Minette is the new President of the National Farmers Union and has long been a huge supporter of Love British Food and its activities. She is a tenant farmer in Wiltshire who has built up her farm herself and now has 300 head of stock with a herd of pedigree Hereford cattle running alongside 100 Simmental cross suckler cows and she specialises in selling premium store cattle. She co-founded the campaigning initiatives Ladies in Beef and Great British Beef Week and is one of the most prominent and popular spokespeople for British farming.
Minette Batters Q & A
Why/how did you get into farming?
It had been a lifelong ambition of mine to farm, but with no succession tenancy available when my father retired, I approached the same landlords with the offer of doing up two derelict cottages within the farmyard - in return for taking on the farm buildings and 300 acres. So I started farming in 1998 with just 20 suckler cows. We now have up to 300 beef cattle on farm at any one time, a small flock of pedigree sheep, an arable rotation and a converted Tythe barn is now a wedding venue. The business has come a long way!
You are the first woman President of the National Farmers Union. What spurred you on to take such a prominent role in promoting farming?
I first got involved with the NFU because I saw it as the only way to drive change, not just with Government but the food industry too. I have to say I never planned to have a career in Agricultural politics! So it's been a gradual evolution and it's down to the encouragement and persuasion of other farmers that I am where I am today.
You have long been a fan of Love British Food and the annual celebration, British Food Fortnight. Why?
I think Alexia Robinson was the original pioneer of promoting British food, she was definitely the inspiration for founding Ladies in Beef. BFF has punched well above it's weight for years.
You are joining the campaign this year (2017) as Love British Food Ambassador alongside Raymond Blanc and Liz Earle. What would you like to achieve in your role?
Anything that I can do to further showcase why farming matters and why I passionately believe in British Red Tractor Food is an opportunity I will grab with both hands!
At the recent National Young Farmers Conference, a lot of farmers commented that “Love British Food is more important than ever now”…why do you think that is?
Having made the decision to leave the EU, it's really important that we talk about why farming matters. This is a new deal with the UK tax payer and such an opportunity to grow more and sell more British food, not only to retail but food service and export too.
What 3 things would you advise farmers to do during this year’s British Food Fortnight to promote their industry?
Write to your MP and be positive about why your farming business is important to their constituency, the more economic facts you can build into that dialogue the better. 2) Engage positively on social media - follow LoveBritishFood and spread the word. 3) Write or email your local school, hospital or pub, and ask if you can help them to get in touch with Love British Food to source more seasonal British food.
Love British Food works across many sectors: public and private; and its activities encompass schools, hospitals, universities, community events, pubs, restaurants, large food service organisations and promotions in Co-op stores. Which sectors do you think are the most important to focus on in building a robust domestic market for British food?
They're all important but I think we need to focus much more attention on British procurement throughout the public sector. Achieving a Red Tractor sourcing
policy for the London Olympics shows this can be done.
Alongside its ‘Buy British’ activities, Love British Food runs a campaign to keep Harvest Festival as a community celebration on the national calendar. What are your memories of Harvest Festival celebrations in the past?
As children my parents always took my brother and I to Harvest Festival. I have fond memories of going into Church with a big box of produce.
How would you like this tradition to be celebrated by future generations?
I sincerely hope that future generations will continue to value the importance of Harvest Festival. With food so plentiful these days it's very easy to
forget that each and everyone of us rely on farmers for our food, but also for being the custodians of our treasured countryside.
The Co-op is the Official Sponsor of Love British Food. What do you think of their pledge to go further than any other UK retailer in sourcing 100% fresh British meat for their own brand and moving all own brand frozen products to 100% British as of 2018?
I think it's brilliant, I absolutely applaud what they have done. But it's important to remember that the Co-op have done this because they value the integrity
of British food, the high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection that farmers adhere to, and they want short safe secure supply chains.
They've led by example I sincerely hope that other retailers will follow in the Co-op footprint. Quick fire, in a sentence….
Why buy British Beef? Because it's the best in the world and part of our national heritage.
Why buy British Lamb? A Premium protein that plays a massive role in shaping our beautiful countryside.
Why buy British Pork? We've been world leaders in pig welfare and one of few countries that give consumers the option of buying outdoor reared pork.