How we started
FARM was launched in November 2002, following a year of discussion between the participating farmers, campaigners and other supporters during which the role for FARM was gradually refined and developed.
The backdrop to this year of discussion was dominated by the Foot and Mouth disease epidemic, which filled news items both in the press and on television. During this period an unprecedented number of farmers contacted Zac Goldsmith (who was at the time editor of The Ecologist Magazine), and from their letters it was clear that a significant section of the farming community felt that generations of their farming heritage were being sacrificed by a government that seemed to understand little about farming and at best seemed indifferent about its future.
Upon deeper inspection, it was also clear that the problems not only lay with Government, but also with the model of food production, processing, distribution and retail that now dominates and shapes the way we farm. Whether the problem is a disease epidemic such as Foot and Mouth or Bovine Tuberculosis, or an environmental impact such as water pollution or loss of biodiversity, farmers often find themselves shouldering the burden of blame for systems of production that are in fact shaped by economic forces way beyond their control.
A number of meetings were organised that involved environmentalists, campaigners, members of the public and farmers during which it became clear that far from holding diverse views about how our food is produced and our farming landscape is managed, there was a surprising consensus of shared values and objectives.
The early years
When FARM as an organisation was formally launched, it was conceived as a membership organisation and we hoped that as our membership numbers grew, we would be able to exert increasing political influence to bring about the changes needed to put farming back on safe foundations. However, over the following couple of years it became clear that whilst politicians were prepared to listen and lend a sympathetic ear to our arguments, they were either unwilling, or more often unable to bring about any meaningful change.
It also became clear how powerful the voice of the individual could be when coordinated with thoroughly researched information and the efforts of other organisations working in similar fields of interest. Through relatively modest campaigns that FARM coordinated, such as milk pricing, we were able to achieve some significant results.
To maintain momentum with a campaign such as milk pricing, continuity of funding is essential and this proved increasingly difficult to maintain through the organisation structure under which we were operating at the time.
The next phase in our development
We have learned a great deal from the work we have accomplished so far and FARM now enjoys a more flexible membership structure, which allows us to concentrate far more effort into the campaigns and policy work for which the organisation was originally established.
Through our new structure, our membership is now able to play a far more active role in our work and we will be developing our network of contacts to enable farmers, campaigners and environmentalists to work together more effectively towards common shared objectives.