Climate change’s impact on agriculture and the need for a radical shift in approach is becoming more noticeable in the mainstream media. Whether it’s the first joint Sustainable Food Trust and National Farmers Union conference “Farming and climate change: towards net zero carbon emissions” in July or the Food and Countryside Commission’s recent report “Our future in the land” and accompanying Food and Research Collaboration’s “Voices from the field: Can farmers champion health?” report which I have highlighted previously, there is an increasing recognition of the broader benefits of a regenerative approach to agriculture, one which benefits people and the environment in addition to the economy.
The latest special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Climate Change and Land” issued earlier this month, is no exception. This highlights that “Sustainable land management, including sustainable forest management can prevent and reduce land degradation, maintain land productivity, and sometimes reverse the adverse impacts of climate change on land degradation”. The IPCC defines “sustainable land management” as “the stewardship and use of land resources, including soils, water, animals and plants, to meet changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long-term productive potential of these resources and the maintenance of their environmental functions”. This in turn would help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all United Nations (UN) Member States in 2015 which aim to provide peace and prosperity for people and planet.
The IPCC’s conclusions are in line with the 2018 report from the UK Climate Change Committee, “Land use: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change” which recommended transforming land use to ensure that land becomes a more effective carbon store. The benefits of an agro-ecological approach to farming and it being the solution to “feeding the world” sustainably were highlighted in the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report by the UN and the World Bank, the work of more than 400 scientists, but progress has been slow since then.
Biodynamics with its “whole farm organism” approach is a great example of regenerative agro-ecology in practice and a recent study by Bonterra Vineyard in the United States demonstrates its effectiveness at storing soil carbon. Vineyards to which the biodynamic preparations had been applied stored 12.8% more soil organic carbon than the conventionally farmed control vineyard with organic sites storing 9.4% more than the conventional. The more that we can highlight findings such as these, the more likely that others will make the link with the solutions outlined in the other reports.
The Biodynamic Land Trust continues to play its part in advocating the benefits of a regenerative approach and our farms are developing well. With our newer projects, Huxhams Cross Farm in Devon is developing into a fine example of a community connected farm and there has been much progress too at Oakbrook Farm in Gloucestershire. This now features a cluster of farm enterprises and the newly formed Oakbrook Community Benefit Society will seek to develop the farm infrastructure. The Trust has also recently been assisting a group in Wales seeking to develop a community owned biodynamic farm and regeneration project on a former county farm holding being sold by Pembrokeshire County Council. With the price of agricultural land putting ownership out of reach of many new entrants, and climate change necessitating urgent transformative change, it is projects like these that help to demonstrate a more sustainable way forward.
In order to help us save and secure further land for biodynamic farming, the Trust would welcome regular contributions to our “sustainable income” fund. This will assist us to continue to support new initiatives and facilitate the growth in regenerative community-connected farming. If you would like to support us in any way please do get in touch.
Operations Manager, Biodynamic Land Trust