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Farms, Shops and A Way Forward?

The situation for farmers is bleak and we need to find a way to help them.

There has been a race to the bottom and many areas are now at breaking point. The health of our soils is on life support, the biomass of our insect populations dangerously low, the biodiversity of our plants and wildlife is perilous and our farmlands are more like a chemistry lab than an ecosystem.

All these inputs and mechanisation is failing and it is our farmers that are the ones who are taking many of the punches.

Today over 50% of farm business income

depends on subsidy and 64% of farmers earn less

than £10,000 a year.

People’s Food Policy

The trap was set and most of the land owners and workers were caught in it. The ironically names ‘green revolution’ offered the utopia of a chemical driven farm fantasy of endlessly rising yields and complete dominance of nature. It failed to deliver for the communities and land workers most effected. Not only has it decimated our farms, nature and food quality but it has also concentrated power and wealth away from the farmers to a small collection of mega companies.

8 supermarkets holding a 93% market share of food retailing.

In food manufacturing, 6% of

enterprises are responsible for 76% of turnover.

People’s Food Policy

As hopeless as this may sound, I see light on the horizon. The internet is allowing us to create links directly to producers and unlocking the strangle hold of the big monopolistic multinationals. At the same time, social media is allowing us to come together collectively.

This allows us to make connections direct to our farmers and build community buying clubs. I see a future of food buying cooperatives that share the crops with the farmers in exchange for the farmers growing in a more ecologically-friendly way and a community buying from a cooperative that recycles its profits back into positive community projects.

This is all possible today, we just have to acknowledge we have the power to spend our money the way we want. We have agency of our own food system and our communities to create a new food culture that offers abundance for all of us.

Chard and Tahini Dip

A recipe that sounds like it should not work, a leafy green dip, trust us it is well worth the exploration.

It is super important for us all to ensure we add green leafy vegetables to our diets. They are full of lots of the wonderful things our bodies yearn for.

This is a very simple and delicious dish.

Prep time:  5 mins Cook time:  10 mins Total time:  15 mins
Serves: 1 sharing bowl

Vegan, Gluten-free Easy, Delicious and Healthy Chard Tahini Recipe

Ingredients

1 large bunch of Chard (about 350 grams)
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves Garlic
1 table Spoon Lemon (Although Orange works well. I ran out of lemons!)
Salt
Olive Oil, to taste

Instructions

Pull leaves from the stem. Chop Stems and Leaves separately into thin pieces.
Add chopped stems to a pan with a little water and saute for 5 – 7 minutes, adding a little water if needed to prevent burning.
Add leaves a handful at a time, until wilted
Add rest of the ingredients and blend.
Serve and enjoy.

This recipe was adapted from https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/swiss-chard-tahini-dip

Chard

Rainbow Chard
Chard in all its beauty

Chard

Chard comes in many forms but our favourite is the Rainbow variety as the colours are truly spectacular.

Chard, like other leafy greens, is high in nitrates that not only are good for your health but are linked to athletic performance.

There are supercharged with vitamin K, among many other micronutrients, which helps regulate our blood and bones.

Do you get your two cups of greens a day?

Chard Leaf
Vibrant colours of chard

In The Kitchen

It is essential for our health and longevity to learn how to add leafy greens to every meal. With this in mind it is best to have a few simple ways of preparation close to hand.

The two main ways I add greens to my meals is:

1. To simply chop up the Chard and add in the pan for the final 5-7 minutes of cooking.

2. Chard is best sauteed. Chop the stem up first, into 1 cm long bits, and add to a pan with a little water. Cook for 3-4 minutes, ensuring the water does not dry up (just add more). Add the chopped up leaves and allow to wilt for a few minutes. Add this to the side of your plate to accompany any meal. I simply add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

More ideas

Chard and Tahini Dip

On The Farm

We have been experimenting with several varieties this year. From Swiss Chard to Rainbow Chard to Leaf Beet. We are happy to admit we are fully in love with the colours of the Rainbow Chard.

The chard seems to like our soils and has been one of our more successful crops.

The Carbon In The Soil

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.

Trees
Trees in Kings Forest, Suffolk

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.

7 Cooperative Principles

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.

Charred Lemony Green Beans

Charred Green Beans On Platter
Charred Green Beans With Coriander And Lemon Sauce

Beans are a superfood packed with fibre, protein and nutrients. The Green Bean is an immature variety that is eaten whole, pod and all.

They are a delicious addition to the veg boxes. We grow the dwarf bush variety that can grow without support in the field.

The lemon and fresh coriander add a beautiful sharp twist to the beans and the charred skin gives a depth of flavour.

Prep time:  5 mins Cook time:  10 mins Total time:  15 mins
Serves: 2 Meals with extra sauce
 
Vegan, Gluten-free Easy, Delicious and Healthy Green Bean Recipe

Ingredients

200 g Green Beans
1/4 cup fresh coriander (cilantro)
30 ml (2 tablespoons) Olive Oil
30 ml (2 tablespoons) Lemon Juice
A little water
Salt, to taste
Pinch pepper

Instructions

Put Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Coriander, Salt and Pepper into a blender and blend. I needed to add a little water to help blend.
Add Green Beans to a hot griddle or pan and char until the skin turns black and blisters.
Serve beans with sauce sprinkled over.

Green Beans (French Beans)

These beans are eaten unripe when the beans are immature and the pods still fresh.

Green Beans
Green Beans are a truly awesome crop that is simple to grow and give you abundance.

In The Kitchen

Indian Baked Green Beans (recipe coming soon)

Charred Lemon Green Beans

Baked Green Beans
Indian Baked Green Beans

On The Farm

'Tendergreen' Dwarf French Bean
French Bean growing on the farm

We are growing a Dwarf French Bean variety called ‘Tendergreen’.

Beans are delicious and fairly simple to grow. We grow the dwarf bush variety as it does not require supports. They do not like the cold so need to be sown later in the spring.

Happy Food Podcast #11

We were doing so well, 10 podcasts in 10 weeks. Then came a little blip, a two-week hiatus, we are now back into the groove. Here is Podcast #11, this is an interview on BBC Radio Suffolk with Matt Marvel. I was his Sofa Guest as he stood in for Lesley Dolphin on her Saturday show.

We talk about the farm and a little of my journey to in getting here, plus lots about my dog ‘Grunge’.