A little over 3% of land in the UK is farmed organically. That’s roughly the same figure as in 2000. While organic production in the UK has stalled, other European countries (including Austria and Spain) have seen sharp increases. The number of “UK farmers and certified processors making organic food products stands at 6,072, down from 7,567 in 2009.”
Why? Some farmers cite costs, complex regulations, and issues with one of the organizations that handles organic certification. But there may be more reasons.
Susanna Rustin (@SusannaRustin) of The Guardian interviews dairy farmer Julia Quenault, who recently switched back from organic to conventional farming.
“There have been surveys about what matters to consumers. Is it food produced locally, animal welfare, the environment or price?” she says.
“Organic was an extra selling point for us, but now that we’re established, we hope it won’t matter too much. Organic is a really hard thing to explain. It means a lot of things, and you can’t sum it up in a few soundbites. We believe in the organic ethos, but it was an extra niche aspect for us. There are lots of reasons why people buy our milk.”
But the traffic isn’t all one way. On a farm in Wales, Chris Morgan is “reinventing himself”…and the land farmed by his father and grandfather. He’s going organic, and couldn’t be more excited by the prospect.
“It’s not just the land you’ve got to convert, it’s yourself,” he tells me. “You’ve got to totally change the way you farm. If you can make the soil work for you and keep costs down, you should be able to produce a high-end product at a reasonable cost.”