Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fields and food

click photo to enlarge
It's surprising that food has taken so long to reach the political agenda in the UK. But, when the prime minister recently listed his priorities for the next couple of years food, or rather food prices, loomed large. Maybe I haven't been taking as much notice as I should, but I don't recall it figuring much in political debate during my adult life. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that politicians only think about food when the availability and price make the voters squeal, but I do wish it wasn't so.

I'd have loved to have seen food policy a political priority when the move to intensive agriculture was driving down the numbers and diversity of our flora and fauna. I'd have liked to see it being the subject of more intelligent debate when genetically modified crops were being contemplated. So, I'd like to see the discussion of food policy today extend beyond rising prices. I recognise that it's difficult to balance food production, fair farm incomes, biodiversity, landscape and tourism, but I really get the impression that, as a country, we just don't make much of an effort. And the worldwide rise in food prices won't make it any easier or more likely. So, if you're a skylark, lapwing, wild animal or plant, clinging on to the odd patch of ground that isn't ploughed, sprayed, harvested, cropped or otherwise intensively cultivated, the future looks bleaker because mankind's insatiable appetite for cheap food and fuel means - we need your homes!

Today's photograph shows some intensively farmed land on Lincolnshire's rolling hills. During the afternoon that I took this shot I saw some old stubble fields providing food for foraging birds and mammals. However most of the ground was given over to cereal crops, legumes, potatoes and oilseed rape. The odd bit of pasture with sheep and dairy cattle still remains, but most of it is in small pockets around villages supporting the hobbyists of "horsiculture". Can it be long before this is turned over to food production too?

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off