Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Movie about Peak Oil and the Future of Farming

A while back I watched the movie, "A Farm for the Future", a BBC documentary, by Rebecca Hosking. Which is available on YouTube at no cost.
Part 1
The film explores nature film maker Rebecca Hosking's return to the small family farm where she grew up and her search for a post "fossil fuel" era agriculture. Having watched the film, I'd recommend it to anyone who eats, not just farmers and kitchen gardeners.
For those of you without the time or means to watch it, Rebecca has also written an excellent article in the Daily Mail newspaper about her quest for a post peak oil agriculture.
There is no doubt in my mind that Rebecca has opened a lot of minds to the unsustainability of our present food system with this film. Take this excerpt from Rebecca's conversation in the film with permaculturist Patrick Whitefield:

"But it will work only if we have a lot more growers. Some reports estimate it's going to take as many as 12million, although currently we have 11million gardeners. A food-growing system based on natural ecology appeals to my naturalist side. But the farmer's daughter in me needed a bit more convincing. Could permaculture feed Britain? I asked Patrick Whitefield, Britain's leading expert in permaculture.
'Good question,' he said. 'A better question would be, "Can present methods go on feeding Britain?" In the long term, it is certain that present methods can't because they are so entirely dependent on fossil-fuel energy. So we haven't got any choice other than to find something different.'
The more permaculture people I met, the more hopeful I became that we can find a way out of this mess if we start preparing for peak oil now."

Along the way, Rebecca also meets and introduces her audience to Ben and Charlotte Hollins - the brother and sister team who now run the innovative Fordhall Farm in Shropshire - and talks about their native plant based no-till pasture system. She talks with peak oil experts Richard Heinberg and Colin Campbell and visits Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust. She also visits the small property of Chris and Lynn Dixon - who have pioneered their low input, bio-diverse permaculture based land management techniques in the hills of their Welsh property for years.
For folks like me who have been following permaculture and other food movements, it's really wonderful to see that Ms. Hosking's film has been greeted by a wide and receptive audience.  
Why can't we start today by just stopping the herbicides and grass lawns and adding in white (Dutch) clover? Clover is a wonderful nitrogen fixer and is known to be involved in the production of glomalin. Glomalin is key to a fertile soil. Here is an informative pamphlet that was sent to me by Joan Gussow on glomalin. If you have want great friable and verdant soil, glomalin is key.  Also, glomalin is believed to be an effective sequesterer of carbon, not an insignificant characteristic. 
Now we just have to see how many of us are willing to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and start planting.