As a young boy, like many other farming families around the country, Peter dutifully carried out helpful tasks on his family farm in Kent.
Growing up surrounded by neighbouring farming families, Peter talks of the tapestry of connected farms who supported each other, lending tools and machinery or a hand during busy periods.
He recalls, just a short distance down the road was the neighbouring dairy farm, the cows grazing year round outdoors were milked by hand. Young Peter would time his visit to scoop the rich cream from the top of the fresh milk churn. A real treat for a hardworking young farmer.
By the time Peter returned home to his family farm after attending agricultural college, all those wonderful neighbouring family farms had disappeared and in their place were large scale mega-farms producing food as a commodity. Hedgerows had been removed to make fields bigger, barns torn down and in their place large breeze-block sheds, to house big machinery. Local people were no longer needed one the land as processes has been mechanised.
His own family farm had also changed dramatically. Once the home of a few hundred chickens, the small sheds had been replaced by those that contained thousands of birds.
It was Peter's Dad who after a visit to America, pioneered industrial chicken production in this country.
Fresh out of university Peter worked in the intensive chicken sheds, until he couldn't ignore his conscience any longer. Appalled by the poor conditions and conveyor-belt-like nature of industrial farming, geared only towards producing ever cheaper food, he realised that if a customer from the high end supermarket for which he was growing these birds, stepped foot in one of these sheds, they would never eat chicken again. He vowed to do things differently. And so in 1989 Pipers Farm was born.
Over thirty years have passed, and with the help of his own son Will, now running the business, Peter's mission to support family farms is just as visceral as it was from right from the start. Today, along with our family farm based in Devon, we work directly with over 40 other incredible small scale family farms, who are centred in their own rural communities.
Our ethics and values are deep rooted in our family and our business, and now more than ever, Peter is emphatically calling for a 'Rural Revoultion'. He says there is an urgent need to reverse the mass industrialisation of the food chain and return to more traditional methods of farming, as highlighted so acutely by the relentless food crises we have faced during the last 18 months.
‘After the war people were hungry and short of food,’ said Peter. ‘You can understand how the industrialisation of farming happened. But it’s been overtaken by a very small number of global corporations who have put relentless downward on price. Nobody has been a winner other than them. And the life of the animals was never taken into consideration.’
‘I’ve worked with livestock all my life and I know when they’re comfortable. It makes my stomach churn if I see it. I don’t believe any right minded livestock farmer would necessarily choose to put animals into that environment. But this is where the industrial system has gone. It isn’t about farmers choosing to do that. It’s the pressure, the relentless treadmill of having to produce cheaper food.'
'It’s so dysfunctional and so unsustainable on every level.'
Peter's rallying cry is echoed around the country, from animal rights campaigners, to climate activists, there is simply no denying the damage caused by complex, just-in-time, industrialised food systems.
Rather than wait for the unlikely event of our Government to intervene, we can all make change happen, just by considering our food choices. Whether that is swapping the milk in our tea to one that we know is produced by a farmer who cares for our planet. Or guaranteeing the sausage in our roll has come from pigs who's noses have rooted mud, with sun on their backs and healthy food in their tummies.
Making small choices that put the welfare of the animal and of the people producing our food first, is all it takes to disrupt the food chain. If we can give more of our buying power direct to the farmer and less to the greedy corporations, not only will it encourage more people to return to the land and farm in harmony with nature, but it will hit those giants where it hurts - in the purse strings.
So what do you say? Will you join us on our rural revolution?