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By Debbie Frances,
Helen Woodcock (CF 2010) is the co-founder of The Kindling Trust, which works to create a fairer food system for everyone. In 2021, Helen was awarded one of our Activate grants to help purchase and establish a pioneering community-owned farm, putting fairness and sustainability at its heart, and develop it into a farming blueprint for the future. In her blog below, Helen provides an exciting update on her progress.
"Our increasingly industrialised food system is broken."
I’m writing this blog at a very exciting time for us. After over a decade of establishing and running practical food and farming initiatives (training up a new generation of farmers, establishing our markets, engaging our communities with sustainable food), we have just purchased a 77-acre farm to establish a pioneering community owned, agroforestry (more about this later!) farm in the Northwest of England.
The problem: Our increasingly industrialised food system is broken. With food and farming responsible for over 25% of our carbon emissions, it plays a significant role in climate change. And its impact doesn’t end there, the ecological and social crises linked to the food system are multiple and complex - biodiversity crisis; soil erosion; food insecurity; an aging farming population (the average age of farmers in the UK is 60) and social inequalities faced by both urban and rural communities.
These issues can feel overwhelming and impossible to address, but (back to the good news!) we believe that they can and must be tackled.
"Ecological sustainability has to go hand in hand with social change. This was the crux of my Churchill Fellowship research – how to square the circle of paying farmers properly while making sure that our delicious sustainable food is accessible to our communities."
The solution: Kindling Farm will be a working demonstration of how to do this at the root cause. We will increase the volume of sustainable food produced regionally; engage our local communities and work to make sustainable food more accessible; and be an example of how to transition from a chemical and large machinery based farming system to a low carbon, high biodiversity and - crucially for encouraging other farmers - economically viable farming system.
Agroforestry is a farming system where in our case vegetables and cereals are grown between rows of fruit trees spaced 30 metres apart. The potential ecological benefits of this are huge. Changing large fields of monoculture crops surrounded by a hedge or fence, for fields divided by rows of trees (an additional 100 per hectare) has been found to increase: wildlife habitats, soil health, water retention and management, creates windbreaks, increase diversity and yield of crops and capture carbon.
Add to that carbon sequestration and the impact of 100% reduction of chemical inputs (responsible for 60% of an arable farm’s carbon emissions) and a solution for significantly lowering the food systems contribution to climate change starts to become possible.
However, ecological sustainability has to go hand in hand with social change. This was the crux of my Churchill Fellowship research – how to square the circle of paying farmers properly while making sure that our delicious sustainable food is accessible to our communities. This requires thinking, working indeed eating in a different way and acting collectively. It requires creating a whole model – that looks at production, fairer markets, and truly engaging our communities to be part of change.
At its core, Kindling Farm aims to give people hope in a different, kinder way of living and a way to truly engage our communities in building a better, fairer and more sustainable society together.
One of our community shareholders said: “I became a supporter of Kindling Farm because their work and vision give me hope in a time where the climate and nature emergency and so many things are going badly - it is projects like this that point the way, and show what we can do, together, to create a better future.”
What you can do: For us it is important that this starts with the very ownership of Kindling Farm which is owned by 700+ community shareholders and it’s not too late to be part of that! You can invest in Kindling Farm until 1 July 2023 at Ethex.org or help by spreading the word about it, or indeed do something similar in your own communities!
The aim of Kindling Farm is to show that a more ecologically and socially-just food and farming system is possible, and then to support others to do the same. We would love you to be part of making it a reality.
For more information you can get in touch with Helen at email@example.com.
The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.
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