Chair: Lawrence Woodward (ORC Policy Adviser)
The movement for change in agriculture embraces a wide range of agroecological traditions, from integrated pest/crop management to permaculture, from organic farming to agroforestry and holistic management. Are they really all uniquely different, or is the common ground they share, in terms of ideas and history, more important?
The opening plenary addressed the question of shared approaches and world views between the organic and sustainable agriculture movements. It was highlighted that currently the partners from different agroecological traditions are estranged, and there is not much communication. In addition different terminology is being used in the various approaches and in some cases the use of strict-absolute terms has put farmers off. Greater communication should therefore be encouraged and the importance of the new Agricology project was highlighted in this respect. The importance of a functioning market was also pointed out and that being a successful business can provide a convincing example to others, although the market can also create obstacles (e.g. through requirements to use unsustainable packaging).
Jyoti Fernandes, Lawrence Woodward and Phil JarvisIt was also pointed out that neo-liberalism is not a given and that subsidy systems targeted towards agroecological approaches might work, if concerned citizens are active in lobbying. It was also recognised that the exchange of knowledge between farmers is very helpful (e.g. through field labs) and that more support should be given to ‘bottom-up’, producer-led research processes to allow for effective knowledge exchange on a larger scale. It was also recognised that the terms ‘tools’ and ‘toolbox’ can be dangerous as they can lead to situations where core principles concerning long-term system health and sustainability are compromised (e.g. integrated farming). It was also recognised that a common ground is needed to integrate accountability into the economy and the potential of True Cost Accounting was mentioned. Overall it was recognised that a process of evolution rather than revolution is required and that shared communication and collaborative working across groups can help to encourage progress.
The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:
- More support should be given to producer-led research in the UK to allow for collaborative working between different sustainable agriculture traditions
- Consumers should be active in lobbying for state/EU-support for sustainable food and farming
- Make use of the resources at www.agricology.co.uk to learn about upcoming events and best practices.
Individual speaker presentations and abstracts
Phil Jarvis (Allerton Project): Rejuvenating ourlandscape – The Allerton approach
My personal vision for the future of farming and food is:
- More shared goals and cooperation between Defra’s agencies, farmer’s representatives and industry stakeholders to develop ‘common ground’ and a ‘win win’ approach to the environment, practical farming and food production.
- A functioning market place that is less reliant on subsidies and grants that provides the mechanisms for a profitable less bureaucratic industry. This will allow us to invest in solutions for the challenges ahead.
- Innovation that combines well researched technology and sound agricultural husbandry, that can be transferred with the skills required, to our next generation of land managers.
- A farming landscape that embraces the environment, rejuvenates our soils and continues to support our rural communities.
Christine Gosling (Berkeley Farm)
As an organic dairy farmer, my vision of the future of farming and food is one of balance where:
- everything that is borrowed or taken from nature is paid back or compensated for.
- every person is fed adequately with a balanced , nourishing diet, relieving the pressure on the earth to produce higher yields of resource intensive and less healthy food. and
- there is a balance of respect for biodiversity and our need toproduce food.
Jyoti Fernandes (Land Workers’ Alliance and organic smallholder Fivepenny Farm, Dorset)
As a small-scale producer and representative of the Land Workers’ Alliance, our vision for the future of agriculture is:
A much higher percentage of land in the UK farmed sustainably with a large proportion of food being produced on small and medium scale farms primarily for British markets to contribute towards greater food security.
Jyoti FernandesResearch that we have undertaken illustrates that it is possible to feed the projected population of the UK with small and medium scale farms using sustainable agriculture. We envision that this model of agricultural development would have greater benefits to the UK than a food and farming strategy based on sustainable intensification of larger scale industrial agriculture and the export economy.
Jonty Brunyee (The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association and Cotswold organic farmer)
As a pasture-fed organic livestock farmer, my vision for the future of farming is:
A farming system that provides nutritious food from high welfare ruminants, positive economic returns for farming families and environmental regeneration. I believe that beef, sheep and dairy systems based on a natural diet of 100% pasture (grasses, herbs and legumes) offers a sustainable solution to many of the problems associated with the livestock industry today.
Jonty BrunyeeI will highlight the benefits of dropping the inefficient and damaging grain habit and discuss how the growing herd of farmers that follow the Pasture for Life ethos are rebuilding soils, soaking up rainwater, providing pollinator and farmland bird habitat, improving animal welfare and rearing livestock that produce great tasting meat and milk with enhanced nutritional profiles. Moving to an all grass system does not necessarily mean reduced stocking rates and reduced profits either. Evidence collated for the PFLA It Can Be Done booklet suggests the opposite. High output and reduced costs are possible, and exciting opportunities exist for branding and added value sales. It’s a no grainer!