Celebrating our countryside

Celebrating our countryside

As we enter the fourth week of the Hampshire Food Festival, we are not the only people celebrating local food and farming. Today marks the start of National Countryside Week, 22 - 28 July, led by The Prince's Countryside Fund.

National Countryside Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of the countryside to the UK and recognises the people and organisations working tirelessly to maintain and promote rural Britain. The Prince's Countryside Fund was set up three years ago by HRH The Prince of Wales to champion the British countryside and allocate grants to support those living and working within it.

Hampshire Fare is leading the innovative 'Preserving the Hampshire Hog' project which is funded by The Prince's Countryside Fund. The project is helping to turn around the fortunes of our local pig farmers who until the project were making a loss of around £20 per pig. The project has delivered high quality training led by industry expert, Marc-Frederic to give the participants the skills to diversify into charcuterie production. The new products increase the shelf life of the meat and give the farmers the opportunity to add to their profit margins.

National Countryside Week highlights the current situation of our country's farming. With UK farmers managing more than 85% of the countryside, including looking after fences and footpaths; providing habitats for wildlife; sowing wildflowers and managing woodland; and preserving our drinking water, 70% of which comes from the UK's upland areas. However, the countryside faces many challenges; it is estimated that in the next 50 years we will have to produce more food than we have in the last 10,000 and a significant 60,000 new entrants will be needed in the countryside in the next decade to ensure its sustainability.

The Prince's Countryside Fund released its emergency fund of over £500,000 earlier this spring to help farmers in all agricultural sectors struggling to cope with the impact of the wettest year on record and a long winter.

Victoria Elms, Programme Manager at the Prince's Countryside Fund, explains; 'National Countryside Week is a great opportunity to get out and explore and understand more about how farming, the environment and rural communities work to benefit the rural economy.

'The farming community has been hit hard this year, and the ramifications of the current farming crisis, widely reported to be bigger than foot and mouth, are far reaching and will affect many people who work in the countryside. We need to ensure that we support those who look after the land and produce our food so that generations to come may continue to preserve these important roles.

'The projects opening their doors for National Countryside Week are doing vital work to protect, improve and sustain rural life, and this is a great opportunity to get out and learn more about country life.'

Hampshire Fare and Hampshire Charcuterie will be at the New Forest and Hampshire County Show, Tuesday 30 July - Thursday 1 August, www.newforestshow.co.uk. Visit www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk for an up to date list of events in your region.

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