Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Greenacres Farm

Autumnal rain has arrived finally.  I'm not complaining - the soil needs it and I have made great progress in the field while the dry spell lasted.  Wet weather jobs have been piling up so it is a chance to catch up on those.

Things are not loooking so rosy elsewhere however.   People may be aware that Brian Adair has had his organic business up for sale for a while.  I know there have been interested parties, but so far nothing has materialised.  He was the first certified organic producer  in the Island and has a well established  business with a strong customer base.  If thats not viable or attractive as a business , then some serious questions need to be asked politically of ministers about what they do think is valuable and worthwhile in the Island. 

 In reality the answers will be made obvious today in the States  with the MTFP  debate.  It comes down to one thing  economic growth - the magic fairy dust that, like entropy in thermodynamics and dark matter in cosmology, has to be conjoured up conceptually to make the number work according to the the theory.

Unsurprisingly  I have been asked by a number of people if I am going to take on Brian's business.  I suppose it is an obvious question as I do go on so much about organic food, have some experience as a smalholder and  have run a few successful businesses in the past.   I have not entertained the possibility previously.  There are several reasons.

What I do in my own field is not a commercial operation  - I don't intend it to be. It is informal research based on my observations of that might constitute a bioethical food production system.  It is deliberately small scale and  in the last few years devoid of all mechanisation.  There's the first problem - scale.  Brian's operation would need at least 2 people to work as a  market garden/horticultural  concern, based on Eliot Coleman's maximum 2.5 acres per person observation.  Plus of course I'd still have my fields to manage and maintain. That means going back to a walk behind tractor at least, and that takes me away from the direction I have been experimenting on.

Another reason I havent entertained it  was commitment.  I am at an age where I have probably energy and time for one , perhaps  just two big projects left in my life.  Big projects I think of as those that require 'all in' effort - typically starting a new business  is like that - certainly those I have done before have been.   In the current state of organic production locally it certainly would  have to be an all consuming commitment.  If I were to do that it would have to be the right project.  There is a sort of opportunity costs here - other projects would have to be ditched or forgone.

All that  (and more) before even looking at the commercial figures and viability.  It is a fact that in Jersye  access to the land is controlled.  Even if you own fields you are not allowed to work them unless  you have permission! There are financial requirements of marginal profit  be a bona fide farmer (£40,000 per year) and to occupy  good agricultural land, or even more than a few vergees of less favoured land you have to qualify financially (interestingly they appear to have dropped the main income from farming  obligation that used to exist, I wonder why ;) ) See Land Control

There is a facebook group looking at the possibilities for saving the farm .  See   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1577795972527334/  The groups s interested in a Community Supported Agriculture model. It has worked elsewhere. There's a useful UK site on how that might work  at  Community Supported Agriculture.  The Soil Association also has promoted CSA for organic production.  It is certainly a better bet than hoping the States of  Jersey will support organic agriculture in the Island!

I posted on that group some  thoughts about how this might go forward.  I've reproduced them below.

I know people are interested in CSA, but there may be another way to do this. If you have seen any of my rantings over the last 2 years you will know we have been losing certified organic land and growers for some time. Warnings fell on deaf ears politically. We have long had a problem in Jersey that farming and horticulture is viewed as a purely commercial activity. It can be done that way of course- that's how you get the agri chemical industry. But it needn't be. 2,500 years ago Hippocrates said (in greek of course!) Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. I've posted a link below to a scheme in the USA taking that literally.

It isn't just immediate human health we need to consider either. There is the health of the soil and less well known to many is its ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Possibly the last great hope for avoiding significant climate change. And there is the diversity and abundance and health of the eco system and biology around agriculture and horticulture - the water quality, wildlife and the psychological benefits of access to deep nature.

Put that lot together and it suggests to me a different approach , a different mind set is required. Not a commercial venture but a social one. Not a financial imperative, but a health one. If you think of it as a business the particiapnts expect a return. If you think of it as a charity , you get a different answer. Its not incompatible with CSA you can have supporting subscribers and charities can and do have volunteer workers and paid professionals. 

The question is whether you are in it just for what you can get out of it, or for what good can come out of it.

In Jersey we have low-income people with diabetes and high blood pressure. So what about this bleedin' obvious idea from the USA. Load fresh fruits and vegetables into a refrigerator truck and drive it to a health clinic. To improve the diet have a doctor write a “prescription” for food . Even better if it were local wholesome organic produce.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr Forskitt,

    Thank you for taking the considerable time and effort in writing and publishing this article on Greenacres farm.

    As someone who is suffering from the effects of high blood pressure being caused by arterial sclerosis, I can understand first-hand exactly where you are coming from in writing this article.

    My own GP has prescribed Amlodipine to control the "effect" of high blood pressure, but has never once explained the role played by certain foods which actually "cause" arterial sclerosis and in “effect” the high blood pressure (had he done so, I would be straight out there digging my own organic fruit and veg.).

    Recently, having discovered "Fat Sick and Nearly Dead" (search YouTube), and trying Joe Cros’s juicing method (which actually works) I have also ran smack bang into another dilemma; in eating high amounts fruit and veg (as raw juice), I am in-turn also ingesting very high amounts of toxins used by commercial growers in the production of fruits and vegetables (a cocktail of fungicides, pesticides and other “agro”-chemicals used in the modern processes of growing and extending shelf-life in supermarkets).

    Searching the internet for local growers of organic fruit and vegetables has subsequently caused my person to be directed to you blog and this article. Reading your article and realising the very sad state of affairs which exists for the people of this island which has been allowed to happen by the neglect of our government is a real tragedy which even Shakespeare could not have put into words, especially in light of how government legislation has been actively (ab)used as a tool to deny people the right of access to the land. Such laws may have been tolerated by those enforced under the yoke of serfdom by force of arms in feudal times, but have no place today in civilised society as a tool of economic serfdom by the corporate overlords of big business.

    The States of Jersey has many bodies that act outside of the political sphere and are not accountable in the States Chamber, these non departmental government bodies are called "quangos".

    How does one form a quango?

    Can a Quango be formed to represent organic growers in Jersey?