Advance Notice: for immediate use


FARM demands, “Save Our Farms, Maggie!”

As 1000s go out of farming.


Public Meeting: Monday, 15th September 2003

Town Hall, Bedford Square, Tavistock, Devon. Starts: 7.30pm


                                                 Licensed Bar open from: 6.30pm


FARM The Independent Voice of Farmers will be holding its first public meeting in the South West on Monday, 15th September. The meeting will be an opportunity for farmers and the public to find out more about the organisation and its work, including its new campaign, ‘Save Our Farms!’[1]  Founder members, Zac Goldsmith and Devon farmer, John Sherrell will be speaking along with other members of FARM.[2]


The meeting takes place following the publication of official statistics showing that:

  • 55,000 people left the UK’s farming and fishing industries over 2001-2. That’s over 1,000 a week! 
  • In the South West alone, 10,000 people have left the farming and fishing industries over the last 3 years.[3]

The majority of these job losses will have been from agriculture.


Zac Goldsmith said,

‘In 2001, Mrs Beckett said she’d, ‘be astonished and dismayed if we were to see the disappearance of the traditional family farm.’ Yet that’s exactly what’s been happening wholesale across the country under her watch.[4]


Many people are aware of the sad decline of the UK’s fishing fleet, but fewer realise that there’s an even more devastating exodus off the land. FARM aims to get the public alongside the farming community and force Mrs Beckett to put actions behind her fine words and halt this erosion of our food security.’[5]


John Sherrell added,

‘The Devon countryside is famous for its variety of small fields, roadside banks of wildflowers, and picturesque villages. This rich landscape and habitat is a product of a diverse network of small and family farms. Yet these and the people who farm them are going out of business at an alarming rate. New uses for farms and farmland can add to the variety of our countryside and rural communities, but as an addition to, not a substitute for a sustainable farming sector. ‘[6]


For further information contact:

Robin Maynard: 020 7349 5832/07932 040452

Notes to Editors:

[1] farm was launched in November 2002, by a group of working farmers, campaigners and others concerned at the running down of farming in the UK and the lack of any long-term vision from Government or established farming bodies.  We believe it is essential that producers and the public are brought closer together and so the organisation is open to both farmers and non-farmers.


Before we formed farm, we carried out a survey of 600 farmers across England and the Welsh Borders to check whether others shared our views and concerns:

  • 70% agreed that a new organisation was needed
  • 30% said that no existing organisation reflected their views
  • 80% wanted a new organisation to build greater understanding between the farming community and the public and to get the truth about the farming crisis out into the media


[2] Both Zac and John are two of the seven founding members of farm.  As well as editing The Ecologist magazine, Zac owns a mixed farm just outside Tavistock, where he spends as much time as he can. John runs a 180 acre mixed farm with his parents at Newton Ferrers.  The other founding farmer members and staff will also be present at the meeting in Tavistock.


[3] Office of National Statistics, Labour Market trends, Vol 111, Number 8, August 2003, p79, Table B.18, Workforce jobs by industry: seasonally adjusted.

Between March 2001 and December 2002, employment in Agriculture and Fishing fell from 465,000 to 410,000 – a drop of 55,000.  Available ONS data combines agriculture and fishing. However, other ONS and DEFRA data indicates that the fishing industry directly employs c. 11-12,000 people. Therefore, the majority of these 55,000 job losses are likely to have come out of the farming industry.


[4] Mrs Beckett was answering questions from The Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 14/11/01

‘I believe there is a real and prosperous future for the family farm, in some cases on a more diversified basis. But I would be astonished and dismayed if we were to see the disappearance of the traditional family farm.’


[5] farm will be launching the first stage in its new campaign, ‘Save Our Farms!’ at the Tavistock meeting by opening a petition for farmers and the public to sign up to and to be sent onto Margaret Beckett.


[6] Multifunctionality/Values of a network of family farms:  farm will be publishing research in the autumn, setting out the real values that a diverse network of family farms offers.