UK.
Following on from the success of the school visits we are planning to work with Nutritank to offer a similar experience to medical students. If our future doctors have a greater understanding around the nutritional value of the food that is available to us, then this can be passed onto their patients.
Here on the Great Tew Estate in Oxfordshire, we can show you the whole process from sowing the seed to cooking and eating the produce. There is also the positive impact that being out in nature can have on mental health.
I think that as farmers we have a lot to offer and we could also learn a lot through discussion with people from other professions and backgrounds. Within agriculture there is a lot of exciting research being done looking into improving the nutritional content of food. The effect of the soil microbiome and the way in which food is processed and stored to increase the nutrient value.
Going forwards I hope that we can further integrate agriculture into the health, nutrition and wellbeing conversation. With the combined efforts of people in these areas of expertise, as well as food processors, retailers and policy makers we could bring about a significant improvement in the health of the nation.
I know from experience that it can be very easy to end up in an echo chamber, only hearing the opinions of people with a similar experience. To bring about positive change we need to start these conversations now with people across the board. Starting on the farm and in the soil where the food lifecycle begins.
I love what Nutritank is doing, it’s great to see such a positive movement which will go on to enable so many people to improve their health.
Please get in touch with any feedback, comments or ideas: