Last week a report was published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)) on Land Use. It highlights the dramatic changes needed to utilise our land and agricultural system as a positive tool to tackle climate change and to move away from the harmful agitator it is today. Although, as eloquently stated by George Monbiot , it does not go far enough with its call to action.
Here at the Happy Food Coop, we are working on a model that will hopefully allow everyone to take back control over their food and invest in their future.
Our little market garden is currently situated on 3.5 acres of former pasture land in Suffolk. The first year has seen us cultivate around 1/6th acre, which is a small speck within the boundaries of the field. The rest of the area, which is mostly left fallow for wildlife, is a daunting task to manage with the small tools we have available.
It turns out 3.5 acres is a large area for a market garden but we want to grow trees. Then 3.5 acres becomes small!
Okay, let me walk you through some of our thinking. First, the soil on our farm is very sandy. The solution to this is to add more organic matter. The best way to build up organic matter is to grow more TREES.
Secondly, the growing conditions are volatile. We are constantly combating the wettest months, coldest summers, warmest winters, the latest frosts, the driest months, etc. A great solution is to build a robust and resilient ecosystem and the best way to do this is to grow MORE TREES.
The solution to dealing with Climate Change, as stated by the great Greta, is to eliminate Green House Gases. Farming has the potential to not only reduce emissions to net-zero but to act as a carbon sink and capture carbon. The best way to to do this is TO GROW MORE TREES.
With this echoing around our minds we want to do one simple thing on our farm, yes you guessed it, we want to grow trees. The management of the 3.5 acres becomes simpler when beautiful trees become part of the design.
There is one big problem, we do not own the field and are not able to grow trees on it. This is where the Happy Food Farm Coop Model (Working title) comes to centre stage. The idea is to split the land into m2 sections and sell them to the cooperative members. Each member would own their small percentage of the land and would have a say over how it managed. The truly powerful part is that they would own the carbon that is stored up in the soil, collectively as a cooperative. Allowing the right incentive for it to be kept there forever.
These incentives are not currently present. The current agricultural subsidy pays a fee to the owner of the land and extra payment for environmentally sound practices. At a conference in 2017, I heard how the payments are based on the practises that year and how when the requirements became too stringent many farmers opted out. The result was the good work of all the previous years, which they had received money for, was undone in one season’s cultivation. All the wildlife verges and protected areas were gone in one swath of the plough.
By giving members ownership of the carbon in the soil, I, the farmer, would have no right to remove it. I would become the guardian of the soils, entrusted to oversee them flourish and adapt to the changing climate.