Robert Craig  -  Solutions to combat food chain dysfunctionality

Hi, I'm married to Jackie and we have four wonderful children. Ellie 13, Lauren 11, Georgina 10 and Jack 8. Home for the Craig's is in North East Cumbria where we live on the family dairy farm high up on the edge of the Pennines.

I've been an active and very busy dairy farmer for the past 25 years since finishing my formal education. Working primarily on our home farm, building the business from a relatively small family only business milking 50 cows, to 350 cows today employing several members of staff. Over the past 15 years I've embraced the simple, seasonal, low input grazing system of milk production more commonly found in New Zealand. Using this simple and yet highly profitable philosophy has enabled us to grow the dairy business to a stage where we have more time for our children and are able to be actively involved in other projects away from the farm. Much of my learning during the last 15 years has come form the on-farm discussion group route. It's from contacts made from the grazing network that lead us to joining together with another farmer in 2011 to jointly set up a second dairy unit on a local farm milking 500 cows. I've recently just completed two years as Cumbria NFU chairman, a role which I thoroughly enjoyed. The role involved building many strong relationships within the industry, with leaders and politicians locally.

Project Details

Study: Solutions to combat food chain dysfunctionality

For many years I have been considering applying for a Nuffield Starship and have had many possible study topics. My inspiration came following a study tour to the Windward Islands last October as a guest of the Fairtrade Foundation. I decided my Nuffield would be based around the systems of food production that would lead to a more fair and sustainable future for everyone involved in food chains. We now seem to be relatively clear about the direction the global population is going and can reasonably accurately predict how many people the world will have to feed in the future. The detail we don't seem clear about is how we are to develop food systems to cope with this increase in demand and how this will be done given that land is constantly being take for urban sprawl development, coupled with the impact of soil erosion, the effects of climate change and a huge reduction in the quantity of water in the future available for agriculture. I intend to visit China, India, South America and New Zealand to learn what is already happening regarding food chain sustainability and what needs to be changed or not in preparation for the increased global demand for food.