Thanking the Earth: Our evolving food and farming strategy
The food choices we make directly impact our own health and that of the planet, but the farming sector is undergoing significant change, with impacts coming from many angles. Brexit and the changes to government funding, the radical focus needed on climate change and biodiversity, the need to deliver improved health and wellbeing outcomes all combine to demand change for how we farm and produce food.
At Earth Trust, our role as farmers and producers of food is an important part of our identity and the greenspaces we care for. Food itself is an important conduit to engaging people in the environment and the natural world. We have a part to play in advocating and demonstrating food production systems that support our priorities of biodiversity, climate and health.
As part of our refreshed outlook we revisited our Food and Farming strategy, which coincided with the publication of the government’s long-awaited food strategy.
Along with many others, we have expressed our concern about the watering down of earlier recommendations from food guru Henry Dimbleby, which we feel risk abandoning the cohesion of actions needed to support food production and ecological goals. Our aim is to respond to and influence future food and farming polices and to practice, test and demonstrate the financial make-up of greenspaces and the political incentives to farm with nature.
Underpinning this, is the emphasis that we need to place on healthy soils. 98%, of the food calories that we eat rely on soil.
Healthy soils reduce the need for chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. Healthy soils hold on to extra carbon and in addition, act as sponges, holding on to the water that might otherwise percolate, or run off a more intensively farmed arable field. So emphasizing and focusing our time on healthy soils is critical to the management of our farm and the impact it has on biodiversity and human health.
Over the next 5 years we are seeking to evolve our arable farm operations to reflect growing soil science principles – for example, by increasing the diversity of crops we grow and minimising soil disturbance, reducing tillage, protecting the soil surface with cover crops, using livestock within the rotation and keeping living roots in the soil. Much of the farm is grassland; and this too within the mixed farm significantly contributes to biodiversity, carbon sequestration and wellbeing.
Alongside this, we are seeking to connect more people with the food we grow and how it is grown, bringing local food and farming to life for our growing population so that more people support practices that are good for the soil, climate, nature and human health.
Our plans for the Earth Trust Centre include the development of a market garden in order to tell the farm to fork story. Once in place, this garden could offer an exciting opportunity for exploring community supported agriculture and providing produce, as well as eventually feeding our own café. It will also offers us the potential to further develop our Countryside Skills and other green skills development for all ages. We are developing the market garden concept further this year in readiness for fundraising for its establishment.
In the meantime we are planning an exciting Autumn season of family events and activities to involve communities in growing and harvesting, minimising food waste, and making sure food is fair and affordable. Our Thank the Earth season will include a Maize Maze, pumpkin harvesting and sunflowers – all with a focus on sustainable production practices that give back to the earth. For example, the maize will eventually be used for animal fodder, edible varieties of pumpkins and some sunflowers will be reserved for birds to eat.
Watch this space for news on how to get involved!