Overuse of antibiotics in farming could threaten us all, but there is another way

Helen Browning: As the evidence mounts as to the madness of using last resort antibiotics like colistin to treat our farm animals, often via mass medication, the intensive farm and vet lobby still seems defensive and complacent. I guess it’s easy to understand why. Routine antibiotics are usually required in indoor, concrete based systems, where large numbers of animals are kept together, often stressed by their confinement. These are the systems deemed necessary for ‘efficient’ protein production, to feed us cheaply with watery bacon and tasteless chicken breasts. Vets are too often complicit; they still rely heavily on drug sales to maintain their profitability. There is another way, of course, one that has been pioneered by organic farmers over decades.

22 December 2015 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 0

Organic September – what's your small change?

Helen Browning: 2014 already has been a great year for all things organic. So far we've seen the UK organic market return to growth for the first time since 2009 and the publication of a landmark scientific study, which showed nutritional differences in organic vegetables, fruit and cereals. All this stands us in good stead for our 'small changes, big difference' campaign for this Organic September.

29 August 2014 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 0

Annual conference

Helen Browning: The last two days has brought into sharp relief the challenges, tensions and opportunities we face as a movement, and as an organisation. We saw so clearly, on the first day, the huge benefits of our 'good food for all' work that embraces a wider public, that starts with us listening and seeking to understand, and helping with the baby steps. Of working in partnership, of occasionally having to bite our tongue, of having our eyes opened to some realities that don’t fit with our relatively privileged experience or view of how the world should work.

11 October 2013 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 0

Small changes for September

Helen Browning: It’s great to be starting our Small changes, Big difference campaign this Organic September. We believe that if we all make a small and achievable change to our shopping habits in September, and beyond, we can make a huge difference to our planet. As a practising organic farmer, I see first-hand the difference farming my land organically makes – from more bees and hedgerows, to contented, healthy animals, to lots of people gainfully working here and enthusiastic customers.

02 September 2013 | 13 Comments | Recommended by 12

Health, as I understand it

Helen Browning: It’s been good to be on the farm for the weekend, to re-establish my equilibrium after a hectic week. As well as interviewing for our new Director of Communications (lots of brilliant candidates, more news shortly), holding a well received staff conference (so much progress reported), hosting policy makers at the farm and supporters at Highgrove, launching Organic September, and all the usual busyness of the Bristol office, we have had the additional complication of the Stanford University report, and its reporting in the media.

10 September 2012 | 9 Comments | Recommended by 10

Exciting times are ahead

Helen Browning: Back in September I asked for feedback on the first iteration of our new group strategy, and I was delighted when so many people took the time to share their thoughts – through the blog comments, by email and in person. I was even more delighted that so much of the feedback was so positive – in general the vast majority of you said that our direction of travel seemed right, and this has given us real confidence in what we’re doing.

01 March 2012 | 9 Comments | Recommended by 6

We’re not really the awkward squad, you know

Helen Browning: When I started farming organically, 25 years ago, I did so for a number of reasons. I was concerned about diminishing wildlife on the farm; and my desire to find a way to keep pigs and poultry in a way I felt respected their right for a good, natural life had already been stimulated whilst doing my degree at Harper Adams, where visits to supposedly ‘state-of-the-art’ farms sometimes left me shocked by their attitude to animal welfare.

24 February 2012 | 5 Comments | Recommended by 4

Merry Christmas

Helen Browning: I'm not sure how to feel about the end of this year. Has it been the year when economic turmoil gripped political leaders to the extent that the now critical issues of climate change and biodiversity loss were lost from view, probably irretrievably... Or was it the year in which a significant minority of people recognised that our values must change if we are to have any chance of a sane future on this planet?

23 December 2011 | 8 Comments | Recommended by 1

The little white bottle

Helen Browning: Today sees the publication of a new report on the dangers of over using antibiotics, that we’ve published in partnership with Compassion in World Farming and Sustain as part of the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics in farm animals has been a key issue for the Soil Association for many years, led by the fantastic work of Richard Young. As a practising farmer, it's an issue that’s close to my heart.

17 November 2011 | 15 Comments | Recommended by 7

Sustainable food cities

Helen Browning: I’m really excited to be speaking in Bristol this morning at a conference we’ve organised to launch a network of sustainable cities across the country. Making sure our cities are sustainable in terms of their food and health needs is a crucial challenge, and there are a number of different projects working hard on the idea in different cities around the country already. And while none of the projects are identical, with each city having its own diverse needs, there is obviously lots of common ground – giving people the knowledge and skills to access affordable healthy and sustainable food; helping to tackle food poverty and diet-related ill-health; promoting local economic prosperity for farmers and food businesses; and minimising waste, biodiversity loss and food’s impact on climate change can all be the outcomes of a sustainable city.

12 October 2011 | 7 Comments | Recommended by 4

The price of organic food

Helen Browning: One of the key pillars of our refreshed strategy is ‘Good Food for All’. By this we mean that we are committed to ensure that organic, seasonal, healthy food is accessible to everyone.

28 September 2011 | 81 Comments | Recommended by 23

The Road to 2020

Helen Browning: It has been a busy few weeks. Organic September is proving a great success with activities taking place all over the country, and lots of promotional activities among our licensees. And today I’m very excited to announce the publication of the first iteration of our refreshed strategy: ‘The road to 2020': Towards healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use’

27 September 2011 | 49 Comments | Recommended by 12

Happy Organic September!

Helen Browning: Happy Organic September! Today sees the start of a busy month here at Soil HQ. We’re putting lots of energy into making sure that the world of organic and all that it encompasses gets the recognition it deserves - across supermarket shelves, on our plates and in our bathroom cabinets and wardrobes.

01 September 2011 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 4

Thoughts about the future

Helen Browning: I have been in the hot seat at the Soil Association for a few months now, and my main task has been reviewing the work that we are doing, and establishing clear direction and priorities for the future. Our staff, Council, and the Farmer and Grower Board have all been very involved in helping with this, and I now feel that we can start to talk about this more widely. So while it will be a few weeks before we publish our refreshed strategy, I would like to share some of our thinking with you now, and would be very pleased to hear any comments or thoughts that you have.

23 August 2011 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 6

WI update

Helen Browning: Win, lose or draw, I said in my last post. Nothing could have quite prepared me for the WI's AGM yesterday in terms of outcome! For the first time in their history, WI members voted to - not vote. The WI still operates as a purely membership led body, which means any resolutions that come before the AGM are proposed by grassroots members - a bit like the old party conferences used to operate before the slightly more stage-managed events of today.

09 June 2011 | 4 Comments | Recommended by 17

Win, lose or draw. . .

Helen Browning: I’m speaking at the Women’s Institute AGM on Wednesday, in support of the motion: “This meeting abhors the practice of factory farming particularly large animals such as pigs and cows, and urges HM government to ensure planning permission is not granted for such projects.” So I spent the weekend polishing my speech, and reflecting on the issues raised by the motion. Speaking to the WI is both exciting and a little nerve-racking, and win lose or draw on the motion, I’m looking forward to the experience.

06 June 2011 | 5 Comments | Recommended by 8

Constructive co-ops

Helen Browning: Welcome to my first blog as the Soil Association director - I want to use this to share some of my thoughts and give an idea of what we're up to, but I'm new to blogging, so bear with me while I get going! Last week I spent an excellent day in Devon alongside Phil Stocker, and my amazing co-ordinator Lisa, meeting with the South Devon Organic Producers Coop (sdop), Rod Hall, and a number of producers, courtesy of the Buddens. The sdop were inspiring, showing how good coperation, both with each other and with customers, in this case Riverford, can reap significant rewards. The verdict from all was that the financial viability of their smallish farms has been secured by the coop and its close and constructive relationship with Riverford. Then we had an amazing lunch at the Field Kitchen....completely bowled over by the food, and was high on vegetables for the rest of the day!

19 May 2011 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 8

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