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FARMING: AT THE
HEART OF OUR LIFE
Producing our
food, taking
care of the
environment
and making
sure our
countryside
thrives
DID YOU KNOW …?
There are
28 Member States in
the European Union (EU).
There are
500 million
consumers.
Over 77 % of the EU
is rural (47 % farmland,
30 % forest).
77 % 47 %
30 %
DID YOU KNOW …?
Farming and the agri-food
industries represent
44 million jobs and
7 % of the EU’s GDP.
There are around 11 million
farms in the EU, employing
roughly 22 million farmers
and farmworkers.
DID YOU
KNOW …?
The EU supports farmers
and helps them to:
• produce enough safe and
quality food for all EU citizens;
• preserve the environment;
• keep the countryside alive.
INTRODUCING
JOHN AND MARTHA
John and Martha
run a 12-hectare farm
(about 20 football
pitches in size).
This is the average size
of a farm in the EU.
They grow cereal crops,
raise sheep and produce
cheese (from sheep’s milk).
PRODUCING HEALTHY, SAFE
AND NUTRITIOUS FOOD
EU farmers produce
a huge range of food and drink.
Each year they produce:
• 10 million tonnes of apples,
• 140 million tonnes of milk, and
• 300 million tonnes of cereals.
PRODUCING HEALTHY,
SAFE AND NUTRITIOUS
FOOD
It is a complex process —
from the farm to our plates.
Thanks to farmers, we enjoy
safe, high-quality, traceable and
sustainably produced food.
1. HIGH-QUALITY
FOOD
John and Martha’s sheep graze
outdoors and eat the grass they
need to be healthy and to produce
high-quality milk.
This milk is processed into cheese.
1. HIGH-QUALITY FOOD
Their cheese bears the EU’s
organic logo — it is produced
following strict rules, such as
respecting the environment
and animal welfare.
Their farm is inspected every
year to make sure that they
follow the rules.
2. TRACEABLE FOOD —
FROM FARM TO FORK
John and Martha put
ear tags on the lambs
born on their farm.
Each tag has a code that
identifies the lamb.
This means that if a lamb is
sold at the market, its buyer
knows where it came from.
2. TRACEABLE FOOD —
FROM FARM TO FORK
Other products in the EU can
also be traced — e.g. eggs
and their packaging (size and
the method of production).
As consumers, this means
we know more about how
our food was produced.
PROTECTING OUR
ENVIRONMENT
Farmers rely on our natural resources
(e.g. soil, water) for their day-to-day living.
This means they need to preserve them
and to take care of the land they work.
In this way, they safeguard our biodiversity
and help fight climate change.
1. SUSTAINABLE FARMING —
FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
John and Martha use sustainable
farming methods.
They rotate their crops to make
sure the soil has enough nutrients.
They save water by collecting
rainwater to use on the farm.
They plant and maintain trees
to boost air quality.
1. SUSTAINABLE FARMING —
FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
By using
natural resources wisely,
farmers help ensure that land
remains productive and that
we can continue to enjoy
the countryside
in the future.
2. PRESERVING OUR BIODIVERSITY
Plants, animals, birds and insects are
necessary for a healthy countryside.
John and Martha take care of
the hedgerows on their land
and make sure not to cut them
during the bird nesting season.
They keep grassland where
wildflowers that attract bees and
other insects can grow.
2. PRESERVING OUR BIODIVERSITY
John and Martha use organic, farmyard and green
manures that don’t contain harmful chemicals.
In this way, they preserve and encourage
biodiversity on their farm.
3. FIGHTING CLIMATE
CHANGE
Climate change brings challenges for farmers,
such as drought and water shortages or winter storms.
John and Martha use sustainable farming methods that
help to preserve natural resources.
3. FIGHTING CLIMATE
CHANGE
They take steps to safeguard and
encourage biodiversity on their land.
They also generate some of their farm’s
electricity (solar panels have been
installed).
These are all ways of helping to fight
climate change.
4. COMBATING FOOD WASTE
Every year 90 million tonnes of food are
thrown away in the EU (during production,
distribution and consumption).
This is a waste of the resources
(energy, fuel, time and water)
that went into growing, harvesting,
storing, packaging, transporting,
marketing and cooking the food.
4. COMBATING
FOOD WASTE
John and Martha try to reduce
the food wasted on their farm
by harvesting, storing and
transporting their cereal crops
as efficiently as possible.
They also compost the food
that they throw away as
consumers.
ENSURING A VIBRANT COUNTRYSIDE
Farming is the most important economic activity in rural areas,
with local jobs often linked to processing farm produce.
Without farmers there would be little to keep some rural communities alive —
especially in areas where farming is difficult (hilly, mountainous or remote areas).
1. NEW HORIZONS —
NEW OPPORTUNITIES
John and Martha have
renovated their barn
into guest rooms
for visitors.
They employ two local staff
to help out when things
get busy.
1. NEW HORIZONS —
NEW OPPORTUNITIES
They organise cheesemaking workshops for
visitors to learn how their
EU-certified organic
cheese is made.
They sell their cheese
at markets, in their shop
and online via a website
they have created.
All these activities benefit
the local community —
bringing new jobs and
more visitors to the area,
and introducing its
produce to more
consumers.
2. THE FUTURE OF FARMING
John and Martha’s two children,
Jimmy and Anna, are not interested
in becoming farmers.
Only 6 % of farmers in the EU are under
35 years old (around 900 000 farmers).
2. THE FUTURE OF FARMING
Who will grow
our food in years
to come?
Being a farmer is a demanding job,
but for John and Martha it is more
than just a job, it is a passion that
they find highly rewarding.
3. FARMING IN THE 21ST CENTURY
John and Martha use science and technology
in their everyday work, e.g. to predict the
weather or check nitrogen levels in the soil.
• Technology can help farmers to produce
more food in a sustainable way, i.e. to produce
more with less (less water, less energy, fewer
fertilisers).
• This is vital as the world’s population
is growing (9 billion by 2050).
• This can also bring new jobs and
opportunities to rural communities.
SUMMARY
Farmers produce healthy, safe, nutritious food.
• They follow strict standards and procedures, e.g.
for organic products.
• Some foodstuffs are traceable so that consumers
know where their food comes from.
Farmers preserve natural resources and
protect the environment.
• They use sustainable methods that don’t harm
the environment.
• They safeguard and encourage biodiversity.
• All of these actions help fight climate change.
SUMMARY
Farmers are an essential part of rural communities,
helping them to thrive.
• The lack of young farmers in the EU is a challenge
for the future.
• Farmers today are business people, diversifying
their activities and looking for new opportunities.
• They benefit from new technology and
innovation, which open up new markets
and horizons.
• They help create new jobs and increase
economic growth in our rural communities.
How many
farmers are
there in
the EU?
QUESTIONS
Which EU quality
label does John and
Martha’s cheese
have? What rules
does this mean they
have to follow?
How many tonnes of
cereal do farmers in the
EU like John and Martha
produce each year?
Can you give two
examples of sustainable
farming measures that
John and Martha take?
How many tonnes
of food waste are
thrown away in
the EU each year?
How many
farmers under
35 years old are
there in the EU?
QUESTIONS
Why is it important
for farmers to
produce more food
with less (less water,
less energy, fewer
fertilisers)?
What are the
three ‘roles’ that
farmers play?
What are the
farmers doing for
society, besides
producing food?
FIND OUT
MORE
DG Agriculture
and Rural
Development
ec.europa.eu/
agriculture/
index_en.htm