Farmers, not government, are key to a healthier nation, says Horsham farmer

JPCT 141013 Rebranding of High Barn Oils. L to R Gay Banks, Wendy Dorkings and Durwin BanksPhoto by Derek Martin
JPCT 141013 Rebranding of High Barn Oils. L to R Gay Banks, Wendy Dorkings and Durwin BanksPhoto by Derek Martin

The new reform of the NHS could provide key opportunities for farmers to improve the health of the nation, a conference will be told next Monday (January 6).

Durwin Banks, of The Linseed Farm near Horsham, will use the Oxford Real Farming Conference to argue that a key plank of the government’s new Health and Social Care Act relies on the availability of good, wholesome and affordable food – and it needs a thriving agricultural industry, made up of small and medium sized farms, to provide it.

The West Sussex grower says that while the government is resistant to change to improve the nation’s health, he claims instead preferring the status quo of food making us ill and pharmaceuticals attempting to repair the damage, it’s up to the country’s farming industry to educate on the dangers of eating the wrong kinds of food.

As the UK’s top producer and grower of fresh linseed, Durwin is on a personal crusade.

“We need to educate so that people power will lead to change,” he says.

“It is sad that the government appears disinclined to educate themselves about the truth of nutrition, let alone the population.”

The grower will use the occasion to cite the importance for humans to eat the same quantity of Omega 3 oil as Omega 6, whereas we tend to consume about twenty-five times more Omega 6 than our bodies need; this is leading to an upsurge in inflammatory diseases.

He will point out that men pass this imbalance on to blight the next generation before it is even born.

The new legislation, described as the biggest shake-up in NHS history, sets out to tackle the spiraling cost of treating lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, by focusing on prevention rather than cure.

Among a raft of reforms, it gives local authorities the power to set the agenda on health information programmes and other activities, potentially creating new local opportunities for farmers, Durwin argues.

He will point to the groundbreaking work at Sussex NHS Foundation Trust which is already providing 900 in-patients with three meals a day made from locally-grown food, as proof of what can be achieved, but this will only reap results if the right fats are included in patient meals, and that means a return to the animal fats we were told to avoid a few years ago.

“Farmers are the most important people on the planet to keep us well,” he will tell the event’s audience, which provides an alternative voice to the Oxford Farming Conference attended by mainstream agriculturalists a week earlier.

“The money currently being used to treat diet-related illness, such as diabetes and obesity could far better be diverted towards supporting small and medium farmers to produce food that is healthy to begin with”, he insists.

“Instead, the current cheap-food policy destroys the countryside, drives people from the land and disconnects them from food production resulting in a lack of knowledge about what constitutes healthy food.

“The Health and Social Care Act clearly sets out how important prevention of disease is – with £4bn a year spent on treating obesity-related illness alone, food is clearly at the top of the list of measures the government needs to address, he claims”

Durwin’s talk Food and Nutrition – The Health and Social Care Act will be given on Monday, January 6 at 2.30pm in The Living Room, Turl Street Kitchen, Oxford.

Durwin’s blog on healthy food and farming is at:

What do you think? Leave a comment below or email