Edition: Hedge of Glory
By Glesni & Alanna
Farming is a way of cultivating a relationship with the more-than-human world. It connects us to our own web of life and joins up the dots on how our harvesting and cultivation impacts those around us – for better or for worse. When done with respect to other natural systems we can create more biodiversity, better health and even redirect floods/alleviate drought and capture carbon.
Commercial large scale farms that run on fossil fuels, mono-crops and subsidies are failing us. When farms consist of large fields of one crop, and one crop only, these require huge amounts of artificial fertilizers and additives that are systematically conforming to processes of machinery. This conformity not only results in quick run-off of nutrients from the fields into the nearest waterways, but also means that any ‘product’ unconforming to shape or size gets rejected from ever leaving the farm – thus creating wasted food.
Out of the over 300,000 edible plant species out there, only 200 of these on average are eaten by the majority of people, even less so in commercially monopolised countries like the UK. If the way we farmed reflected these other species, we could create farms that reflect the landscape and dance with their own niches.
More often than not, we associate our behaviour as an ethical consumer with the impact our spending habits have on the environment and on the treatment of the workers. Whilst these are incredibly important factors to consider, there are additional questions we should be asking ourselves that feed into these. How does how we shop affect ourselves and our community?
During the pandemic, more people have been shopping locally and supporting small businesses, which has been linked to an increased feeling of community spirit. This has given people the opportunity to connect with where their food comes from, build relationships with people in their community and has given both the consumer and the business owner a chance to help each other during a time of uncertainty.
A practice that applies similar values, includes a method of food production called Community-supported agriculture (CSA). CSA enables people in the community to form a direct partnership with the farmers. This includes sharing the responsibility and rewards of farming and enabling them to take control of their food supply. There is no one strict method or definition for CSA. Examples can include local people investing in a farm, whereby they receive a share of the produce whilst the food production is still farmer-led. There are also other groups where local people lead the farm, by sourcing a piece of land and using it to produce their own food – recruiting other members of the community to help.
CSA schemes have been found to provide a variety of benefits to individuals, the community, the local economy and the environment.
It has changed people’s eating habits, often leading to eating healthier and organic food, supporting better overall health and happiness. Eating seasonal fruit and vegetables has provided people with the opportunity to experiment with the different food that is available that particular season and become more connected with nature and the process of growing food. Eating seasonal local foods also means there is very little transport or plastic involved, reducing an individual’s carbon footprint.
Concerns that we might have when buying from larger supermarkets, including excess plastic packaging and limited transparency in the food trade and production, are reduced when buying food from CSA schemes. Consumers are able to be proactive in how their food is produced, are able to get involved as much or as little as they wish to.
People have gained new skills, connected with others in their community and according to research from the Soil Association, CSA has also improved local employment. In comparison to UK agriculture as a whole, CSA has shown higher levels of employment relative to the land available.
If you’re looking for hands-on experience and an element of adventure, have a look at Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). WWOOFing involves learning about sustainable and argo-ecological farming whilst working and living with a host family. During your time as a WWOOFer, you are not paid by being given money. Instead, the host family pay you by providing you accommodation and food for the time that you spend on their farm.
Alternative farming is a great example of how food production can work in harmony with nature and the community. We hope you find a way to get involved!
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