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A Farm For The Future

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I always think this Devon landscape is the most beautiful place on Earth and to me this is a very special farm, because it's where I grew up and it's the only place I've ever really called home. My name is Rebecca Hosking and I'm from a long line of farmers. But it was the wildlife here more than the farming that really fascinated me as a child. And this led me into a career as a wildlife filmmaker. But now I'm back here to be a farmer... and in very interesting times. An approaching energy crisis will likely force a revolution in farming and change the British countryside for ever. It will affect what we eat, where it comes from, and even the alarming question of whether there will be enough food to keep us fed. If our farm is to survive, it will have to change. In this film I'm going to find out how to make my family farm in Devon a farm that's fit for the future. I think when people sort of find out I was brought up on a small South Devon farm, they always think I must have had the most amazing childhood ever. When I think back to when I was brought up here, I just think of a load of bloody hard work really. We were just small time farmers and with that is involved not much money and a lot of hard work, to the point that it's almost drudgery. Dad often describes farmers as glorified lavatory attendants. And my family, like many farming families I think up and down the country, wanted something better for their children and I was actively encouraged to get out of farming, go and find a job, go and make a decent living. 'So that's what I did.' And while I was away pursuing my career, my dad and my uncle Phil carried on, as ever, farming in a pretty traditional way. But now it's time for me to come back. The thing is, both Phil and I now, we... I was going to say we're several years beyond retiring age and should have retired, and most farmers have done that, but we've kept the farm going and, um...kept it going as long as we can, trying to keep it as we found it, as we sort of inherited it. You know, I'm delighted to think somebody will take it on now and keep it going, hopefully. But it's not going to be easy because of pressures of all sorts of things... food shortages, oil prices going up... it's not going to be easy at all. Many would say, "Just sell it. "That would make more money in a heartbeat than a lifetime of working the land." But how can I turn my back on somewhere so beautiful, and a place that made me who I am? However, making a living while continuing to preserve all the wildlife on the farm, as Dad has done, is going to be a major challenge. The inconvenient truth is that this farm, despite being a haven for wildlife, is no more sustainable than any other. All the farms I know, including organic ones, are utterly dependent on fossil fuel, particularly oil. This dependence is dangerous for two reasons... climate change we all know about, but there is also growing evidence that the oil we need may soon be in short supply. Last year's fuel prices hit us badly and for me it was a bit of a wake-up call. I recently learned that those crippling fuel prices may be just a tiny taster of what's to come as world oil production begins to decline. If there's any truth to this matter, then this will be my biggest challenge in keeping our farm going into the near future. So I decided to track down one of the world's most respected authorities on the subject. After a distinguished 40-year career as a geologist in the oil industry, he continues his research from a small village in the west of Ireland. To Dr Colin Campbell, the facts about our oil supply are simple. Despite searching the world with all the advances in technology and knowledge and incentive and everything, we've been finding less and less for 40 years. And in 1981 was a kind of turning point when we started using more than we found in new fields, as we started sucking down what had been found in the past... eating into our inheritance, you could say. So I don't think there's really any serious doubt that we're close to this turning point. A sort of turning point for mankind, you could say, when this critical energy for agriculture in particular, which means food, which means people, is heading on down. And there's a huge debate raging of exactly the date and the height of the peak of production. And really I think this misses the point. It doesn't matter whether it's this year, next year, five years out. What matters is the vision that after this peak you have a decline of only 2% or 3% a year, but there's a huge difference between climbing for 150 years and descending for 150 years. What Colin is saying is this decline will mean fuel shortages and prolonged economic turmoil. I tend to agree with him. It doesn't matter whether it's two years or ten years away, the impact it will have on pretty much every part of our lives is huge. But for me the biggest concern is how it will affect farming... which means our food. I don't think most people have given it much thought how much fossil fuel goes into our everyday food. I just bought this garage sandwich just before we got on board... and I'm going to pull it apart and go through all the ingredients. I'm gonna start with the bread. So somewhere in the world some farmer has had to plant the cereal. First off, he's in a diesel-run tractor. So he has to plough the field... then harrow the field. Then he has to drill the seeds into the earth. And then to get the cereal to grow, he's probably had to add a load of chemicals. To protect the crop... fungicides, herbicides, insecticides - all made from oil. And for the nutrients, chemical fertilizers... and at the moment most of the farmers' fertilizer is derived from natural gas. Once the cereal has ripened, it needs to be harvested. Then the grain is dried using big heaters and then it's driven using even more diesel to be processed. And it isn't some little granny in a corner shop doing this. This is huge industrial buckets making this kind of bread. So then we move on to the inside and ham obviously comes from a pig and that's even more energy hungry because pigs are fed on grain. And one pig can eat nearly half a tonne of the stuff. And then, just to add to it, we've got a little token very sad piece of salad in there which was either shipped in, flown in or grown in a heated greenhouse. Once again a huge amount of energy. All of these ingredients were either cooked or cooled or both and driven mile after mile in a refrigerated lorry before they were assembled into a sandwich. Basically, this sandwich, like most of the food that we're eating today, is absolutely dripping in oil. And the way that our food production is today, if we didn't have places like this, then in this country we'd pretty much starve. My visit to Ireland has given me a lot to think about. Even on our little farm, without fossil fuel energy, farming and food production would grind to a halt pretty quickly and we would be left with, well, a nature reserve. And nature reserves don't feed people. This is such a serious issue, I'm guessing the rest of the farming world must be as concerned as I am. Perhaps some of them have some ideas on how to move forward. A major Soil Association conference on the future of British farming seems like a good place to start. We may all think we're immune here because we can nip along to Tesco Metro whenever we like in the middle of the night and buy something... that whole system is in jeopardy. How are you going to feed Britain? How are you going to feed London? 40% of the world's production comes from the 500 or so giant oil fields, half billion barrel oilfields. Most of those... They're certainly worried. And from what I'm hearing, the energy problem seems, well, imminent. It will hit us by 2013 at the latest, not just as an oil crisis but actually as an oil and indeed energy famine. Farmers are going to have to move from using ancient sunlight... using oil and gas... to using current sunlight. And that seems to me the most enormous challenge that agriculture has ever faced, certainly since the Industrial Revolution because we have so little time to do it. If we can get government to be part of that, so much the better, but if government won't be part of that, we'll have to do it without them. These are the new fundamentals on which the food system is going to have to be based or else we are buggered. The farmers' conference made it clear to me there are no easy answers. If our farms and machinery are so energy-hungry, what are the options without oil? Alternative energies are coming on leaps and bounds nowadays. Which one is likely to fit the bill? Over in California at the Post Carbon Institute, there is a man who has advised business, industry and governments on how to cope with oil depletion. Richard Heinberg kindly agreed to talk to me via the internet. I mean, surely with wind and solar and nuclear we could use all of this and the depletion of oil really isn't a problem? We've waited too long to develop alternative energy sources and there's also the likelihood that even all of these alternative energy sources put together won't be able to power industrial societies in the way that we've become accustomed to with fossil fuels. People have to understand that we've created a way of life that's fundamentally unsustainable. And that doesn't mean that it's just, you know, ecologically irresponsible, it means that it can't continue. The scale of the challenge ahead Richard is talking about becomes clear when you look at bio-fuels. Oil seed rape is the most productive bio-fuel crop in our climate. At Britain's current rate of oil use, a whole year's harvest from a four-acre field like this would be used up in less than one third of a second. That would be little help to agriculture as it stands today. Aside from transport, cars, trucks and airplanes, agriculture is the most fossil fuel intensive industry. We use in the industrial world about ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food we produce. So this is an enormous problem we've created for ourselves. We have solved enormous problems in agriculture before. In the past 50 years, agricultural technology has tripled crop yields and overcome everything nature has thrown at us. But all of these advances rely on abundant fossil fuel. In a sense, they have taken us exactly in the wrong direction to deal with this new problem. Even the latest technologies, like GM crops, regardless of the other arguments, are as utterly dependent on fossil fuel as any other. So where does this leave us? It's possible in fact that food systems could collapse not just in the poor countries, but also in the wealthy current food exporting countries like the United States, Canada and Australia. And we are going to have to transform our entire agricultural system very quickly if we're going to avert a global food calamity. So, does this mean a return to horses, carts and hand tools on our farm? I personally wouldn't know how to do this, nor would most farmers today. The knowledge of how to farm in this manner is all but gone. However, on the next door farm is a woman who knows a thing or two about it. My dear old friend, Pearl. 'Ello darlins, you waitin' for tea? You little beggars. They're handsome looking. Oh, they are. They're sweet. Do you know what that's for? No idea. Well, years ago we used to make hayricks. Right, yeah, and put all the hay out to dry. Out to dry. Well, then you'd go up with your wagon, you see, and you'd want a wagon load of hay. And you'd have to cut the hay across to take away a section to put on the wagon... and that you have to go like this. Oh, and literally cut like that? Yeah, like that. It's a good old weight, though, isn't it? We weren't mice. I wasn't big but boy I was strong. The Lord gave me a lot of strength. He certainly did, He gave you all a lot of strength and we don't realise how easy we've got it now I think, do we? You don't. For those tasks too heavy for people, there were horses... and Pearl was an incredible horsewoman. Oh, Pearl, look at that, wow. Look at those. Yeah, that's me bridles... Those are bridles. How many have you got, Pearl? Well, we had you see three big shires... Of course you did. When you had a horse and cart, well, it often was too big a load for one so you'd put that on the fore harness and that horse had a collar, that on it and two chains that came back and hooked into the front of the cart... So when you needed a bit more extra horsepower, literally... That's right, that one was there to pull. To get you up a hill. Yeah. At best, Pearl had a two horsepower system to help her with the heavy work. Today, farmers' tractors can be up to 400 horsepower. Trips off the tongue, doesn't it? 400 horsepower... but think what it actually means... 400 horses... that's the power we get from oil today. Do you know, today's energy supply is equivalent in energy terms to 22 billion slaves working round the clock. So we're basically living with this enormous stock of slaves working for us in the form of oil. But by the end of this century, there ain't any more of them. And that's a huge change we're facing. It affects just absolutely every aspect of the modern world. I often think how times have changed because you see we do all this work just to keep our cows going but now a bit of silage boy and it's all done mechanically and you can go and sit down. Your sons, if they had to farm like you did, do you think they would do it now? No, I don't think they would, I think they'd have more sense. But I was happy. This way of farming is something we couldn't go back to even if we wanted to. When Pearl was young, there was ten times as many farmers in this country and only half the number of mouths to feed. Also, most British farmers today just don't have the physical strength for hard manual labour. The average age of a farmer in Britain now is 60. And even worse, there's only 150,000 of them left. As an industry, British farming has effectively been left to die. And in recent years, more and more of our food is coming from abroad. The UK is a net food importer by a long shot, so this is a... This is a very perilous situation. Because of course all of that import has to come by way of fossil fuelled vehicles of one kind or another, whether it's ships or airplanes. And as fossil fuels again become more scarce and expensive, that means that that food is going to become more expensive and the whole system will start to creak and groan around the edges. Realistically, the only changes I can make are right here. And even that isn't as straightforward as it may seem. Ours is a traditional livestock farm. Raising beef and lamb on pasture may not look that fuel intensive, but there is one major problem. Bringing the cattle in in the winter for beef farming or dairy farming is just part and parcel of what we do in this country because of our climate. If we were to leave them out on the land, it's actually bad for the pastures because they carve up the grass and it hasn't got enough time to recover for the next spring. And obviously with the cattle in the barn, then they can't get to their grass. So we then have to bring their grass to them in the form of this hay. And the hay harvest by far is our biggest single use of machinery and fuel on this farm. This is why I was fascinated to hear about a farm up in Shropshire run by Charlotte Hollins and her brother Ben. Fordhall Farm is much the same size as our farm and like us, they raise cattle and sheep. But at Fordhall, the cattle stay out on the pasture all winter with little need for additional feed. I found it hard to believe, but as a result, the only machinery they have is a quad bike. The secret to this is underfoot. The grass. Even though we have hundreds of species of wild grass in this country, most farmers only use four, which they buy in a bag from a seed merchant. But not at Fordhall. And we've probably got almost 20 different species of grass here. Some are hardier than others, some will grow quicker than others and some have roots which go deeper down in the soil and bring minerals up and some have got much shallower roots which help then protect the soil across the surface. If you come down and have a look at the grasses here, you can see straight away that you've got a great big tight structure there at the bottom. It's like Scottish Tweed. Exactly. And even when you get to the soil, it's so matted up with roots, it takes an awful lot of force and effort to break through it. So it doesn't get trodden up to a muddy mess straight away. Then the cows and the sheep get the benefit of it and you get the benefit because you don't have to buy so much feed in. We know year on year it will work, there will be feed... We can produce beef, we can produce lamb, and we can sell it and we can make a living. And whatever happens to oil prices or anything else, we know we can keep going on that system. But these amazing grasses didn't happen by chance. Charlotte and Ben's late father, Arthur Hollins, was a bit of a local legend and a farming visionary. Dad started his way of farming just after the war but he spent his whole lifetime developing the system. And it was only just before he died in 2005 that he actually said, "I'm happy with this. "I think I've got the grasses right, I'm happy with the pastures." The soils on our farm are completely different to the ones here at Fordhall, so the grasses Arthur encouraged may not suit our fields back in Devon. But that's not to say we couldn't try something similar with other types of grass. Knowing which species to encourage may be just a case of careful observation. And that's exactly what old Arthur had to do because the pastures here weren't always so rich. Dad was always a great observer and he came through the woodland and he saw how much was growing here, especially during the summer months, and he wasn't touching it. But more importantly he wasn't paying for any of it to grow, it was just doing it. And he saw straightaway in the top few inches of leaf litter on the soil there was life, whether it be spiders, or woodlice or centipedes. And then you go down a little bit further and you start to see worms. But he couldn't see any of that in his soil he was ploughing and cultivating year on year. There was no sign of any life. It was dead. It was dead. And he got to then learn about all the millions of different bacteria and fungi that were also in the soil that keep it fertile, cycle the nutrients, that hold those nutrients in their bodies and release them to the plants, and they weren't in his soil. I mean, if you just look down, I mean, this is classic woodland soil, look how rich this is. Yeah. Exactly. And it's gorgeous, gorgeous rich topsoil. I mean, even there in that soil you've got bits of twig, the bits of leaf that are slowly being broken down to create soil. And the worms and everything else do that job for you. They eat it, process it through their bodies and you end up with worm poo, you know, which is soil, which feeds the plants. And without that life, you've got nothing to feed the plants to keep that system going. Taking the lessons he learned from the woodland, Arthur realised that to rejuvenate his fields he would have to go against one of the most fundamental principles of agriculture. The biggest thing Dad found was damaging the soil was exposure to sunlight. Overturning through ploughing. And Dad always said it would be like humans ripping off their skin... You know, it's not nice. No. And you know, and you don't survive. So why do it to the soil and why kill all those organisms in the soil that, at the end of the day, are your best friends? Are you telling us not to plough?. Yes. We've been ploughing for 10,000 years. It's what farmers do. Not ploughing is a pretty radical idea for any farmer. But looking at some old footage from our farm, the damage it causes is now pretty obvious. This is one of our fields back in the 80s. The life in the soil is a feast for the birds. After 20 years of the same treatment... No birds, the soil is dead. Turning the soil has been part of agriculture for millennia, but I guess with muscle power alone, the damage was slow to show. With diesel power, the destruction is much faster. The only reason modern agriculture can get away with killing the life in the soil is through another use of fossil fuel. This time it's by turning it into chemical fertilizer. These granules contain three essential plant nutrients. Nitrates, phosphate and potash. Over 95% of all the food grown in this country is totally reliant on synthetic fertilizer. Without it, we'd be in serious trouble. We've used fossil fuels, essentially, to grow plants in soil that is otherwise dead. And that works as long as we have the cheap fossil fuels with which to make the nitrogen fertilizer and to transport all the inputs and so on. But in the end, you know, when we don't have the cheap fossil fuels, we're going to need living soil once again. And that living soil is something that requires time and care to build, it doesn't just happen overnight. BUZZING This field is far more typical for our farm. It's called Orchid Meadow. And it's never been ploughed or dosed with synthetic fertilizer, yet it's clearly thriving. It just does feel like the whole thing's heaving with life, there's so many flowers, on a sunny day the whole place comes alive. And you've got the birds in the trees, but it just buzzes - the whole thing buzzes and you've just got so many insects. If you step over this, especially in an evening, and you walk through this, the insects come up in great big clouds. And it's all built on the foundation of healthy, living soil. After seeing Fordhall Farm, I can see by developing these pastures, we could reduce our dependence on oil. But, no matter how good the grasses are, rearing cattle takes a lot of land. Every study on the matter concludes that if Britain is to become more self-sufficient, we need to eat less meat. Now I'm realising, we'll probably have to diversify, changing not just how we farm, but what we farm. And this where I get stuck. Because I can see how you can farm cattle without ploughing and using natural fertility, but how do you grow everything else we need? Well, it seems there are a number of people around the world who have already grappled with this problem. They've developed a system known as permaculture. Britain's leading expert is Patrick Whitefield. Permaculture seems to challenge all the normal approaches to farming. You know, people often think that there are two ways of doing things. One is by drudgery and the other is by chucking fossil fuel at it. Now, permaculture is about a third way of doing things and that is by design, by conscious design. Basically, you're designing the labour out? Or are you designing the need for that energy out? Both. OK. So why does it take so much manpower and energy to sustain farmland when you look at a natural eco-system, and we've got a wood behind us, and that can just keep going? Because this inherently is not what the landscape wants to do. If you leave the landscape totally alone, it would turn into something like that. So that is the low energy option. In the natural eco system, there's no work - well not by any humans, there's no waste, and yet it's thriving. You know, look at it. It's easy to forget Britain used to be a forested island. And so much of the energy we expend in farming is just to stop it reverting back. But woodland has evolved over millions of years to be the most efficient growing system in our climate. In that respect, I can understand its appeal if you're trying to design the best way to grow food. But the obvious problem for me is, well, we can't eat trees. With all the greatest respect, a few wild berries, you can't... It's not a cornfield. Course it isn't, no, no. No, it's insignificant. What we've got to do is to take the principles of this and see how far we can bend them towards something more edible. 'A food growing system based on natural ecology really appeals 'to my naturalist side but the farmer's daughter in me needs a bit more convincing.' I suppose the big question is, could permaculture feed Britain? Yeah, good question, although the first question to ask actually is, can the present methods go on feeding Britain? Yeah, I suppose, yeah. And yeah, because actually, that is doubtful. Well, in the long term, it's absolutely certain that present methods can't because they're so entirely dependant on energy, on fossil fuel energy. So we haven't really got any choice other than to find something different. 'Last year, I may have dismissed permaculture as not proper farming, 'but with what I've learned about the oil situation, 'I'm keen to see it in practice.' A visit to a permaculture smallholding in the mountains of Snowdonia has given me the opportunity. Now, the farmland I'm used to seeing is clumps of trees surrounded by fields. But this is the complete opposite, a collection of small clearings in a massive woodland. It may not look like a farm, but it clearly works. For a few days work each week, Chris Dixon and his wife produce all the fruit, veg and meat they need and the fuel to cook it. But 20 years ago when they arrived, it was degraded, marginal pasture land. The first thing they did was to let much of the land return to its natural state. Now the fertility has returned to the land. Observing the forest as it regenerated offered all the inspiration they needed to design their smallholding. But it is a woodland still, and it is chaos. It is chaos, but chaos in this space is very, very highly ordered, very highly structured. It's just that we see it as untidy and a mess. Nature doesn't see it like that at all. Every plant is doing something useful, important, valuable on the site. So, for example, the gorse, fixing nitrogen, the bracken, collecting potash, that sort of thing. They gave me the feeling that every plant is important in some way. Everywhere you go on the Dixons' smallholding seems to be teeming with wildlife. How important is the biodiversity? So, we're hearing birds above us as well. How important is all of that to this system? Very important because by encouraging the birds, the habitat for birds, we're encouraging phosphate cycling through the system. So again, phosphates is another of the sort of crucial plant nutrients, every plant needs them. And phosphates, you'll find in things like insects and seed. So the birds that eat insects and seeds, they're accumulating phosphates and the excess comes out in their dung. So, up here in the mountains, there's no need for sacks of fossil fuel-derived nutrients, it's all done by nature - nitrate, potash, phosphate. And no need either, for petroleum based pesticides. We use ducks, Khaki Campbells, as slug control. We've kept ducks for 22 years and the Khaki Campbells are the best slug-eaters. Oh, really, there's a big tip. And it can be very difficult to find slugs in here during the summer, which is great. Fantastic, yeah. Chris's veg garden may look untidy to a regular gardener, but like in the woodland, every plant is serving a purpose. For example, some deter pests, some help drainage. Some encourage bees for pollination and others have long roots that pull up minerals deep from the soil. The largest clearings in the woodland are kept as pasture for the livestock. But the animals here don't just eat grass, they are benefiting from the trees as well. Nutrient-rich willow, lime and ash are all used as fodder crops. Feeding trees to animals, this is something I would never have thought of. We don't have much woodland on our farm, but what we do have are massive hedges and now I'm seeing them in a different light. Well, I've always thought of a hedgerow as a land division between two fields. And I've always... Well, I suppose on this farm, thought of it as a wildlife corridor as well. But I've never actually thought of it as a yielding crop. But their potential even just as a fodder crop is huge. I'd never noticed before how much the cattle like eating ash. And there is also a wealth of fruits here and that's with doing nothing at all. With a bit of careful steering, who knows how much a hedge could produce. Ironically, I've learned hedgerows could be much more productive than the fields they enclose and require much less work. You don't have to add anything, it's self-maintaining, you know, you're not having to tend it, it's just there in abundance. And why is it there in abundance? Because it wants to grow here. It's the natural food that should be here. The only difference is it's growing upwards and not across. Actually, by utilising the full height of trees and hedges, you can squeeze a much higher yield out of the same piece of land. Turns out just up the road from our farm is the best example in Europe of just how far you can take this way of producing food. Until now, I had no idea it existed. The man behind this pioneering system is Martin Crawford. This is a forest garden where there is a big diversity of trees and shrubs and other crops all growing together, very carefully designed so everything is working together, to give many different yields from the same space. The trees are spaced very carefully so that there's enough light getting into the ground layers beneath so you can actually grow something productive. Forest gardens are one part of permaculture where design is clearly inspired by nature. Something that makes a natural woodland so productive is it grows on many layers. It's rather like having half a dozen fields stacked on top of each other. A forest garden imitates each woodland layer but uses more edible and desirable species. This one down below my feet here is very low, it's called Nepalese raspberry. And it's a fantastic plant and it protects the soil from winter rain. And it saves on weeding. Yes, so there is no weeding to be done, you see. No. The garden floor is covered with fruit and veg and above them, the shrub layer is equally abundant, if not a little unusual. One of several hawthorn species. Massive thorns on it, but much bigger fruits and much tastier fruits. And the other side is a mulberry. You never see mulberry bushes nowadays. You don't but they're really nice fruits and quite easy to grow really. Another big salad crop from the forest garden are lime leaves. And I use them as a base, kind of a base ingredient, in a salad. Right. Like lettuce. OK, so they are your replacement for lettuce? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Big lettuce, Martin! A bit higher up are the fruit trees, like apples, pears, medlars, plums and quinces. And then there's the canopy where those trees that aren't producing food are serving other essential functions, like cycling nutrients. And the Italian Alders are a very good example. They're very fast growing and supply a lot of nitrogen to the plants around. And this is through the root system? It's through the leaf litter, which is still quite high in nitrogen. And the root system, and also through beneficial fungi, which link up everything under the ground and move nutrients around. If there's a lot of nitrogen in one place in the soil and a lack of nitrogen in the other, the fungi will move it for you. Everything is here for a reason, isn't it? Everything's here for a reason, often multiple reasons. So, you know, behind us, the mint here, this is horse mint which is one of the native British mints. The main use for this mint is actually to attract beneficial insects. It's fantastic at attracting hoverflies, which of course eat aphids amongst other things. So, you know, by having plants that attract beneficial insects, I don't get any pest problems. So no pesticides? That's right. Fantastic. That's right. Martin has over 550 species of plant in his forest garden. Surely a growing system this complex must require endless attention and work? Over a whole year, it probably averages out about a day a week, a lot of that is harvesting. Right. In terms of maintenance, well, say ten days a year. 'That's ridiculous! 'Compared to running a farm, that's virtually nothing. 'But how much food does it produce?' If designed for maximum yield, it can be very high. This forest garden isn't designed for maximum yield cos I'm experimenting a lot and I have a lot of unusual crops I'm trying, and so on. So, you know, in terms of one designed for maximum yield, you would be able to feed probably ten people an acre on a maximum yield forest garden. Really? OK. That's roughly double the amount of people that we can currently feed from an average acre of conventional arable farmland. It is an amazing low energy, low maintenance system, but what you can't grow in a forest garden are cereal crops. And we are rather addicted to our high carb diets. But as oil gets more expensive and farming begins to change, it will become necessary for us to broaden our diets and embrace new foods. Down the road from his forest garden, Martin has created a four acre nut orchard. It would help enormously if we could move more towards nuts and less towards cereals cos they are much more sustainable because they grow on trees. In other parts of Europe, France and Italy, there's a big tradition of growing hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts, walnuts. You know, an orchard crop like a sweet chestnut, it takes far less energy and maintenance to grow than a field of wheat. 'Less energy and maintenance maybe, 'but can the yield from nuts really compare with a cereal crop?' You're talking sweet chestnuts, two tonnes an acre or something, which is pretty much what you get growing wheat organically. And the composition of chestnut is almost identical, actually, to that of rice. OK. And it's very similar to the other grains in terms of calorific value. Even at this experimental stage, Martin's nut orchard and his forest garden have a huge output for such a tiny acreage. Back in Wales at the Dixons' equally small plot, there is a similar story of productivity. The whole site is seven acres, which now, after 22 years of the natural regeneration and the stuff we've done, it's too much for one family to harvest. Wow. So, you know, really, the smaller is better. To me, this is the big difference between farming and gardening. So I'm not a farmer, I would consider myself a gardener. Are you trying to say gardeners are the way forward, rather then farmers? I wouldn't say that gardening is better than farming, gardening is different from farming. But I would suggest that, as far as I can tell from what I've done in my own practical experience, and from what I've tried to find out, that gardening with hand tools is more productive and more energy efficient than farming. It's the attention to detail that a gardener can give to a small plot that makes it so productive. A veg garden with an experienced gardener can produce up to five times more food per square metre than a large farm. Supermarkets reliant on transportation and the industrial scale farms that supply them are unlikely to survive as oil declines. But a host of veg plots, allotments and smallholdings could easily make up for their loss. But only if we have a lot more growers. The dominant demographic trend of the 21st century, I think, is going to be re-ruralisation. That's not to say that the cities will all disappear, but the proportion of people involved directly in food production is going to increase. Think back to the Second World War, for example, there was the Victory Garden movement where everyone was growing a garden plot and something like 40% of fruit and vegetables were being produced from front yards and back yards and vacant lots, and so on. That's a model to imagine and look back to. But we also will need a lot more full-time farmers, otherwise, you know, what are we going to be eating? Feeding ourselves as oil goes into decline is clearly going to require a national effort and, in an ideal world, a bit of government leadership. But for my part, weaning this farm off fossil fuel is all I can do. And the pioneers I've met recently are a big inspiration. Now I've learnt to observe the land, and work with it rather then fight against it. I'm fascinated to find out what species of grass we have, and how I can improve our pastures. And how we can make the most out of our trees to benefit our cattle. But also I think we need to produce more than just livestock. Who knows, in a few years from now, we might even have a forest garden here. Although I'm not quite sure what Dad would make of that. But for any of these ideas to work, it's essential to continue preserving the farm's wildlife and work even harder to encourage greater biodiversity. Biodiversity is far more important to us than I ever gave it credit for. I just always thought it was pretty and it was, you know, it was a species we lived with. You know, now I've learned the big lesson that it keeps us going, it gives us food, it protects our food and it's crucial that we keep it. I'm so grateful for what my uncle and my dad have done on this farm because they've kept it all. But there is still so much work to be done here. And what drives me to make our farm a farm of the future is the knowledge that I have no other choice but to try. Of all the people I met, I think Dr Colin Campbell puts it best. What we can say now without any shadow of doubt is that petroleum man is just about extinct by the end of this century. That poses the thorny, difficult question, will Homo sapiens be as wise as his name implies and figure out a way to live without oil, which is the bloodstream of virtually everything? Subt�tulos en Ingl�s y Espa?ol: [email protected] Version 02.2, Oct 29 2010. Gracias a Wolfram Zucker por subttulos en alemn. Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd E-mail [email protected] Downloaded From

Video Details

Duration: 48 minutes and 39 seconds
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Producer: BBC
Director: Rebecca Hosking
Views: 2,272
Posted by: plasterius on Aug 10, 2010

Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family's farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key.

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