“At the heart of the debate is whether 21st-century farmers can somehow blend the roles of food producers, conservationists, carbon sequesters, leisure providers and linchpins of the rural community. Or whether the very term “farmer” — along with the practice and sociocultural history with which it is associated — will soon become obsolete.”
There are huge questions about the future of farming we have to address.
Last week, we looked at how farmers are struggling to produce enough food:
So, how can farmers ‘feed the world’ both today and tomorrow?
As for ways ahead, we carried the comment from Dartmoor farmer Anton Coaker writing in the WMN – who is not very impressed with the innovative approach of Silvo-pasture:
Everyone, though, is talking ‘regenerative farming’:
Last month, we looked at three books on the future of food and farming:
Two of the same books and a third on the same issues have just been considered by the FT: here are some excerpts from an excellent review: click on the links below for the full piece:
The future of farming: how to feed a troubled world
The distinction between feeding the world and destroying it hangs in the balance. The intensification of agriculture, largely as a result of post-1945 policies designed to avert food shortages, is now considered by many to be the primary cause of environmental destruction.
As Sarah Langford writes in Rooted, her memoir-ish account of farming’s recent past and a meditation on its future, “my grandfather, Peter, was considered a hero who fed a starving nation. Now his son Charlie, my uncle, is considered a villain, blamed for ecological catastrophe and with a legacy no one wants.”
The truth is: we are all complicit in farming processes. The surprising success of books such as James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life, together with a growing interest in previously obscure subjects including rewilding and “soil health”, suggests that people are increasingly aware of this, and of the current window of opportunity to ensure a better future. Can agriculture now solve some of the manifold problems it has helped to create?
At the heart of the debate is whether 21st-century farmers can somehow blend the roles of food producers, conservationists, carbon sequesters, leisure providers and linchpins of the rural community. Or whether the very term “farmer” — along with the practice and sociocultural history with which it is associated — will soon become obsolete.
For Langford — as for Jake Fiennes, conservation manager at Holkham Estate in Norfolk and author of Land Healer — the former is achievable. These two authors set out a case for the continued production of meat and arable crops through “regenerative” agriculture — broadly, a form of farming that seeks to replenish and enhance natural ecosystems. Their focus is the UK, and on local or even individual improvements that can contribute to the greater good. For George Monbiot, who in Regenesis describes farming as “the most destructive force ever to have been unleashed by humans”, the only way forward is a radical overhaul of global food production and eating habits.
If there is one subject on which the three authors agree it is the importance of soil. A mind-blowingly complex ecosystem that has, until very recently, been overlooked, soil — and more specifically, its health and fertility — offers solutions to several urgent problems, from food production to wildlife conservation and carbon sequestration. It’s clear that soil will be central to the ongoing debate. As Monbiot writes, “the future lies underground.” The question is: how best to utilise and protect this fragile resource?
Agriculture will have to adapt to dramatic shifts over the coming years that include climate change, food shortages, geopolitical and corporate disruption and the whims of individual government policy. The results of these changes will impact the lives, not just of farmers, but of every single person on the planet.