BBC Radio York presenter Gareth Barlow on the future of farming
PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 April 2015
Copyright Jim Varney 2013
A young farmer from York is hoping for an agricultural revolution
By the middle of this century almost three quarters of the world’s population will live in urban areas - a prospect that concerns Gareth Barlow. He’s worried that the connection between the food on our plates and the people who grew or reared it will be further eroded.
‘Food and farming have moved incredibly far apart as more people have moved into cities and don’t see where their food comes from,’ he said. ‘There’s a lack of knowledge among the public. Even some chefs know what they want to cook but aren’t aware what that equates to on a carcass.’
Gareth is keen to explore the potential for urban farming and inner-city growing schemes such as Incredible Edible which took root in Todmorden about a decade ago. There is, he says, a lot of wasted space in our towns and cities which could be put to use for growing veg and reducing food miles.
Gareth hosts a weekly programme on BBC Radio York where he attempts to bridge that gap, is planning a book on basic butchery techniques and would also like to do more television work. He has, it’s fair to say, a lot on his plate.
Although he admits to occasionally sounding like a grumpy old man, Gareth is just 24.
He started farming as a 17-year-old, after selling his Xbox to raise the funds to buy half a dozen sheep. Having built up his flock to 500 and supplied some of the country’s top restaurants, Gareth left farming to concentrate on work in the media where his affable, friendly approach has secured him his Sunday morning radio slot and appearances on Farming Today and Countryfile.
Gareth was born in Reading to parents who worked as consultants in IT and business development. His first experience of rural life came on visits to a Kirkby Lonsdale farm owned by friends of the family. ‘It was idyllic,’ he said. ‘A hundred acres, dry stone walls, everything a chocolate box would portray. I fell in love with it.’
The family moved to York, where Gareth was a pupil at St Peter’s. When he decided to try farming, his parents were supportive. ‘Not once did they say I should do something else. I didn’t have an established farm but they said I’d find a way through. They were self-employed so doing something yourself wasn’t totally alien.’
Supplying Marcus Wareing’s Michelin starred restaurant Berkeleys in Knightsbridge helped open a lot of doors. ‘That was a feather in my cap, which allowed me to say to other chefs “if it’s good enough for him”.
‘There were moments when things weren’t going as I would have liked, but they were only momentary blips.’
Gareth plans to return to farming and can see a bright future for the industry. ‘The old fashioned view of a farmer standing in a barn covered in muck and holding a pitchfork has gone,’ he said.
‘Farming has changed and I think there are very exciting times ahead. Pressure on land and farming will increase in the years to come and consumers want to be able to place trust in the food chain. I think that will allow people to find niches and make the first steps into agriculture businesses .
‘At some point I will get back to farming. I had 500 sheep, which equates to having 500 children who all want to run away. I’m sure the right time will present itself and I’ll get the itch to go back to farming.’
Gareth’s programme, Yorkshire Farming, is on BBC Radio York every Sunday from 6-7am.