The war in Ukraine has disrupted the supply of grain from the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wheat. Droughts have also hit many countries this summer, causing global food prices to soar.

As a nation we are acutely aware that relying on importing vital resources, such as food and energy, leaves us open to risks of unreliable supplies and unaffordable prices.

Imported food often has a large carbon footprint due to being transported long distances and it can be very difficult to track and control how imported food has been produced – was the environment protected and were people and animals treated well?

CRT Trustee and Rutland sheep farmer William Cross looks back upon World War II, when the British people were asked to ‘Dig for Victory’ by growing their own food and avoiding waste. William said: “The government realised how reliant on imports we were. When I was six years old, in 1957, there was still meat rationing. We’ve come a long way since then but not when it comes to importing food. A reliable and plentiful supply of affordable food is paramount for any society, so this is a very serious matter.”

As the government brings in new Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes to incentivise farmers to use sustainable practices, it is important that food production in the UK continues to be a priority. Our tenant farmers are proving every day that it is possible to produce food for the nation while making space for wildlife, looking after the soil and protecting the environment and climate. 

As consumers, increasing our understanding of what makes food sustainable is a great way to make more informed decisions about what we choose to buy. But what does sustainable mean? It's about how food has been produced and the journey it has made to reach your shopping basket.

Izzy Rainey, Norfolk
Lovingly reared and locally sold beef boxes

Since June 2022, the pastures on the CRT’s Mayfields Farm in Norfolk have been grazed by a small herd of native breed cattle owned by Izzi Rainey.

Izzi took over grazing her family’s 45-acres of pasture on Bates Moor Farm, just two miles from Mayfields, after her dad took a step back from farming in 2014. Her dad had a fold of highland cattle.

In 2017, Izzi introduced Lincoln red cattle and then launched Bates Moor Farm Beef two years later, selling beef boxes for local people to collect at the farm gate or buy through a farmer’s market. She now also offers UK-wide postal delivery of her beef boxes.

Izzi said: “We chose these native cattle breeds because they are slow growing and hardy, so they thrive living out on our meadows through all weathers. I’ve loved Lincoln reds since I was a teenager. They are larger and quicker to finish than the highlands, and they are naturally polled, which means they don’t have horns.

“The wellbeing and welfare of the cattle is central to everything I do. I don’t rush their growth by using lots of supplementary feed, as happens in intensive farming, and our herd enjoy much longer lives. Most have three summers out in the fields grazing. We bring them in for five months over the winter, when our meadows are very wet and boggy. We also do this to give the other 100 acres of pastures I rent time to rest and regrow, which helps protect the soil. I don’t use chemical fertilisers and I grow hay to feed the cattle over the winter, so the inputs are low, local and nature friendly.

“This summer, I offered cattle grooming workshops and farm tours to show people what I do here. The children that came particularly made it feel so worthwhile because they asked so many questions.

“I also use social media to show people the highs and lows of farming in an approachable way. I think it’s so important that people realise what goes in to producing their food, so they can make more informed decisions about what they buy. Our beef may be more expensive than from the supermarket, but people who order from us can trust the traceability and quality of our product.”

Lincoln red and highland steers on the CRT’s Mayfields Farm in Norfolk, owned by young farmer Izzi Rainey.

Follow @batesmoorfarm on Instagram and Facebook


Bob Felton and Liz Wallis, East Sussex
Livestock feed is key to meat's sustainability

On Twyford Farm in East Sussex, CRT Tenant Farmers Bob Felton and Liz Wallis produce lamb, beef and pork products.

The couple, who have managed this 220-acre farm since 2014, have small flocks of poll Dorset, Charollais and rare-breed LLanwenog sheep, and 200 Welsh mule cross sheep. They also have a small herd of rare breed beef shorthorns and 70 native crossbred cattle.  

They sell early lambs directly to a butcher for Easter, while the rest of the lamb and beef they produce is sold at a local auction market. There it tends to be bought by nearby farm shops or butchers. Some of their cattle is sold to other farmers for finishing, as the pastures on this small farm cannot support fully rearing them all.

Occasionally Bob and Liz rear Berkshire pigs to produce sausages and bacon, which they serve to guests of their B&B and holiday cottage.

The livestock on Twyford are largely grass fed, using as little supplementary feed as possible. During the winter months, the sheep and cattle are fed hay or silage grown on the farm, or brewer’s grain – a waste product from a local brewery.

Bob said: “The small amount of concentrated foods I buy in come from a producer only 25 miles away, who uses home-grown cereals to make food for livestock. It’s important to realise that what livestock are fed affects how sustainably they have been reared. Concentrated food can have been transported a long way and may not have been grown in an environmentally-friendly way.

“We use our own manure to fertilise the fields and as little chemicals as possible. We also use regenerative farming techniques like rotational grazing, which allows the pastures to rest, and sowing deep-rooted herbal leys that build up soil fertility. We hope that local people that hear about how we farm will support us, and other businesses like us, by buying local produce.”


Betsie Edge and Matthew Elphick, Surrey
A dairy serving the local community 

Betsie Edge and Matthew Elphick run a small dairy on the CRT’s Brays Farm in Surrey. The couple pasteurise the milk from their herd of around 25 dairy shorthorn cattle on site and make milk, cream, yoghurt and frozen yoghurt.

Through their brand Nutfield Dairy, they supply two village shops, seven farm shops, a butcher, a coffee shop and two zero-waste shops.

Their herd is largely grass fed on the farm’s 50 acres of pasture, with a small amount of concentrated feed given to them in the milking parlour to ensure they get all the minerals they need.


Matt said: “In the winter we feed them haylage grown on the farm. This is a cross between hay and sileage – it’s cut later in the year than sileage, which allows wildflowers to complete their lifecycle and provides food and shelter to other wildlife. This autumn, we have sown a mix of herbal legumes and clover into the pastures, which will give the cattle more nutrients as they graze. The herbs and clover will also put down deeper roots, improving the soil quality and making the pastures more resilient to drought.”

Over the summer of 2022, Nutfield Dairy’s newly launched frozen yoghurt went down a treat. “So far, we’ve just sold it from a cart at country shows, farmers markets and village fairs, but we’d like to get it into shops in 2023,” added Matt.

“We’ve had brilliant support from the local community as we’ve set up our new business over the last two years. It takes a lot of energy to heat and cool our milk as we pasteurise it, so we’ve had to increase our prices due to the rising energy costs. It’s great people understand we’re not being greedy – that this is the true cost of producing high quality dairy products where the livestock hasn’t been pushed to produce more milk with lots of supplementary feed, and the environment is cared for.”


Tim Scott, Cambridgeshire
Wholesale market makes grain sales untraceable

It is not always possible for British farmers to sell food direct to local consumers. As an arable farmer, CRT Trustee and Tenant Farmer Tim Scott has few options for selling his grain.

Tim said: “In an ideal world I could have direct relationships with local livestock farmers, bakers, millers or brewers, but in reality such opportunities are few and far between. I don’t have the biggest arable farm by any stretch, but I have to sell into the wholesale market because the quantities I produce are too large to go direct to most end-users.

“I sell to grain merchants who act as the middle-men, selling the grain on to millers for bread making, to livestock farmers to feed animals like pigs or chickens, or be exported abroad. There are fewer and fewer grain merchants to sell to, which means less choice and competition.”

Tim, who farms 400 acres on the CRT’s Lark Rise Farm and a similar amount on his family’s own farm nearby, stressed the importance of the UK continuing to produce food.

“We produce 17 million tonnes of wheat in the UK each year and use 13 and 14 million tonnes. If we take areas out of production, we will need to import more. That’s unless we all drastically change our diets, such as by no longer eating meat from grain-fed livestock.

“It is important that Government subsidies reward farmers for choosing the right way to manage each patch of land. It is right to make space for wildlife and for tree planting in field margins and unproductive fields, but it’s vital to keep producing food where the land is fertile. Otherwise, we risk simply moving problems elsewhere by increasing the demand for imports and encouraging deforestation and environmental degradation in other countries.”


How can I support British farmers? 

It’s a challenging time to be a farmer. All of the CRT tenants we spoke to echoed that rising energy and fuel prices are putting a lot of pressure on their businesses. All were also impacted by the lack of rainfall during spring and summer. Our livestock farmers were forced to give winter supplies of hay and feed to sheep and cattle, because the grass in the pastures stopped growing. Arable farmer Tim Scott said he had his worst harvest ever, with some spring-sown crops yielding half of what he’d expect.

All of our farmers agreed on how consumers can shop more sustainably and support British farming:


  • Buy direct from your nearby farm or food producer if you can, or from farmer’s markets, butchers, delis or other small independent businesses. Many supermarkets give only a slim cut to farmers and food producers, so avoid them if possible.
  • Buy produce in season. If you buy strawberries in the winter they’ll have been flown or shipped in from abroad using fossil fuels. Even if you buy British, out of season produce like tomatoes may have been grown in a greenhouse heated by electricity that is not from environmentally friendly sources.
  • Look out for the Red Tractor logo and study food labels to see where food was produced.
  • Avoid wasting food. The UK wastes around 9.5 million tonnes of food each year*! This is particularly important to remember as we indulge during the festive period.

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