D is for Down on the Farm

Where does your food come from?

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When you are tucking into your breakfast, lunch, tea or supper, have you ever thought about where all that yummy food you’re eating comes from?

Well, you’ll probably know that your parents would have bought it from a shop, but what about where it came from before that?

Most of it started off by being grown on a farm.

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Most farming takes place in the countryside – perhaps you’ve noticed wide, open fields with lots of different things growing on them when you’ve been driving on a motorway.  Some farms though are located within built up areas – these tend to grow vegetables and flowers.

Did you know that about three quarters of land in Britain is used for agriculture?

Let’s go across the country and see where things are made:

East of England

  • Over 75% of land in the East of England is used for farming
  • Main farming activity – cereal crops, such as wheat and barley.  In fact over a quarter of the UK’s creeal crops are grown here.  And big for sugar beet and potatoes
  • Reflecting the level of grain grown here, it is not surprising to find that a quarter of poultry – that’s chickens and turkeys, are reared here.  Why? – because poultry feed on the grain.  This area is also home to over 1 million pigs

North West

  • An area of great contrast – there is dairy farming in Cheshire, arable and horticulture in Southwest Lancashire, and beef and sheep farming in upland areas of North Lancashire and Cumbria
  • Main farming activity – over 60% of farming in the North West is cattle, sheep and dairy

North East

  • Main farming activity – chicken, beef, pork and lamb are all produced extensively in the North East, with egg and dairy producers not far behind
  • Over 60% of the area is hilly, making the role of hill farmers crucial.  In fact, over 4.5 million sheep and 176,000 cattle live on such farms!
  • Elsewhere, popular crops include sugar beet, wheat, barley and oilseed rape
  • There is also a substantial horticultural industry – that’s the growing of flowers

South East

  • Even though the most densely populated area of the UK, 70% of the area is farmland and 10% of UK farms are found here!
  • Main farming activity – arable, such as  cereal crops and oilseeds, as well as crops which are combine harvested such as field peas and lupins (which can be included in animal feed!)
  • Horticulture – the growing of vegetables, fruit, flowers and salad crops, is also big.  These range from the orchards of Kent to the plant nurseries of Surrey, the complex glasshouses of the West Sussex coast and the salad growers of the Isle of Wight

South West

  • The South West extends from the south-western tip of Cornwall to the northern border of Gloucestershire
  • Over 80% of land is agricultural
  • Main farming activity – predominantly dairy farming but with some arable, beef and sheep and horticultural farming
  • The warmer climate here is ideal for growing thick grass for feeding dairy cows. Cows produce milk, which is an important part of our daily nutrition (Click here to find out more about nutrition)

West Midlands

  • Main farming activity – livestock farming in the rural west to intensive arable farming in Warwickshire and parts of Shropshire

Wales

  • Main farming activity – sheep and beef.  There are around 9 million sheep, 700,000 cows (approximately half of which are dairy) and 25,000 pigs in Wales
  • With their thick wool coats, sheep can survive the cold winters on the hills and moors

Responsible Farming

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You may have noticed in the shops that lots of the food is labelled as ‘organic’ or your eggs and so on are ‘free range’. These are both important terms.

Organic foods are grown on farms where the farmers don’t use artificial chemicals. Organic fruit and vegetables may be slightly oddly shaped because organic farmers think the way food is grown is more important than how it looks, but they are still packed full of goodness – yet more proof to never judge a book by its cover!

Shed‘Free range’ is part of a recent change in farming to make sure farmers rear their animals in a nicer way. Most people have realised that it’s important that animals are kept in decent conditions, with room to exercise and get fresh air. So now more and more farms have free range chickens, meaning they can move around, and also fields for pigs to roam around in too!

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