Founder of Bognor Regis farming business attends CBE awards ceremony

The founder of a Bognor Regis based global farming and food business attended a royal ceremony after being made a CBE in the 2020 New Year Honours.

Barfoots founder Peter Barfoot was given the honour for services to sustainable farming.

The ceremony was initially due to take place in April 2020 but he said the timing of the rescheduled event couldn’t be more pertinent as the world’s attention moved to COP26 and the climate crisis.

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The food system is estimated to contribute a 3rd of global greenhouse gas emissions, and agriculture is the biggest contributor within it.

Peter Barfoot is made a CBE for services to sustainable farming

Whilst there is now a great deal of innovation within the UK agriculture sector, Barfoots in Pagham Road was one of the early pioneers of sustainable techniques.

A 5th generation farmer from humble beginnings, Peter’s mantra has been, and continues to be, the driving force within the business – ‘Look after the land like you are going to farm forever’.

Key sustainability initiatives in Barfoots’ history include:

• Working with LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) on best in class practices and becoming a demonstration farm in the 1990s.

Peter Barfoot at the awards ceremony

• Implementing an Anaerobic Digestion plant in 2010, taking all vegetable waste and converting it to electricity enabling the business to become carbon negative in its operation facility. The plant also makes fertiliser used to grow Barfoots’ crops.

• Investing in a network of reservoirs to store and reuse surface water for when it’s most needed.

• Working with charities UKHarvest and FareShare to reduce waste and redistribute out of spec vegetables to those in need. Barfoots recently passing the milestone of 1,000,000 meals donated through FareShare.

• Establishing a Plant Conservation Centre in Peru in collaboration with Kew Botanic Gardens that has conserved and produced more than 250,000 native trees.

• Investment in the social and economic development of the Senegalese communities where Barfoots farm.

• Continuous improvement of the carbon footprint of the supply chain system for Barfoots’ overseas produce, including sea freighting of all imports to the UK.

Peter was delighted to receive his award from the Princess Royal at long last: “It was a great day, well worth waiting for, the whole experience was amazing, and best of all, as you can see from the photographs, I made her laugh.”

He provides timely sage advice in the context of current debates on how the food system can be improved for the future of our planet: “My first rule of sustainability is profitability, without being profitable as a farmer your business will not be sustainable for very long.”

Barfoots continue to look forward and improve its processes so as to become more sustainable, including:

• The building of a water treatment plant that will clean all factory waste water to be reused for irrigation.

• Working closely with LEAF on regenerative farming in vegetable production as part of their Beacons of Excellence programme.

• Embracing Carbon Sequestration and new ways of farming.

• New low carbon technologies and other low impact ways of working.

Peter’s thoughts and farming history

“My first rule of sustainability is profitability, without being profitable as a farmer your business will not be sustainable for very long.

“Under my watch we have planted many miles of hedgerows, creating wildlife corridors across our fields.

“Many of these hedgerows followed the original demarcation lines of hedges that were ripped out when it was the fashion to do so.

“Using satellite fertility mapping showed up the changes of soil types that original hedgerows marked out plus the protective nature of hedges against the South Westerly and northerly winds.

“Proving that our ancestors planted hedges for a reason.

“We were sowing wild bird mixes and bumble bee strips, plus cover cropping long before the politicians come up with the ideas of paying you to do it.

“All these countryside enhancements were paid for out of profits made by farming.

“We realised as our farming acreage grew, that the most cost-effective way of controlling crop pests, weeds and crop diseases was a sound rotation.

“Grass leys being the most important part, especially if one could introduce livestock to eat it.

“Of course, all these things were taught at our agricultural colleges and had been practiced by our ancestors for generations until the so-called chemical revolution came about.

“I started farming on a twenty-one-acre county council holding, and was proud to be producing food.

“I can’t quite get into my head this new fashion of rewilding. Not sure growing thistles, ragwort docks et al is going to feed the billions that are now inhabiting our planet.

“I still cannot go for a walk midsummer without pulling ragwort!

“My favourite farming quote is by Jonathan Swift written in the eighteenth century:

“Whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.” Beware Boris!

“My proudest achievement is my involvement in Senegal where we are now farming 3,700 acres of land most of which had never produced food in the history of the world, employing over 6,500 people and creating an improved life for over 25,000 people in Northern Senegal.”

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