Iâ€™ve been fascinated with agriculture ever since I took a holiday job on a farm near my home in Reading. It was a mixed farm, the sort that grew both food crops for people and grass for grazing cattle. Looking back it was a great system. Because the milk and meat came from animals grazing pasture they contained all sorts of nutrients to protect human health. And when the pasture was ploughed up for wheat or oats, the soil was so fertile it would grow sizeable crops without the need for pesticides
After a spell at university (I read agriculture, as you might guess) I took a job as a reporter on Farmers Weekly. Thatâ€™s when I started seeing the traditional mixed farm come under attack. In its place we now have animal factories and prairie-style wheat, guzzling oil and constantly buffeted by global commodity markets. Back in the 1980s I gave up full-time journalism to write scripts for The Archers. At least in this fictional world there were a few mixed farms left.
For the past 14 years Iâ€™ve been the showâ€™s â€˜agricultural story editorâ€™, a sort of farm minister for Ambridge. But itâ€™s time to get back to the real world. Modern high-input agriculture is wrecking our health, our rural communities and our planet. In my view thereâ€™s only one answer – Britainâ€™s forgotten treasure, family mixed farms. Real farms producing real food. Thatâ€™s if there are any left. Join me on my quest to find out.