Living Sustainably: Farming

Living Sustainably:

Where does our food come from?


Dr Duncan Westbury

Dr Duncan Westbury is involved with research at the University of Worcester which contributes towards making farming more sustainable.

He specialises in ‘agroecosystems’ in which farmers are encouraged to work with nature as opposed to against it – this contributes greatly towards sustainability.


Where does our food come from?

An important part of living sustainably is understanding where our food comes from. Some stores make a conscious effort to support farmers that grow their crops as sustainably as possible. We should take a step towards sustainable living by purchasing our food from these stores.


Encouraging Wildlife

A flagship example of Dr Westbury’s work is his recent research with Waitrose PLC and Fruition PO, regarding the growing of Jazz Apples. Dr Westbury established wildflowers in the rows between apple trees. These areas are normally heavily mowed and thus do not allow any animals or insects to gain a foothold, but by growing wildflowers in these areas, it encourages wildlife to move in. However, whilst this is good for the environment, it also has some benefits for the farmers.

The presence of wildflowers…

  • Encourages natural enemies which eradicate pests
  • Encourages natural pollinators which eradicate the need for managed pollination services

Reducing Pesticide Use

‘Natural enemies’ (mainly insects) consume common pests such as aphids. By presenting these natural enemies with a preferred habitat and a food source, it allows the farmers to reduce their reliance on pesticides, which in turn saves money. However, the presence of natural enemies alone is not a total substitute for the use of pesticides. Due to the demand for fruit grown in the UK, pesticides will always be necessary in some regard, but the introduction of natural enemies can reduce their usage.



Natural Pollinators

Previously, the services provided by pollinators had been taken advantage of. Farmers relied on wild pollinators without supporting them outside of the blossom period and many growers had to provide their own pollinators by having beehives or bumblebee boxes. By planting wildflowers which support bees and other pollinators in the orchard, farmers can increase the sustainability of their business and save money by not having to pay for managed pollination services.

On the consumer end, our duty is to do our research regarding which farms are attempting to operate sustainably. For example, Fruition PO who supplies Waitrose licenses the planting and growing of Jazz Apples in the United Kingdom.

Whilst there can be a greater cost associated with shopping sustainably, this is a price well worth paying if we wish to reduce our impact on the environment.


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