Farmers have helped countryside - bishop

Farmers and rural entrepreneurs have helped to create more prosperity in the countryside, said the Bishop of Norwich last night.

Farmers and rural entrepreneurs have helped to create more prosperity in the countryside, said the Bishop of Norwich last night.

“The extraordinary flexibility and inventiveness of farmers over the past decade or more has not been celebrated as it should,” the Rt Rev Graham James told the congregration at a west Norfolk harvest festival.

“Farm shops and tourism ventures abound but many new rural businesses have been created in old farm buildings,” said Bishop Graham, who is also president of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.

“Farmers have done this to make money, of course, but also because of their commitment to agriculture, the land and the countryside. The future of our countryside depends on this more than we often realise,” he added.

Speaking at St Mary's Church, Stradsett, Bishop Graham, who is a rural economy board member of Shaping Norfolk's Future, also praised other broader-scale initiatives by British Sugar taking place just a few miles away.

“The wider sugar beet industry is also showing a new flexibility and imagination. At Wissington - the biggest sugar beet factory in Europe - a new bio-fuel plant is being developed which will produce green and environmentally friendly fuel for motor vehicles.”

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It is doubling the size of the country's largest single “green” tomato glasshouse, which uses waste heat and carbon dioxide from the sugar factory to grow the plants.

Bishop Graham said that consumers no longer have to depend on locally-grown food. “Our shops are full of food from all over the world. Whether all this is environmentally sustainable or desirable is a big question. In my lifetime there's been a revolution in the range and quality of foodstuffs on offer and a massive reduction in their cost proportionate to our income.

“We don't come to harvest thanksgiving fearing hunger here, though there are many millions of people around the world for whom the fear of hunger is a daily reality. That's a perspective we must not forget.”

A new rural adviser for the Church of England's Norwich diocese and the Methodist Church in East Anglia has been appointed. The Rev Lorna Allies, of the Bramerton group ministry, will be commissioned at Hickling Methodist Church on Tuesday, October 17 (7.30pm).