Sara Richards and her family have been at Ballacomaish Farm in Andreas since 1975.

Alongside the farming she has run holiday cottages on the farm for 13 years. She is also a former chair of the Isle of Man Self Catering Owners Association.

Because of this Mrs Richards sees very clearly the link between farming and tourism and the current threat to the future of wheat growing in the island has caused her also to fear for tourism.

Recently she raised her concerns with head of tourism, Angela Byrne, and Mark Lewin, chief executive officer at the Department for Enterprise, pointing out that ‘there is another aspect to this situation’.

She followed this up with an email which we are publishing in full.

Mrs Richards writes: ‘Farmers (arable and most likely livestock producers) urgently need to be able to export their products if the industry has any hope of remaining viable. They can find markets in the UK for the high quality they are able to produce here. In this way they would not only preserve their own businesses (many of which are currently under severe threat) but also bring money back into the Isle of Man.

‘Currently the shipping/export costs present a strong barrier to any export trade. Isle of Man farmers need assistance with these costs along the lines of the ‘road haulage equivalency’ scheme that many of the Scottish islands have in place.

‘Land is a huge asset. The island needs productive (farmed) land to be maintained to a high standard, as it currently is by the vast majority of family run farms. Agriculture is best placed to work that land for the maximum economic benefit.

‘The link into tourism comes when you consider what will be the impact of family farms ‘failing’ due to rising costs of production which are disproportionate to the end product prices that farmers can achieve. Reduced production will inevitably follow quite quickly, leading to shortages of locally produced meat and dairy, both of which are reliant to some extent on arable farming for local hay, silage, straw and feed.

‘Importing these commodities is already hugely expensive.

‘The island as a visitor destination is heavily reliant on our beautiful countryside, which is a direct result of good farming practices.

‘That has been the case for many years, long before the Countryside Care/Agricultural Development Schemes came into being. Farmers (the vast majority) have the knowledge, skills and equipment to achieve the high standards of land stewardship that produce the pleasing visual impact appreciated by visitors.

‘Leisure owners (horse owners or similar) are not necessarily good land managers, often seeking help with various land management work from their local farmer.

‘If farming ‘fails’ and we start to see family farms come up for sale in any number, there will be a severe, detrimental impact on what our visitors will be viewing around the island. Even one or two seasons of neglect of usual field work (hedge trimming/weed control/mowing etc) will result in dramatic changes.

‘Think about the Charles Guard video, highlighting highly visual neglected spots around the island, but on a much larger scale. Gorse, brambles and scotch thistles are all aggressive and get out of hand easily within just one growing season, if left unchecked.

‘Also, who is likely to buy those small/medium/large parcels of land? Currently, there is no restriction on who can buy land here. Do we really want to see large swathes of the island being purchased by commercial/investment companies, for example to plant trees on previously prime agricultural land and sell carbon credits?

‘A thriving farming sector will ensure that Tourism does not lose one of the island’s most appealing characteristics. I do hope that these issues are considered at the highest levels.’