The future of the English countryside is in the hands of the public as much as the government, according to the Countryside Agency, but they need to understand the connection between the products they buy and the countryside they value. A major new campaign called Eat the View, launched today at the Royal Show by Agriculture Minister Nick Brown and Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency, is designed to help create this understanding.

“The public care passionately about the future of the countryside,” said Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency. “Government can do much to support farming and forestry but consumers have a vital role to play too.

“Purchasing decisions made by consumers can have an important influence on how land is managed. Some products, because of the way they are produced, their area of origin or other qualities can help maintain the environmental quality and diversity of the countryside, at the same time delivering real benefits to the rural economy and local communities. This initiative is designed to bring consumers and producers closer together and help develop stronger markets for products that will make sustainable land management more commercially viable and so help to conserve the countryside we treasure.”

The Countryside Agency announced today a proposed grant of nearly £1 million for Food From Britain to support their regional foods campaign, and are developing proposals with the Soil Association to build on their current local food links programme.

Eat the View will be led by the Countryside Agency and guided by an advisory panel made up of key players from industry, environment, consumer organisations, and the media. The project adds value by bringing people together, stimulating initiatives and disseminating good practice for the whole sustainable production movement.

The Prime Minister set a challenge to the Countryside Agency at the March 30th Action Plan for Farming conference, to help consumers understand the connection between the products they buy and the countryside they value. Intended as a lifeline for farmers and small producers who’ve suffered from the farming crisis, Eat the View will help small and specialist producers find markets in the face of increasing globalisation and the powerful forces of large retailers. By encouraging producers to diversify and strengthening connections
between consumers and producers the Countryside Agency hopes to stimulate the markets for local and sustainably produced products, foods and non-foods.

Examples of the kinds of projects that will be supported include:
– High Weald directory of local products: Countryside Agency guide to the goods and services that help maintain rich landscape and wildlife qualities. Similar directories in production for Suffolk and Norfolk Coasts.
– Local sourcing project for the hotel and catering sector: a partnership project with the English Tourism Council, MAFF, FRCA, regional tourist boards and Food From Britain
– Forest of Mercia Innovation Centre: Promoting local woodlands and their products.