COP26: The farmers who say they're part of the climate change solution

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report.

The agricultural industry is responsibly for 10 per cent of greenhouse emissions in the UK - but West Country farmers say they are part of the solution to climate change.

As world leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26, farmers from across the region say farming and food production should be at the top of their agenda at the climate conference.

The National Farming Union has a target to reach 'net zero' bu 2040 - with many of the South West's farmers already making big changes in a bid to save the planet.

Somerset cider and unpredictable weather

Somerset is arguably best known for producing some of the best cider in the world - but climate change has messed with the apple growing calendar.

Cider apple trees need temperatures to drop in the winter for a kind of hibernation process, but changing weather patterns make the growing season unpredictable.

Changes in weather can cause issues with disease, insects and yield of cider apples.

"As soon as you start upsetting weather patterns, you start upsetting crops," said Neil Macdonald from Orchard Park Farms.

Mr Macdonald added: "We're all trying very hard here to produce good quality fruit. We don't want to be interfering any more than is necessary with nature but we do need to care for those crops to get a yield as a commercial enterprise."

So now the farmer says he feels he has to do everything he can to be more productive.

In a bid to reduce the farm's carbon footprint, the apple growing business in Hornblotton has now come up with ways to shorten its supply chain.

It now produces its own juice on site to prevent the apples being shipped around for longer.

A more varied approach to farming

Elsewhere, Pipers Farm near Collumpton has created a network which is teaching farms more regenerative practices.

Founder Peter Greig says a mixed farming system, with a variety of livestock and crops, is one of the best ways to capture carbon in the soil - as dung from the animals eating crops on the farm help keep goodness within the soil.

Farmers say they are "up for a challenge" when it comes to sustainable farming.

The project includes a 100-year-old family farm which began losing money by focusing purely on dairy.

But now it has sheep, turkeys, pigs and even a pumpkin patch - which Mr Greig says makes it resilient and sustainable.

Pipers Farm say they want to harness the power of smaller scale family farms. Credit: ITV West Country

He said: "These farms need to be profitable - they need to be able to connect with customers who want to buy food and have a shorter supply chain where a bigger proportion of what they pay goes into these family farms.

"That's when you get real resilience - it means it's properly sustainable."

He said the benefits for the landscape and the rural community are "huge", adding: "The government really needs to recognise that value."

Carbon neutral cheese

Wyke Farms, which has been making cheese in Bruton for 200 years, says it will have its first carbon neutral cheese by the end of the year.

It is thanks in part to biogas production on the farm.

The £18million plant - which is home to five anaerobic digesters - produces 20,000 cubic meters of biogas for the national grid from food and animal waste.

Waste from cheese making, apple pressing, and animal manure are just some of the things that can be made into biogas. Credit: ITV West Country

Managing Director Richard Clothier said it is "probably one of the greenest areas of the country without anyone even knowing".

"I would love to see the government encouraging this sort of technology on every farm in the country," he said.

"If you combine that with regenerative farming techniques, carbon capture with soil and tree planting, then the UK can get pretty close to being net-zero pretty quickly."

'Farmers are up for the challenge'

The NFU says farmers are some of the best people to make big changes for climate change.

Alex Stevens, South West policy manager, said: "We're absolutely part of the solution here.

"Farmers have a unique access to land and that means they can provide and produce things that other businesses wouldn't be able to - whether it's offsetting or producing efficiently.

"Farmers are up for the challenge of working towards net zero and doing it ahead of the government's deadline - but we might need some support in doing that."