Dan Powell, organic land manager and co-founder of LandBase writes…
During the last 12 months, there have been so much rhetoric both about what Brexit will mean for the UK and, now that the decision has been made, what we are actually going to do about it.
Being a farmer in the EU has meant for many, eligibility for considerable amount of subsidies, that have been welcome in hard times and allowed investment when farming was in the black. These subsidies have had wider influences too. Land prices and rents have continued to rise making farming a very difficult sector to enter for the newcomer and food prices have mostly been kept down although most farm businesses would admit that overall, they are struggling to keep up with the rest of the economy. This is most evident on smaller mixed holdings (less hectares less payment!) and in the hills where farmers are limited in what they can produce and it is expensive to reach the markets they supply.
If and when Brexit actually passes, will it make a huge difference to looking after the land or will we just continue as before?
At the moment a land manager in England, who farms more than 5ha, and holds entitlements, can claim from the EU around £200/ha give or take a few penalties and credits in return for entering into land stewardship and complying with long list of environmental and varying management conditions.
There have been a number of reviews to this system over the years and successive governments have always argued that the UK should operate a free market system and that farming should stand on its own economic merit. The farming unions and other lobbyists have always countered this and we have retained the system to the present day despite general opposition.
The big question is, once we leave the EU, will the UK government retain a similar system of support for agriculture?
A system that is considered outdated and does not address some serious issues that our food production sector is facing. The biggest of these in our opinion, is an ageing and shrinking land work-force. Or will the government decide to revise its support to UK agriculture to encourage new blood and innovation which are the cornerstones of any thriving sector.
We know which way we want the tide to turn!!
Land Workers Alliance. Brexit and new entrants policy paper
Making Food Sovereignty a reality: post-Brexit Agriculture Policy
House of Lords EU Committee 20th Report Session 2016 – 17. Brexit Agriculture
Basic Payment Scheme 2017
Some of the LandBase team went along to OffGrid festival this year, and we'd like to share with you some interesting organisations pioneering off-grid sustainable living and farming...
neld just outside of Exeter at Goffin Farm, the site is part of The Biophilia Project offgrid project.
The festival is focussed on skills sharing and community with workshops on basket weaving, rope spinning, jewellery making, knitting/crochet, forging, kiln making to name just a few! It was good to see these skills still being used and passed on.
It was spread out over a 4 days and we only made the Saturday so weren’t able to see all the interesting talks, however, here are the highlights from our day…
Stephanie Hafferty gave a talk on Charles Dowding’s 'No Dig Approach.' And Charles is leading one of the workshops on our Market Gardening course in September. There are still places left so book your place here…
There were innovators in off-grid technologies and we managed to go on a DIY Solar Panels Workshop with Ian Westmoreland from ‘Demand Energy Equality’ to learn about making our own household solar panel. We hope to offer some of Ian’s courses through LandBase in the future.
Another highlight was a discussion group lead by Joanna Dornan from the Agroecological Land Trust trying to find solutions for low impact, land based cohousing and land ownership. She shared her wealth of experience and discussed the successes and failures of community projects. Looking at the models of the Ecological Land Co-Op in Devon managing planning & permissions for 3 small holdings. And also methods from the Biodynamic Land Trust.
She also drew on Bill Knight’s talk the previous day on Restorative/Regeneration Settlements, and the importance of looking after our soils through sustainable small-scale agriculture with biochar methods by Ed Revill at Soil Carbon Regeneration in Swansea, Wales.
LandBase is organising an event on the themes discussed here - looking at the issue of land access in the UK, especially focussing on the gap between the amount of land available and the amount of people looking for it. It will be held on Saturday 7th October at Monkton Wyld Court, Dorset. Keep an eye out for more information on our facebook page and news page. Or email is at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Community Convergence tent was set up by wetheuncivilised as a beautiful outdoor cinema showing inspirational films and talks. If you haven’t seen it already watch the wetheuncivilised film – “A Life Story.” It is a story searching for our lost connection with nature and the land, and challenging the self-destructive system of western civilisation.