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23 Feb 2009

“A Farm for the Future”… essential viewing

I know from email and comments I have had that many of you watched and loved Rebecca Hosking’s programme that was shown on BBC2 on Friday called ‘A Farm for the Future’.  The programme looked at Rebecca’s father’s farm in Devon, and at her wanting to rethink the farm in the light of peak oil.  The programme introduced the nation to such permaculture luminaries as Martin Crawford, Patrick Whitefield and the wonderful Chris Dixon, as well as to the work of the late Arthur Hollins (who I was fortunate enough to meet in the mid 90s).  You can watch the programme for the next 24 days here

It featured a crash course in peak oil from Colin Campbell and Richard Heinberg, a trip to the Soil Association conference, a trip round Martin Crawford’s forest garden and much more besides.  There was some great archive film of horses and hayricks, and perhaps the bit that struck me most, some film from the early 80s of her dad ploughing their fields, followed by a riot of birds, all wanting to get at the soil creatures being exposed by the ploughing, which she contrasts with now, the tractor ploughing the same field, but with not a bird in sight, so impoverished has the soil life become.

It offered a powerful combination of looking back and looking forward, underpinned all the time by her clear deep affection she has for the farm itself. and the deep respect she has for both her father and his work.  It was surprisingly personal and moving.  For me, the proof of this programme was a visit yesterday from my father in law, not usually one to be interested in such things, who had seen the programme, loved it, and told me excitedly that he now knew that hedgerows could be productive, and that fossil fuels are running out.  He was very impressed with the agroforestry side of things, and I suspect that many people also watched it and found themselves similarly having Eureka moments as regards some of the insights about soil, ecosystems and the idea that food production need not necessarily involve huge tractors and lashings of diesel. It was also very powerful for people to start to realise that food production and biodiversity are not necessarily, as is often believed, mutually exclusive.

The only things I thought might have been done differently were firstly that it might have been good to also interview someone who disagreed with the ideas put forward in the programme as regards farming, i.e. some Monsanto bod who argues that we have no need for soil anyway, as agriscience can adapt and create new systems (I have actually heard a talk by someone arguing this).  This would have helped see these debates in the wider context.  Also, I felt that at the end, it would have been great to see her doing something that symbolised her making a start in turning her family’s farm around, based on all that she had learnt.  Even just to have seen her plant a walnut tree on the farm would have moved the story from ideas and aspiration to firm steps.

Anyway, that said, ‘A Farm for the Future’ is quite brilliant.  As Tim Lang says in the programme, in his typical forthright fashion, “these are the new fundamentals on which the food system is going to have to be based or else we are buggered”.  Indeed.  We are all in Rebecca’s debt for so passionately and coherently showing the nation both that food and farming is in desperate need of a Plan B, and that that Plan B could actually be more biodiverse, more resilient, more beautiful and nourishing, than what we have come to view as ‘normal’.

If you liked this programme, do write to the BBC’s Points of View programme and let them know.  We need a lot more programmes that address this subject, and apparently Points of View is one of the BBC’s key ways of telling what people enjoyed and would like to see more of… “Dear BBC.  Why, oh why, oh why…..” is generally the accepted way of starting a letter to them….

Categories: Food, Peak Oil, Permaculture

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


James Samuel
23 Feb 9:10am

Hi Rob – my father (in Dorset and involved in the Child Okeford Sustainability Initiative) pointed me to this a few days ago. Unfortunately the Beeb do not deem us Antipodeans worthy of access to this and some other clips on their site. So much for the internet being equal access for all.

I wonder if you may be able to help us out down here, by pointing us to another site where this film may be viewed?

Tom A
23 Feb 9:45am

If you don’t live in the UK and want to get a copy (also lots of other good UK TV) I can highly recommend:

You might need to make a donation but it’s worth it – probably for this program alone which as Rob rightly highlights was a joy to watch. Great to see Martin Crawford clearly showing that sweet chestnut yield per acre is very comparable to organic wheat but with much less work and far more additional benefits. Now to get a big Norfolk barley barren to put down 8000 acres of sweet chestnut and at the same time get 100,000 urban early adopters to commit to converting a large proportion of their diet away from grains into nuts – now there’s an experiment I’d like to see!

Tom A
23 Feb 9:48am

Ah – just noticed that thebox isn’t accepting new sign-ups at the moment…. patience required.

Louise Pen y Graig
23 Feb 12:06pm

I watched the programme with my husband the other night and thought it was excellent. Chris Dixon has been a great source of inspiration for me and I’ve also done the forest gardeingn course with Martin Crawford so it was great to see them both on television. but the best part was the ‘eureka moments’ my husband had. I’ve been banging on about peak oil and the damage that ploughing and digging do for ages but never got the impression he beleived me! The film changed all that. Now he’s wondering if we can improve our grass (as in the Hollin’s farm) and wants to tell the farmer next door all about it. He also understands why I’m converting our holding along permaculture principles and planting a forest garden. I hope we get more programmes like this.

Marcin Gerwin
23 Feb 12:10pm

James, I also live outside UK, and if you use Firefox then you can watch the movie on the BBC iPlayer website after making some small adjustments in your browser. I feel a little strange writing this, but for the sake of organic farming and agroforestry here you go (Rob, I hope you don’t mind):

You need to install a plugin for the Firefox, which is called “FoxyProxy” which is used to manage proxy server settings. Follow the steps described here:

Then go to the last post on the forum (Mon Feb 16) to find out the key data.

And… that’s it. You can watch the movie on the official BBC iPlayer website here:

The movie is really wonderful, and that’s why I decided to describe this little trick to help the viewers outside the UK. I hope that British taxpayers won’t mind :) Rob, perhaps you could delete this comment after a day or two.

Graham Burnett
23 Feb 12:11pm

I don’t know if its just co-incidence but over the weekend following this program airing i sold 8 copies of my Permaculture Beginners Guide book (as reviewed by Rob a couple of weeks ago here ) through my website (usually I sell maybe one or 2 a week) and Amazon ordered 22 copies (normally they take 3 or 4 every few weeks…)…

This would be a great film to show at our Transition Westcliff film club, anybody know if its available to actually download as opposed to watch online??

23 Feb 1:10pm

Hi Rob, I thought the programme was excellent too. It’s brilliant to see this on at peak time BBC2 and well done to all those involved. The ploughing scenes were very powerful and my parents in law who just happened upon the programme have been talking about it and saying how it was a real eye opener. To get so much in about peak oil, permaculture, energy dependence (and even ‘transition’ in the last line!) in under an hour and still make the programme feel enjoyable to watch is quite an achievement I think. I look forward to the follow up and seeing how Rebecca gets on.

23 Feb 2:51pm

Hi Rob

… and this ain’t all! On Wednesday evening,
25th February on Channel 4 at 9.00 pm
Daren Howarth’s Groundhouse project is going to be on Grand Designs.
The Earthship really has landed!

23 Feb 5:37pm

Hi all,

I’d really love to see the programme, but as mentioned above, the BBC won’t allow access from outside the UK. Maybe someone recorded it and could upload it as a torrent, it would be much appreciated.



23 Feb 6:49pm

A wonderful piece of TV to be sure but I’m becoming increasingly disturbed by uncritical references to ‘bijou’ projects such as the ones in this programme. It’s always very difficult to tell the scale of ‘hidden subsidies’ (e.g. voluntary labour) in these places. Also the reference to Sweet Chestnut – a non-native tree traditionally grown in Kent and Sussex (the sunny places) for coppice. Admittedly global warming is making it more attractive in other areas now (ha ha) but I believe that the yield from Sweet Chestnut here in N Devon over the last two years would have approached zero.
Suppose all this productivity was physically possible. A lot more people would be required on the land. The big issue is that of gaining access to the land for cultivators.

pete rout
23 Feb 7:29pm

aren’t you all lucky.. Friday night as usual in Wales is rugby. The story on Mail on line said that it was to be repeated on sunday but no show. Have now downloaded from I player

lucy conway
23 Feb 10:51pm

hi there
does anyone know of any farms (not small holdings) in Scotland which are being farmed using permaculture and/or organic principles. Ideally hill farms, but really any farm would be of interest.


Noel Longhurst
24 Feb 8:58am

Hi Rob

This is what that person might have meant by not needing soil

It would be interesting to see what people think of such ‘industrial’ schemes? One thing that worries me is the impact of changing weather patterns on growing. For example, the Devonian farmers I have spoken to have had a really tough few years. What if this is just the start of the disruption? For that reason I can forsee more schemes such as this one which offer a controlled environment, whilst the external environment becomes more volatile.

I would also be interested if any of the permaculture bods can give me some examples of people who make a living (or perhaps are self sufficient) from Permaculture without cross-subsidising themselves? I.e. is it economic under the current (flawed) economic system?

24 Feb 9:19am

Came across this programme by accident and was transfixed. Picked up a copy of the Transition Handbook the previous weekend so it was surprising to see so many subjects coming together for me in one week.

24 Feb 10:26am

DaveDann makes an interesting point about “bijou projects” and the fact that “It’s always very difficult to tell the scale of ‘hidden subsidies’ (e.g. voluntary labour) in these places.”

I would posit that no system exists in a vacuum and we may well try to examine the “hidden subsidies” in non-bijou projects, like subsidised fossil fuels, government controlled pricing schemes for some commodities, a highly subsidised roads system, an industrial-war complex that makes it all possible…etc.

I would also suggest that as things progress, almost any agricultural venture will be expanding beyond pure cash sales to more creative exchanges of product for product, product for labor, etc. as a greater portion of its custom. Creativity will win the day, if anything.

24 Feb 12:06pm

Re. the point about cross-subsidy.

Our straw-bale/cob house in Northern Spain, Abrazo House, is being built with substantial amounts of volunteer labour. I don’t consider that we are ripping off the volunteers in any way, because (a) the type of work they are doing is far more fun and pleasant than work on a typical construction site, and (b) they come in order to work and learn.

I know of some places that charge people to come and work as volunteers… now that’s a rip-off.

24 Feb 1:40pm

Many thanks to Marcin. Worked first try (don’t know if that’s ever happened before!). Looking forward to watching it tonight.


Noel Longhurst
24 Feb 2:41pm

Re: cross subsidy

I agree with Lucy that there are way of looking at ‘the economy’ which go beyond monetary exchange and also that there are definitely perverse subsidies within the industrial system. That it is why I was trying to suggest that judging the potential of permaculture in the current economic system is not completely fair.

However, I would still be interested in examples of permaculture in practice which produces a surplus to sell on the market or by which the practitioners are able to live self-sufficiently.

I am no expert on permaculture but many of the examples I have seen seem to generate income through training courses, which is the subsidy that I was thinking of in particular.

24 Feb 3:06pm

Good point, Noel. My guess is that because permaculture would counsel against putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket, income from a diverse “range of products” (including teaching, design consulting, etc.) would be considered integral to the sytem, rather than an artifical or external subsidy to buttress the viability of the venture.

Other permaculturists would not be interested in those other modes of revenue generation and would focus completely on production for self or market. I must admit that all those practitioners I know of personally are diversified and don’t rely 100% on, say, agricultural production for their livlihoods.

Noel Longhurst
24 Feb 4:47pm

Thanks Lisa, the point about diversified incomes is a good one. (and apologies for calling you Lucy – trying to doing three things at once, as ususual).

I think my original question still stands though. If permaculture want to be taken seriously as a production system in these surely it needs to show it can produce? After all, in my limited knowledge,I think the productivity of permaculture is said to be one of its great strengths. I say this as a sympathetic novice!

Marcus Eoin
24 Feb 5:35pm

I don’t know if Rob will frown upon this, but I think the documentary is too important for people outside the UK to miss it. The BBC have gone a long way to avoid making programs about peak oil or climate change (just look at the way the Earth Day never happened, clearly Comic Relief is more important than the end of life as we know it), so it’s a miracle this program somehow slipped through the thoughtcrime filter at the beeb. I won’t post a link, but if you google Mininova A Farm For The Future, it’s up there. The aspect ratio has been encoded wrongly but if you set your screen to 16:9 or 14:9 it’s fine.

Josef Davies-Coates
24 Feb 7:24pm

Graham/ all: I’ve ripped the DVD of the show that Patrick Whitefield got given so now have it on my portable usb hard drive ready to disseminate! 😛

Also, looks like you can download it from here: :)



Graham Burnett
24 Feb 7:42pm

> Other permaculturists would not be interested in those other modes of revenue generation and would focus completely on production for self or market. I must admit that all those practitioners I know of personally are diversified and don’t rely 100% on, say, agricultural production for their livlihoods.

Too true – at the moment my main income source is driving a minibus for a council run day centre…

Graham Burnett
24 Feb 7:43pm

Cheers Josef, also Tom for the Box tip!

24 Feb 8:31pm

Thanks to all those who responded, first or second hand to my previous comments.
I’m certainly not against part-time farming. Indeed it strikes me as a sensible diversification and a society of part-time farmers is very healthy, I think. It is also ‘traditional’ amongst the smallholding community. Note though that survival requires that the part-time farmers grow enough surplus to feed everyone.
As for ‘permaculture'; it appears to be the underpinning ideology of the Transition Movement yet we have precious few (any?) examples of its operation in the U.K. – free from establishments that don’t earn cash from permaculture training courses (a sort of ‘pyramid selling’?). Call me a ‘doubting Thomas’ if you like but it seems a fragile thread on which to hang the future of humanity.
Unfortunately I’m old enough (52) to remember campaigning for allotments in the 1970s and now get deja-vu. BBC2 Tv programmes then promoted the wonderful idea of ‘no-dig’ plots covered by old carpets. Years later I was still uncovering carpets covered by bramble and riddled with couch grass. This haven’t moved on much. Beware the easy answers (Sweet Chestnut!) sold on TV programmes to gullible townies!

Richard Chisnall
24 Feb 9:52pm

It’s an excellent programme – both as inspiration and a warning. I got a terrible sinking feeling when I saw the tractor with no birds behind it – when I was a lad (in the 70s), that was what gulls & rooks did! I was stunned to realise that I hadn’t noticed how they’d stopped following the plough.

Here in Glastonbury we want to show it at a big Somerset in Transition event we’re having on May 30th…does anyone know how to get permission for that sort of thing from the Beeb?

Josef Davies-Coates
24 Feb 10:41pm

“Its always better to beg forgiveness than permission” – Ricardo Semler 😉

Tim Green
24 Feb 10:57pm

The BBC rule seems to be – go ahead and show it but don’t charge for entry. Doesn’t say anything about donations for another cause though!
As far as we are concerned (maybe not official policy?), we made the film using license payers money so technically you own it.
Certainly the last film we made for the Beeb, they were perfectly happy for community screenings so long as there was no direct profit from the showing.

Johan Nissen
25 Feb 8:13pm

Hi Rob,

I also loved the film – a really good way to raise awareness of these very important issues.

I would perhaps like to add that I think that the producer is wrong when she implies that Peak Oil means running out of oil and that everything needs to be done without fossil fuels as of tomorrow. My belief is that oil will be with us for a long time to come. More expensive, yes, but still there.

25 Feb 9:32pm

DaveDann, I haven’t see the programme but I can say it is possible to do an amazing amount of farm work by hand provided you are prepared to put the time in and really work your butt off. We don’t have a tractor on our croft, I work the place full time and we manage fairly well although it is very, very hard work.

I have a chest plough for ridging potatoes, I use hoes for digging up to half an acre a time, I use a scythe to mow the grass, and I carry 150-200kg pig huts on my shoulders (step inside, take the weight, lift and carry). Watering the pigs involves carrying 200 litres of water out to them every day, 20 litres at a time. I cover many miles while preparing the potato field, then the same again weeding and earthing them up, and then the same lifting them (although a neighbouring farmer came over last year with a 1950s tattie spinner as he took pity on us).

Oh, and I use a pedal trike instead of a car, transporting our two boys over hilly terrain.

I wouldn’t recommend it to most people, but if you’re a bloody minded cuss with a taste for manual labour, then it’s a brilliant life.

25 Feb 10:13pm

Stonehead! I sympathise with you. Many’s the time I just feel like a pack animal. I just hope that my back and hands hold out. It can be a fine life when the weather’s good but somehow I don’t think that most city folk would adapt easily to it.
Can you tell me if you know any supplier of chest/breast ploughs as that would be a useful tool to have?

Andy Williamson
25 Feb 10:45pm

Great programme – thanks to Josef for the link (and great to meet you at Embercombe last weekend).


Graham Burnett
26 Feb 12:15am

DaveDann, would it be possible to make your points without the disparaging remarks about ‘gullible townies’ and their inability to understand what hard work is all about? personally I find these comments unhelpful, just as I would if an urban dweller were to post here stereotyping rural dwellers as ignorant ‘country bumpkins’ or similar.

And for the record, I too have excavated more than my fair share of couch-infested carpet from derelict allotments, which is why our allotment committee have banned them, and why when running permaculture courses I stress the importance of understanding and working with existing ‘local cultures’ (such as allotment committees!), and that there might well be good reasons behind apparently arbitrary ‘rules and regulations’

Cheers Graham

26 Feb 8:42am

Graham. I certainly didn’t mean to cause offence and if I did so then I apologise. Clearly there are ‘gullible’ townies and ‘non-gullible’ townies.
I’m very glad that your committee have banned carpets. My point is that the carpets are there because they were promoted as a ‘fad’ and an easy way of gardening. My concern is that the current wave of apparent enthusiasm for allotments does not similarly get sold faddish ideas and TV is a good medium for this.
(I don’t think I in any way meant to imply that townies didn’t know the meaning of hard work – you wouldn’t catch me commuting on the Central Line or the M25 anymore!)

26 Feb 9:29am

DaveDann, we got our chest/push plough from a friend of a friend who had one lurking in a shed. We also have a wheeled hoe and a wheeled cultivator that we found in the same way. We’ve seen them at the occasional roup/dispersal sale. They’re quite easy to use—for the first 40m row of tatties but somewhat harder when you’re on the 40th row!

[…] For those elsewhere there may be some helpful comments on Rob’s blog post: a-farm-for-the-future-essential-viewing […]

Graham Burnett
26 Feb 5:59pm

Davedann, sorry if I appeared over-sensitive, I think maybe I was slightly tetchy last night having been ‘working’ in one form or another (ranging from driving for the council through to log splitting for our Rayburn via trying to organise my program of Spring permaculture courses and designing flyers for same to planting currant bushes in my forest garden) solidly from Sunday to Weds with only 30 minutes of ‘rest’ time in that period apart from eating and sleeping!

Your points about gardening ‘fads’ is valid, I was endorsing it by sharing my experiences re. carpets on allotments. My point really is that permaculture is an ethically based design system that is applicable not only to farming and food production, but also to social and community organisation, which is why it underpins the Transition Movement. I don’t agree that the permaculture design course or the 2 day intro course are ‘pyramid selling’, although you might argue that as I make part of my living from teaching permaculture that I would say that wouldn’t I! Personally i think the value of the various formats of permaculture teaching is to give participants a fresh ‘designers eye’ applicable to a whole range of contexts and situations, and overwhelmingly the feedback from participants has been “Wow, you’ve really made me look at things in a different way!” when at the beginning often they had expected that they were simply going to be learning a bunch of gardening techniques like sheet mulching or how to grow mushrooms on a log. That said I fully agree and take seriously the notion that permaculture teachers have a responsibility to be honest, open and accountable, and not to perpetuate myths that arn’t tried and tested, or at least be honest about their potentail drawbacks or limitations. Rob raised the example of the chicken greenhouse a little while back, which although oft used as an example of ‘permaculture in action’ by teachers would appear to be at least semi-mythological – everyone seemed to know ‘a friend of a friend’ who’d done the chicken greenhouse thing, nobody seemed to have any direct experience of them…

Cheers for now Graham

Peter John
26 Feb 9:15pm

Check this comment way down the page to get a torrent copy of the movie:

Josef Davies-Coates
24 Feb 7:24pm

Graham/ all: I’ve ripped the DVD of the show that Patrick Whitefield got given so now have it on my portable usb hard drive ready to disseminate! 😛

Also, looks like you can download it from here: :)



Graham Burnett
27 Feb 9:03am

Tim said > Certainly the last film we made for the Beeb, they were perfectly happy for community screenings so long as there was no direct profit from the showing.

Tim – can you advise as to who we should ask or contact to clarify this? As a rule I’m much more in Josef’s ‘better to beg forgiveness’ camp, but as Southend Borough Council have already been sniffing around Transition Westcliff’s ‘film club’ to make sure we have the correct licenses for showing films in public maybe we’d better err on the side of caution…

Graham Burnett
27 Feb 9:10am

Further reply to DaveDann re viability of sweet chestnut growing in Devon – personally I don’t know the answer regarding this, however perhaps Martin Crawford could provide some data here (or at least link to it if he’s too busy?) to support what he said on the programme. I’m the first to admit that sometimes overenthusiastic permaculture advocates can make exagerated claims about yields (not least Mr Mollison himself!), but Martin doesn’t strike me as being this sort of person, his work always strikes me as very sober and well researched.

[…] a copy.There’s some interesting discussion about the programme on the Transition Culture site at: Posted by Richard in Food | Comments (0) Trackbacks Trackback specific URI for this […]

David Henry
27 Feb 6:35pm

The video is available here for those in the US lik me…

streaming, no download required

David Henry
27 Feb 6:38pm

Well it looks like only a part of it. I’ll see if I can find the whole thing.

2 Mar 9:17am

I watched the film over the weekend (downloaded via torrent – thanks for the tip!) It was one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in ages. It would be great to see a follow-on film in a year or two about what changes the filmmaker has made to her farm.

I went on a course with Martin Crawford 18 months ago and he’s definitely an extremely knowledgeable person. But I would really like to see an example of a forest garden system in a cold-temperate climate that supports 10 people per acre, which is the figure he cites in the programme. Maybe there are some in the Himalaya…

Josef Davies-Coates
2 Mar 1:00pm

Thanks for all the thanks for the torrent link.

FYI is (and many others) was very easy to find…

Just do a google search for “name of film” .torrent


2 Mar 2:39pm

I thought it was a superb programme – very aligned with Transition movement – I was actually quite surprised it wasn’t mentioned in the film.

I really want to help her out in some way – I think a blog/website that documents the progress for the farm would be a great idea – I would be willing to help set it up if I can get hold of Rebecca…

Also – a gentle pointer to “beebhack” for the curious 😉

2 Mar 5:02pm

Graham – many thanks for your postings. When I first got involved with Transition I didn’t realise its relationship to Permaculture. I had certainly not heard of the application of Permaculture to social and community oganisation and assumed that each Transition Initiative would be free of any central direction of this sort.
My introduction to working on the land was through nature conservation work and when I think of ‘permanent agriculture’ I think of coppice woodlands (like Hayley Wood) or of the sheep grazed Wiltshire Downs. These are systems that have endured for thousands of years but I cannot remember ever hearing them mentioned by permaculturalists, who will happily quote the latest Australian project. Hence I have been thinking of permaculturalists as ‘a funny lot’. However I think there is a project in South Devon with an Open Day later this year and I’ll see if I can get down there for a look.

Jason Cole
3 Mar 5:14pm

BTW the relevent POV thread is here:

I thoroughly enjoyed the programme, very well thought out and incredibly coherent. The ploughing clips really did hit home.

Another BBC2 programme, “Grow Your Own Drugs” is currently on, and is very interesting.

Antony Macer
5 Mar 10:09am

Thanks everyone for the advice on how to download the programme. On the service I used, over 500 downloads have already been made. If in doubt when doing so, opt for the 16:9 format.

7 Mar 4:47pm

Rebecca said she uses most fossil fuel for haymaking because she can’t leave the cows out in winter because their hooves cut up the turf.

She needs cattle shoes. Not a ridiculous idea ( see for the basic concept). However, my idea is that these cattle shoes would be bigger than the cow’s hoof, and spread its weight so that it wouldn’t sink into the mud and tear up the grass, just like a show shoe does.

7 Mar 5:28pm

We use a scythe for mowing—both for hay making and general topping. It’s quite enjoyable, although we find the sixth acre a little more tiring than the first five…

Robin P Clarke
7 Mar 11:27pm

Graham: “I don’t agree that the permaculture design course or the 2 day intro course are ‘pyramid selling’,”
But more important than whether you agree or not is whether you can adduce any reason for doubting it – and you didn’t. Instead you ran off into a bypass as follows:
“Personally i think the value of the various formats of permaculture teaching is to give participants a fresh ‘designers eye’ applicable to a whole range of contexts and situations,”
Really, Graham? Don’t you think that the key thing that is (supposedly) the great value of permaculture is the practical ability to provide useful amounts of food?
This ties in with my previous reservations about Rob’s book (psych section) and TT more generally, namely the preoccupation with being “positive” to the extent of failing to appreciate the crucial value of “negative thinking” in weeding out flawed ideas rather than letting them take over and waste immense time and effort.

Robin P Clarke
7 Mar 11:37pm

Superb program by the way, but I am a bit mystified about the notion that non-ploughing of grazing land is radical. Malvern Hills (baa-baas) haven’t ever been ploughed and nor has Studley Park (village common with moo-moos). But is ploughing perhaps the norm on non-common land? (Meanwhile Farmers Weekly is full of articles about how to carry on marshalling your tons of machinery into the Twilight of the Gods.)

The Sentient Carrot
8 Mar 10:00am

This is now available as a TORRENT on Piratebay for all of you who want it more permanently. Great programme. Enjoy

The Sentient Carrot
8 Mar 10:08am

In addition to the previous post, it’s a much smaller file than the mininova torrent therefore more download friendly.

8 Mar 4:10pm

Hi guys you can now see the whole film online here

Josef Davies-Coates
8 Mar 5:36pm

The video is currently on google video too :)

If you’ve still not seen it, catch it while you can!



Robin P Clarke
8 Mar 10:55pm

Some points raised in discussion with friends ‘n enemies..
(1) On the question of how sound Martin is in his reckoning of supporting 10 persons per acre – I suspect this may be a case of gambler’s fallacy. Thing is if a gambler has ten out of ten horses winning, he may see this as near-proof evidence that he has a winning system, whereas in reality the probability of getting 10/10 by fluke is not that amazing. So maybe Martin in favourable circumstances (location, weather, other flukes) partly by fluke gets 10-person yields. But add in a year of horrendous weather, less competent workers, etc, and you may be struggling. I suspect that forest-gardening is more weather-stable, but how much?

Robin P Clarke
8 Mar 11:09pm

(2 etc) Ploughing of pasture has surely not been a common practice anyway. More to the point is Fordhall Fm’s use of the mix of grasses. Plus other factors of course.
(3) Using ducks to control slugs – magic solution? But then the ducks eat food themselves (I am told) and you have to expend time looking after them (or do you?)
(4) Permaculture appears to be lacking in large systematic trials in support, sufficient to answer above points. To greater or lesser extent this may just be due to the difficulty faced by valid innnovation in the face of a conservative industry driven by hostile big agribiz. Or not. I wouldn’t want to be too dogmatic either way on this.

8 Mar 11:19pm

Robin have you heard of John jeavons???

Because Crawfords 10 people per acre is very conservative figure compared to Jervons and others gardeners .
But I think what we had to take onboard is it’s experienced gardeners not farmers that produce these high yields.

Robin P Clarke
8 Mar 11:34pm

Thanks Sam,
Curious that JJ is in Willits CA, a small remote town where Jason Bradford has his garden/farm as discussed a few weeks back on . I suspect that the lower latitude makes a huge difference (ditto Cuba); like how about growing grapes in Scotland.

Second issue is that apples may be being equated with oranges. The only food that suffices itself as diet appears to be potatoes. Are we talking a whole diet here? This question also arises in the official notion that the uk produces 60% of its food. I’ll bet that JJ is predicated on an assumption of vegetarian on which sadly not everyone can thrive (metabolic food types).

Actually I had started reading Farmers Weekly to try to learn a bit more of what might be involved, and yet I suspect that conventional farming actually doesn’t have so much to teach us except what isn’t going to work.

Robin P Clarke
8 Mar 11:43pm

Jason Bradford certainly wasn’t doing perma, but then his plot started out covered in dense weed (fengue was it called?) so had to dig. Theoildrum earlier featured “Wyoming” trying to self-sustain on minimal energy, who said he had to put in a huge amount of work and would reckon on about a person per acre. But then maybe these two are making it inefficient by not being perma enough?

Robin P Clarke
8 Mar 11:48pm

Anyway I’ll stop boring everyone with my speculating and get on to studying John Jeavons’s articles!

9 Mar 12:03am

I’ll have a go at answers these for you Robin, I’m sure others will want to as well…

Ploughing ley pasture is very common practice today particularly since most farms now use silage to feed cattle into winter not hay.
By using rye grass the yield is high ( and fast) but the nutritional value is low.
But because the pasture has not time to fix a “bottom” ( root structure) rye tends to become impoverished after a few years so it’s re-ploughed and sowed with new seed.
Alas today re-seeded leys are far for more common then permanent pasture (unless you’re in a moorland/mountain area)

I know a little of the Fordhall system

Permanent pasture at Fordhall is quite special because of the mix of species and most of those species are perennials rather then hay or silage mix which tend to be annuals. Also the root structure or “bottom” is developed by rotation of cattle grazing which is highly monitored.

3 khaki campbells are a pretty self maintaining breed and you can leave them to their own devises , let them out in the morning put them in at night. As well as slug control for the bother of letting them out you get free eggs and you can’t say you get that with slug pellets. :)

4 “this may just be due to the difficulty faced by valid innnovation in the face of a conservative industry driven by hostile big agribiz.” bang on the money with this one!!!

Robin P Clarke
9 Mar 12:52am

I notice several big-profit-spinnner opportunities in your account of McFarming above. And right on cue, LloydsUK Bank are heing ordered to hand out loans to us entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile (more seriously) I’m wondering if Sam/anyone has any advice about how best to go about growing one’s knowledge of food growing. I note the above John Jeavons, and also looks quite sensible. Ultimately one has to physically work with a particular site and products but meanwhile there’s a lot of generalisable knowledge. (Being stuck in central Birmingham may not help.)

9 Mar 1:30am

Hi Robin,
Well it’s not Mcfarming I was talking about I was just talking about standard normal british farming, if you get into Mcfarming (or the Barley Barons as we call them) then the story gets a lot bleaker…
But yes many ,actually I would say 99% of farmers in this country (including many organic) are stuck on the big agribiz treadmills, whether its bought in feed or fertilizers or sales or all of the above and Defra’s legislation does not help the situation one bit.

Where to start… my answer would be soil, soil micro’s and fungi,
I would strongly recommend you look into this.
They boast your yields and protect from decease.
a few links to look at
Brilliant book – Mycelium Running

Paul Stamets: 6 ways mushrooms can save the world TED

Some useful stories on this site, as well as trying to sell you kits..

Robin P Clarke
9 Mar 8:34am

Which raises the question of how much legislation constraions low-tech growing. I’m guessing it largely hangs on what you do with the food marketing-wise, for instance unpasteurised is allowed for sale only onsite(?). In terms of veggies, just steer clear of knotweed etc? And if you eat it all yourself probably only a minimum of red tape applies?
Mushrooms – B’ham univ has seven books of mushrooms, one had been loaned out 2 yrs ago, another 5 yrs ago, and the others never borrowed. And this is info that millions of people died to discover!

9 Mar 12:22pm

Most the defra rulings/interventions come into play with livestock, sheep, goats, cattle – due to foot and mouth BSE TB and blue tongue.
All animals now have to be registered and ear tagged, .even if you just have one sheep or one cow.. ear tagged and registered.

Poultry on a small scale.. ie three chickens or ducks in your back garden are fine… Rabbits fine…
Plus veggies sold small-scale totally fine…
Scaling up will always attract more red tape

I read in the Guardian a few months back that we only have 6 full-time mycologists in this country, I then read a few weeks later we have a similar handful of pedologists and edaphologists . These professions are viewed for many years as not as sexy as behavioral science, genetics or marine sciences for graduates to enter into to… We are woefully lacking in research and funding for research in our soils in this country.
And I’ve heard it said many a time, many a great civilization died along with their soil.

Anyway Mycelium running is a great book… best of luck with your garden Robin…
The other bit of advice someone once told me which made me smile, is just read the back of the seed packet.

9 Mar 1:22pm

There’s an unbelievable amount of government intervention in the UK, most of it delivering industrial, technological solutions that are vastly out of proportion when applied to small-scale, mixed farming.

For example, free bullets or electro-stunning followed by bleeding are now the preferred methods for killing chickens. Both require serious investment in equipment. It’s serious overkill for people like us who kill about 20 younger cockerels a year for ourselves, plus a few cull hens and older cockerels.

According to Animal Health, picking the chicken up, holding it under an arm, talking to it, carefully sliding a pair of dislocating pliers around its neck, and then dislocating it’s neck in one move while it’s calm and content is inhumane. Or that’s what their research tells them.

Sending truckloads of chickens to a plant, hanging them upside down on hooks, dunking them in electrified water to stun them, and then beheading them with mechanised blades is more humane. And we should just accept that chickens don’t like being upside down or dunked in water, that we should just accept the 5-6% that aren’t stunned, and we should just accept the 1-2% that aren’t cleanly beheaded. Because research shows that is more humane.


And don’t even get me started on some of the health/environment rules that mean our six, metre cubed, muck wooden boxes are treated the same as the outpourings of 1,000-pig industrial unit. We collect all the muck from our handful of pigs and flock of 40 chickens, carefully stack and turn it, and then use it on our vegetables.

But we now have to put in concrete pads, waterproof walls, collection systems for run-off, and storage facilities for holding the run-off. How that fits onto a six-acre croft is beyond me.

And do they seriously think that we’d want to jeopardise the ground water quality—when we’re drinking that very same water?

Ironically, we have just enough space to build an intensive pig unit that could take hundreds of pigs!! And that would be better environmentally as would put in lots of technological solutions to the pollution problems, at least according to government.

Double bah!

9 Mar 7:41pm

A general suggestion, if you want to educate yourself, would be to ask ‘smallholders’. Try googling ‘accidental smallholder’ for a start. Try reading Country Smallholding (or other magazine) and investigate if there are any smallholding associations near you (their courses tend to be very good value). If you have time try ‘WWOOF’.
Smallholders are pragmatic, often highly skilled and keen to share skills. They cannot afford to get things wrong.

9 Mar 7:45pm

Sweet Chestnut… I notice that Dobies in Paignton sell a cultivar/variety called ‘Regal’ as a nut tree. Anyone know how well they do here? Anyone got seeds?

Robin P Clarke
10 Mar 1:06am

“khaki campbells are a pretty self maintaining breed”
-as in: How ducks will reward you – But don’t be under any illusions if you want to keep these birds, says Chris Ashton

[…] „A Farm for the Future“, der in den letzten Wochen auf  dem englischen Transition-Blog viel diskutiert wurde, ist jetzt endlich auch auf Google Video (und damit außerhalb Großbritanniens) verfügbar. […]

Robin P Clarke
18 Mar 7:25am

Thanks Sam and Dave but I’ve been doing organic vegetable gardening for more than 40 years (though there’s always much more one can learn)…. and what I was asking was how to learn about *Farming*, that is what farmers did/do, so that I can talk to these people (who control most of the land needed by we non-farmers) without appearing a presumptious ignoramus and can engage with their own (albeit flawed) perspective. I’ve learnt quite a bit from Farmers Weekly/ Farmers Guardian but if there’s anything better out there it would be good to know.

Mike (Stroud, UK)
18 Mar 9:01am

Let me know if you discover anything useful as we’re also looking to engage with local farmers following a food security report that Transition Stroud did for the Peak Oil Think Tank. The Think Tank feeds into the Local Strategic Partnership and then into the Cabinet of the District Council, thereby shaping the policy framework for the long term. It showed quite clearly that, whilst there are some great innovative food projects locally, the real need is to urgently to begin engaging with conventional farmers (and ensure that we protect agricultural land from development).

Robin P Clarke
18 Mar 12:47pm

Well, from various sources including Farmers Guardian / Weekly, it’s clear that uk farming considers it already has enough crises (plus red tape) to cope with, let alone us coming along to add another! And of course most FG/FW readership will be non-organic too. So it looks sanest to first seek out organic farmers to engage with. There are already a number of forward-thinkers as the Farm for the Future documentary showed. Also interesting that the Soil Assocn had a conference on it but I guess most farmers won’t hang on their words. On the other hand Prof Tim Lang also joining their call for a low-energy revolution.
Need to chase up these people. Soil Assocn webpages about transition:
(Meanwhile, while there’s a lot of sense in permaculture, the word is liable to generate dismissive scepticism among farmers so maybe best kept off the front line!)

18 Mar 2:50pm

My experience is that farmers are as diverse as any other part of the population. They can be difficult to ‘engage’ with – partly because sometimes they don’t often come off their own land. I only get to know farmers when I’m working for them, buying from them or drinking with them!

Robin P Clarke
18 Mar 4:57pm

Re Sweet Chestnut, there’s one near centre of Birmingham just north of Cambridge Street mini-roundabout, but the nuts are tiddlers. Any idea why? At base of a slope surrounded by grass with tower block just north.
Have found 15 hectares of unused land which is occupied mostly by broom. Does that indicate it won’t be much good for growing?

Robin P Clarke
18 Mar 6:06pm

The sweet chestnut I gather just needs a second tree to produce nuts.

18 Mar 7:46pm

Sweet Chestnuts: they are not native and need a good summer to make reasonable nuts. Your Brummie ones are the norm. I’ve seen ‘some’ of good size in Ashton Court in Bristol on mature trees in good summers about 8 years ago. Here in N Devon over the last two years the crop would be about zero. (Also I always wonder what the ‘nut people’ do about squirrels and wood pigeon – any answers?). I’m told good harvests are had in Brittany, which should approximate to S Devon where the Agroforestry permaculture people are – maybe they can give advice. However S Devon is a favourable climate – daffs were flowering there on New Years Day this year. Until a couple of years ago I thought S Chestnut would be excellent to plant – for nuts and timber – but now I think climate change will actually give us unpredictable growing weather, so I wouldn’t count on the nuts.
Broom is an indicator of infertile, well-drained conditions usually. If you can improve the fertility then you might end us with nice warm conditions.

Robin P Clarke
18 Mar 10:21pm

As I said above I just afterwards found out that the tiddling nuts are what you get if there isn’t a second tree nearby due to lack of cross-pollination. Picture here speaks for itself!:
Interesting your point about Devon as the Martin guy who enthused about them on the bbc docu is down there too, so maybe chestnuts will depend on how climate catastrophe plays out. Archeologist friend Rebecca Roseff says in medieval England people harvested huge numbers of hazels so perhaps that’s the way to go instead (pending climate changeastrophe).

Robin P Clarke
18 Mar 10:24pm

Sorry bad link, see down this page instead:

Robin P Clarke
18 Mar 10:30pm

explains about coping with squirrels v chestnuts. And once we start hunting all the squirrels to extinction that won’t be necessary anyway.

19 Mar 8:45am

Squirrels: the Grey Squirrel was introduced from America in 20th century. It took about 3 attempts at introduction to establish itself – finally doing so about 1930, I think. It wasn’t there in medieval times! An ecological disaster – drove away red squirrel , attacks trees and their fruits. Should not be here. Woodlands were truly farmed in med times, since they yielded food, shelter and tools, but required a great deal of effort e.g. building banks around them to keep out deer. I recommend ‘Woodlands’ by Rackham in New Naturalist series.

19 Mar 8:53am

Chestnuts: I must admit that I had no idea that local chestnuts might have sexual problems, but even when there are trees close together the yield seems to be very variable. They would be wonderful fruits to have but the squirrels would have to go. The American Chestnut is interesting as I think it provided an enormous amount of energy for the early indutrialisation of the U.S. and now not a lot remains – is that true?

19 Mar 9:56pm

“There’s a wealth of fruits here.. and that’s with doing nothing at all!” (36 mins in). I’ve just spent a day earning my living my working in a traditional North Devon agroforestry scheme – otherwise known as a ‘cider orchard’ – up a ladder with a pruning saw. I have no idea why anyone thinks that yields can be obtained from trees and particularly hedges by doing ‘nothing at all’. A hedge is a above all, and most obviously, a man-made environment. It’s a bit of a woodland in a field. Nearly all of the hedges in this country are brutally maintained by diesel powered flails on the back of tractors. My neighbour, who runs about 200 ewes on his farm, pays a thousand ponds a year to have his hedges flailed. If you manage them without oil then you can expect it to take up January and February, as it did in the past. Try working on the top of a Devon hedge bank in January! Hedges are all edges and edges are, above all, high maintenance environments. I think that even the roads here in North Devon would be impassable within 5 years if the hedges weren’t maintained. If you can eat fruit from a hedge it’s because a farmer has maintained it. Even the humble bramble needs pruning every year because it fruits on its new growth. If left for two years or more it becomes just a mass of woody stems. Anyone like to discuss this?

Robin P Clarke
19 Mar 11:06pm

Discuss – Yes Dave, I’ll discuss it under the category of the fallacy of “positive thinking”. It’s all too easy to get overfocused on positive fluke successes (such as fruit/nut trees just happenned to be natively growing there anyway), and to dismiss all that negative you’ve typed as unhelpfully discouraging. I’ve elsewhere indicated my view that Rob’s book is flawed at this point, encouraging people to march enthusiastically down blind alleys with eyes shut. Mathematical literacy is very important in food-growing planning: at the arithmetic level as a minimum, but much better with an appreciation of what is statistically significant or not, 90% confidence ranges etc.

Robin P Clarke
19 Mar 11:09pm

Can’t the hedges be maintained by having some cattle wander along “maintaining” them? (Or perhaps they don’t eat hawthorn branches?!)

19 Mar 11:20pm

Hello Robin. I find myself in a strange position. I see Transitioners apparently seeing a serious situation ahead, but then seemingly saying that hedges and nut trees are the answer. I see little proof. My gut instinct is that after peak oil we should roll back to 1910 – more labour on the land, mixed farming etc. But, as Rebecca says in the film, we don’t have the heavy horses and skills. The yanks would call me a ‘doomer’. I’d like to believe the claims of the ‘permacultularists’ (actually only been around 30 years). It would be wonderful if they were right. We need larger scale ‘permacultures’ as soon as possible.

19 Mar 11:44pm

Cattle and permaculture: Er, I think a great deal of the permaculture literature is vegan (and urban actually). Cattle, if ever allowed to intrude into the landscape, might help slow the horizontal spread of hedges, but not the vertical. Also they don’t help the spread of suckering species, like blackthorn, a shrub that has poisonous thorns that were the bane of horse ploughpersons. You expect a cow to maintain a hedge by not eating the berry that you want to eat? Just now I want someone to persuade me that this hedge/berry/nut idea is a realistic way of feeding 8 billion people and not some idle dream of well meaning townie Greens. Surely this is a serious issue? I’m planning to try to visit the permaculture people down here on one of their trial site Open Days but I think it’s fair to say that ‘permaculture’ is being floated as a solution with precious little hard evidence.

Robin P Clarke
20 Mar 12:09am

Your strange position is not strange to myself! I too see the Transition movement as correctly identifying the problem (though underestimating its urgency/severity) yet then relaxing into false solutions.
My conclusion from discussions on theoildrum etc is that a major breakdown of the corporatised food supply is odds-on within the next few years, and that all but a very few people will be utterly out of their depth in the challenge of suddenly feeding themselves some other way. With the result that the population will soon fall to a fraction of its present level (if anyone survives at all, not least the huge shock and grief). This will have at least the merciful consequence that if the initial survivors can work out how to catch squirrels, birds, etc, to eat, they’ll have enough to go round. I’m reassured that it is reckoned that one can actually live on potatoes alone (subject to biblical constraints of a non-alimentary kind) and that the Irish peasants apparently did so succcessfully prior to the blight catastrophe.

Robin P Clarke
20 Mar 12:18am

Furthermore – A consequence of a food-supply collapse would be that towns/cities (and even most villages) will degenerate into chaos. So one has to locate somewhere away from oversized settlements of corporate-system dependents. One needs to be in a community (village), but one of no more than about 300 people, so that one can relate to all and establish realistic plans with them all. (I’ll bet most people even in Totnes are still firmly in the corporate mindset.)
That’s how I have come to be thinking of trying to talk credibly with farmers, to establish myself as a useful person to them and vice versa.

20 Mar 8:53am

Robin. We are thinking along the same lines, but I’m trying to not become an isolationist-survivalist. I live in a parish of 33 households and nearly all land owned by 3 farmers and the Forestry Commission. The rest of us peasants scrape around in little corners. Hopefully there will be a big rise in the need for labour on the land when a food crisis arises. In my opinion anyone who lives in a city and is not actively trying to get out does not REALLY consider that there will be problems. Totnes is a fine pleasant place with some very nice people but I do see it as near the apex of the oil consuming civilisation and not as a viable alternative. What is actually PRODUCED there? (I expect most of the rest of Devon had a wry smile when Totnes declared itself the ‘nut capital of Britain’.)
Potatoes: The last 2 years have seen the worst potato blight for 50 years, I think. We got it at the beginning of July last year. The moral is ‘diversify-diversify-diversify’ (and I ‘d say grow more peas and beans).

Robin P Clarke
20 Mar 10:28am

Dave – So you have only three chances to get one of those farmers on board with the idea that their current business model faces an uncertain/doomed future, and that their best interest is in forming an alliance with the 33 households to establish a local food base. And two of those three could well be hopeless prospects anyway. So (assuming you have not already dived in) you’ll want to prepare your advance carefully. An inadequately-presented argument tends to “vaccinate” a person against a stronger one later. Almost certainly would be best to get one or two other supporters from your peasant colleagues first, as a one-person campaign tends to be dismissed by certain mentalities (i.e. most of the human race).
People I’ve talked to in this city of a million so far remain determined that they would best stick with their friends, regardless that they would be sticking in a concrete jungle with a million hungry strangers more to the point. Still, there’s a million more local prospects I’ve not yet talked with….

20 Mar 10:44am

Robin – I agree with your views on both places – except that, if things really break down here, we’ll just take the land I suppose.

Robin P Clarke
20 Mar 11:05am

If it comes to “just taking the land” there will be the considerable problem that both land and people will be unprepared, i.e., without a rolling scheme of food production set up, nor a community of agreed distribution of inputs and outputs, nor an adequate re-skilling both of ‘peasants’ and farmers. It does need something like Rob’s concept of a community-agreed transition plan, just with some of the parameters (such as community co-operability and output per acre) made less fanciful.

24 Mar 11:00pm

“except that, if things really break down here, we’ll just take the land I suppose.”
Blimey Dave, I wouldn’t – farmers are one of the most tooled up sectors of our society , ( I’m sure you know that but) every farmer I know has at least two guns , and dogs, several dogs.

If it really breaks down they are going to tool up even more – we had a brief glimpse of that last summer when thieves were stealing red diesel from farmyards, I was talking to our local gunsmith at the time and he was telling me how sales of cartridges had gone through the roof -farmers were stocking up to protect their diesel.

I think Robin’s last post is wiser. ( BTW sorry for not knowing your gardening skills Robin)
I’d say make friends with them and yes start with the small organic guys – they are organic usually for the right reasons …and tend to be a bit more open minded. ( but as Dave rightfully said farmers are diverse as any other sector of our population)

Robin P Clarke
25 Mar 12:28am

I think the concept of “we’ll just take the land” is not actually as misguided as Sam suggests. Thing is that once the agromachines start grinding to a halt the farmers are not going to have any capability to do anything much with their full acreage except consign it to people who can actually do something useful with it. And they’re going to have better things to do with their time than get involved in instant warfare and its consequences legal or otherwise. Kunstler made a related good point about how homeless people will “volunteer” themselves as “on-site caretakers” to protect the mortgagors’ property from squatters, and in due course occupier => owner and stuff the helpless absentee landlord “owner”.

25 Mar 8:47am

Robin – that’s the way I was thinking. Quite likely before we reach that position the farmers will have realised that it is a good idea to associate themselves with local people – otherwise they have no supplies, no labour, no market.
But I agree with Sam that farmers are well tooled up, when I moved here from the city it was impressed on me how many guns there were in the neighbourhood (maybe that’s why all the badgers have disappeared), but they are shotguns, not AK47s. Someone once said “A hungry man is an angry man”, as I was reminded in jail recently.

25 Mar 12:49pm

I haven’t had as good a laugh in a long time. Putting the exact version of TEOTWAWKI to one side for a moment, have any of you stopped to consider how little you actually know about working the land, particularly on poor soils in less than optimal climates?

We have a six-acre croft in Scotland, which provides our family of four with our meat, vegetables, eggs, and most of our fruit. We work it largely by hand, and often barter/trade our surpluses for other things we need. It’s hugely skilled work, it’s incredibly hard labour, the soil is naturally poor and acidic, and the weather is often challenging to say the least.

We usually know what we’re doing, but it’s still an enormous challenge to keep the food rolling in while also ensuring that there’s something for the future.

At the same time, there are a variety of farms around us, including tenant farmers (30% of the UK’s farmers are tenants, not landowners themselves), small farmers (a large proportion of UK farmers have less than 150 acres), larger family farmers (up to 500 acres), and vast estates (owned by a handful of individuals or companies).

All bar the last would prefer to run mixed farms as they did until 20-30 years ago, but government regulation, finances, global competition, and commercial pressures have pushed almost all of the mixed farms out in favour of monocultures. As a result, many of the younger generations of farmers lack the skills of their forefathers—or even of us.

But they still have the advantage of knowing the soil, the climate, the livestock and some of the crops. They could probably scrape by a pinch should a particular flavour of TEOTWAWKI take place.

How many of the “land liberators” could say the same? And could put in the same amount of work with even half the same success rate?

On our croft, we have to allow for 20-50% crop losses due to pests, weather, disease, storage issues, and theft. That means planting more than you need, planting crops with a variety of requirements so that if one fails they won’t all fail. It means knowing dozens of methods of storage to see that the food lasts through the hungry gap even if one batch spoils. It means knowing how to overwinter crops so they get an early start in order to ensure fresh vegetables in spring. It means knowing which crops have most chance of overwintering and which don’t.

And we have it far, far easier than my forebears who scratched a living out of crofts on Mull and in Argyll, or on tenant farms in Dumfries and Galloway.

Could you grow, harvest and process a crop of oats by hand? Do you know how to use and maintain a quern? Can you make rope from nettles? Are you prepared to live on nettle brose for months? (That’s nettle and oat gruel.) Can you do hard physical labour to 12-16 hours a day while eating mainly brose and oat cakes? Members of my family were living like that until the Second World War.

But the “land liberators” think they could just seize the land. pop crops in, and feed the multitudes. Or at least those they favour.

And should you by some miracle succeed in growing a decent crop, what’s to stop another group of liberators from coming in, seizing possession from you as the latest group of landowners, and eating the lot?

Oh, and DaveDann’s comment that farmers should associate with local people is unbelievably daft—they don’t need to associate with them because they are the local people. They’ve been farming for 4. 5. 6. 7 or more generations.

As for the comments about we country folk being “tooled up”, get a grip. Yes, some of us do have firearms as essential tools but we’re not in the backwoods of the US, we’re not usually doom-mongers and survivalists, and we don’t keep an arsenal of guns and ammo to repel the unwashed hordes from the cities. More’s the pity!

Anyway, I’ve a lot of time for the transition culture, organic gardening, permaculture, and land share movements, but these sorts of comments show just how daft some of their exponents can be and how unlikely they are to get many people on side when they come over as paranoiac, gun-obsessed proto-revolutionaries who want to take from “them” to give to “us”.

Get a grip.

25 Mar 5:42pm

Stonehead: I think I can understand why you say what you say. That’s fine by me, I’ve no need to argue with you. I work on the land. Usually on these forums I’m actually trying to persuade people that things will be much, much harder than they think. I can only talk about my immediate neighbourhood in North Devon and the land that I see out the window while I’m typing – now. We have the isolated 60+ aged sheep farmer – much more land than can cope with, unused fields, unused cottages even, no family. On the other hand we have the ‘business’ family – own night clubs, sell antiques, run point-to-point and shoots, lease out their land for grazing. Then we have the ‘hobby’ farms – for the last 20 years farms have been consolidated and the unwanted farmhouses (plus about 20 acres – enough not to see your neighbours) is sold to someone from the city. That 20 acres is usually leased out for grazing – something has to keep the grass down. But the MAJORITY of people in the parish are like me and live in old estate workers’ cottages with one-third or half an acre of veggies plus chickens, pigs and horses etc in various paddocks plus some woodland. We ARE the people. We just don’t have enough land (and we have a lot to learn). I’d love to show you what I mean but you are a long way away! And I quite agree that there would be a big chance of folk from the city trying to take everything – as they say in Transition Training (I think) ‘we are 3 days (or 9 meals) from anarchy’ if the food supplies fail.

Robin P Clarke
25 Mar 9:04pm

Thanks Stonehead for a most informative post. I am guessing the contrast with Dave’s indicates that it is not just soil quality that is subject to great variability between locations, but also the social etc makeup.
I grew up next to a farm till age 23 and have grown quite a few vegs here and there, and yet I still don’t know much of what you describe. I think the lack of skills and knowledge is one of the things the Transition Towners grossly underestimate. And of course the local factors knowledge which is so difficult to reconstruct.
If you could put your precious knowledge into videos and or training manuals (or live courses), I am sure your efforts would be in great demand and much appreciated.
Meanwhile your notion of gun-toting paranoiacs is not so much apt in respect of TTers as of some isolationist survivalists who are definitely not part of the TT movement. And I would say that it’s another of the major faults of TTers that they err far to much to the opposite error, dis-paranoid fantasy that when a food crisis hits, everyone will pull together in a solidarity of community co-operation. “Get a grip” indeed!

26 Mar 12:42am

Hello Stonehead and Robin: I think possibly if we got together over a pint or two we would agree on most things. However I think that my little parish is possibly even more of a real community than the famed Totnes, but we will see and it’s not worth arguing about, because actions count and not words. I looked up the word ‘doomer’ on wiki last night and would definitely say that I am a ‘doomer’ – I just don’t think that the human race collectively will pull together the collective spirit to sort things out. Therefore I focus my efforts on my local community, right here and right now, and above everything else. It’s a (very) modest effort but you can come and see if you like! I’ve absolutely nothing to be ashamed of – if you you have any half-decent ideas I’ll rip them off mercilessly.

9 Apr 5:23pm

I am an island dweller, a vegetarian, and have a
stocked vegetable garden. I live on the edge of one of the main towns, on a very busy main road and yet I am looking forward to the onset of a less oil-dependant community. Other islands worldwide are becoming or have become oil-free already either by choice or design – Cuba being the most significant – so why not others. (film showing how Cuba did this “The Power of Community”,) The sooner the change is set in motion the less impact the downturn in oil supplies will have. The time for action is now – too many years have been wasted surmising as to the outcome should oil run out – in only as many years counted on one hand this will start to become a significant problem that even the most blinkered individual will have to take notice of. I have to admit that although there have been some good comments related to the showing of “Farm for the Future” so far the overall impression has been one of disbelief in the lack of urgency displayed. Changing our overall lifestyles wherever we live and the resurrection of the old-fashioned community will enable everyone to pool their knowledge and skills, not just in the way we produce our food but in all aspects of daily life. As individuals we will struggle – as groups we can all help each other – hence Transition. I am no eco-warrior. Just a realist.

11 Apr 6:38pm

I’m not sure how long they will keep this up on “viddler” but make the most while it’s live. Enjoy.

12 May 7:43pm

Sorry but i watched this and found it to be mostly a pile of crap.(I downloaded it illegaly via a torrent site and i dont care).

First of it’s presented by some anoying female who as it turns out is the usual London career type who then decides to head out to country (i know she was from there anyway but she still acts like all the others).

She then starts bleating on about oil and how it effects farmers and all the doom and gloom that comes with it, fair enough but i got the impression she was telling herself that more than telling us as if she was just learning this herself and what little knowledge she does tell is hardly unkown anyway (unless you lived in the London bubble for years).

Now to the worst part of all. She sets up a so called live internet conversation with a bloke in the USA (remarkable image clarity and streaming they get down in Devon) which saves us TV licence payers the cost of her flying out there BUT after moaning about the fuel crisis she then jumps into her Land rover (not the most fuel effecient motor) then drives from Devon to SW Wales then onto a ferry (she doesnt say but i’m certain they dont use sails or any eco friendly fuel) then drives to some point in Ireland to chat to some bloke for 2 minutes. Then on the ferry on the way back she’s moaning about the resources that went into the sandwich she just bought, it was at this point that i was going to switch off she is a complete idiot and treating us the same.

But i held out as I have a strong passionate interest in forest gardening and permaculture. It’s only after she returns from Ireland that it finaly gets interesting, it wasnt very indepth but it was good to see her taking it seriously (in her own wishy washy way) but more importantly it was good to see more exposure for this subject.
It did make me wonder if she was going to do something similar herself on her dad’s farm which i hope she does, maybe a follow up episode but without all the nonsense.

Thanks for posting this as i wouldnt have seen it and my post is just my opinion of it not a hate everthing you like post.

[…] read Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permacultureafter watching A Farm for the Future because I was fascinated by the idea of forest gardens they talked about in this […]

[…] A Farm for the Future – Rebecca Hosking […]

24 Jun 10:15pm

I came across this programme by accident while looking at UK gardening on the net.I am in Australia and had no trouble viewing it. I was transfixed. Even knowing the topic, the scene with the birds fighting and squabbling over the pickings in the upturned soil in the early film, contrasted to the modern no bird in sight was a very powerful that brought the whole topic into focus like nothing else. Thanks for bringing this up.

Hugh Osborn
19 Jul 2:59pm

Hi Rebecca (hope you see this),

Many congratulations. You hit the right spots on climate change and peak oil issues.

I have been trying to get a legitimate DVD copy of your ” A Farm for the Future” for use by Sustainable Blewbury.

Eventually BBC Active has offered a one off copy for educational purposes only at £195 + delivery + VAT. This is too much for small voluntary groups. Do you have another less expensive source?

I had suggested to the BBC that your film ought to be available to all schools and public libraries in the UK. This would justify production for general release in DVD format. Have you discussed this with the BBC and relevant Government departments?

Best wishes,

Robin P Clarke
19 Jul 9:22pm

I read that the bbc was actually quite hostile to this film, there being some struggle to get it aired. Last Dec they put Jeremy Clarkson (no less) on a system whereby he has to get everything pre-approved; this was just a few days after he started talking about peak oil / collapse of the growth system….join the dots folks!
In this context, the meaning of the word “legitimate” may depend on which legitimators you find worthy of respect.

[…] Rob Hopkins skriver om A Farm for the Future på Transition Culture. […]

22 Jul 4:55pm

Hi Hugh,

I was the co-producer on ‘ A farm for the future”.
To quickly answer your question -you can buy a legitimate copy (or as legitimate as it gets because we supplied them) for £5.00- ish from the permaculture magazine,
If you email them, they will be able to help you.

As for public showings you are clear to show it at public events as long as you don’t charge for entrance to the screening.
And if your local council requires official clearance for prove of screening you can write to the Natural world office in Bristol for permission.
I hope you understand that I’m weary of leaving folks addresses on public sites without their prior knowledge and agreement.
But if you look at this page – at the bottom the BBC has already done so.


24 Jul 4:07pm

Hi Tim,

Many thanks. Rebecca has probably told you she contacted me and gave me the information about Permaculture magazine. Meanwhile I had downloaded a copy as recommended by Sam (above). I told Rebecca I would give a copy to Mark Lynas, who expressed interest when I told him about your film. I expect to see him with Ed Miliband (DECC) on Monday evening in Oxford.