After WW2 Bomb factories produced petroleum chemicals for fertiliser and pesticides. Fertiliser use exploded. With petrol chemicals comes the increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, autism, cancer, Alzheimer and autoimmune diseases amongst others. Also the chemical processes of mining phosphate rock for example, are far from ‘tackling net zero’.
• Industrial agriculture has significantly lower nutritional content than the same foods produced a century ago.
If the guts biosphere is the natural enemy of the virus, our over reliance on penicillin along with our diet has weakened its effectiveness. Especially when soil health has no quick turnaround from the decades of petrol chemicals and pesticides that have leached into the substrate and water courses. On my own farm I reduced the reliance on fertilisers by experimenting with a rich supply of glover to oxygenate the pasture naturally. It was a big hit with the Bees.
Buy organic you ask? Well, the static wage coupled with inflation, keeps most of us tethered to the supermarket. Yet another battle of price/profit versus best practice is quickly being settled – and not in our favour. Organic farming is labour intestive. Less than 3 per cent of UK farmland is organic.
Let me begin by stepping back for a moment in history and see how we got here – its a cautionary tale… Starting in 1604, the Enclosure Acts, petitioned by landowners to enclose their entitlements, brought subsistence farming for the masses to an end. Fenced-out from vast tracts of commonage, along with vital foraging rights, the fabric of society had truly become undone.
Given the unknown future and the proximity to one another, is there really any hope of a return to the countryside with our youth continuing to see their futures out-sourced and automated? Nearly half of the country is owned 0.06 per cent of the population and we the people live on less than ten percent of this green Isle.
But there is a solution! A new green exodus, if you will.
For the purpose of simplification, lets call it a Land Reform Act. An Act comprised of a mixture of MOD land, Crown estate, NATIONAL TRUST also land compulsory- purchased from the big landowners (with a one off- acreage tax to find fair value, and thus finding the most accessible land with pre-existing infrastructure). Perhaps an offer from our would-be King would be the perfect spearhead? To assess viability and get the ball rolling, let me briefly lay out a possible model, point by point:
• The able-bodied would-be applicant would receive a short organic farming course followed by a hands-on experience with perhaps an Agri-college and the outline of their responsibilities in order to maintain their placement.
• The resulting Green Cert would give them an option to farm a parcel of land (that they are not permitted to sell off or rent out).
• The suitability of crops and animals would be matched to the terrain, as well as to the applicants own preferences. This would then be coupled with the required targeted training.
• Along with an eco-cottage, the land would have an out-building offering renewable off-grid sustainability.
• The land would be allocated seasonal planting, and targeted date-lines of the harvesting to be accomplished.
• The monopoly of the supermarket might slowly be joined by a network of farm co-operatives, and an ecosystem of satellite distribution centers supplying a national chain of farm shops, offering low-cost organic food for all.
Think of it as a job opportunity that come with a house and access to co-operative machinery and seed banks. A helping hand proffered to the younger generation, those from minority groups and inner cities, who have no hope of getting on the property ladder. This mass cottage industry would not only heal ‘soil health’ and ‘dietary change to restore biodiversity’, but also to a certain extent heal some ailments of society, lower our carbon footprint, stem the toxification of our watercourses and provide a great push against the housing shortage.
Now being outside the EU trading block it would also guard against global supply-chain impacts and punitive trade tariffs. I would also suggest a new green courses to be introduced into the school curriculum. But moreover a long term approach will improve the nations health, injecting a much-needed vitality to other fringe service providers, along side manufacturing and National supply links, that would have a ripple effect in multiple directions, ultimately releasing the pressure on the NHS.
By Dominic St Clair