environment food sustainability

Farming with nature

A few years ago the BBC showed a fascinating little documentary called A Farm for the Future. It argued that farming had got it wrong for thousands of years when it came to managing the soil, and that there were better techniques that used less energy and didn’t disturb the ground. It was a beautiful demonstration of farming that works with nature, and a neat introduction to agroforestry and permaculture.

A Farm for the Future was presented by Rebecca Hosking, and it was good to hear from her again in this short film from Permaculture Magazine. She explains how sheep are raised on her farm in ways that regenerate the earth and protect other species. It’s a great example of regenerative agriculture, an approach that restores and improves the earth rather than wearing it out and creating a dependency on energy and chemical inputs.

This film is part of a series on Living with the Land.


  1. All very well, but I still have to understand how the large scale commercial agriculture that feeds much of the world can possibly operate without diesel. I know there is biodiesel but then we’d need a significant proportion of agricultural land to grow the fuel. And I cannot imagine the folk who own the huge farms in the USA etc agreeing to divide up their land into tiny plots to be tilled by Bangladeshis displaced by rising sea levels….

    Much more thinking and innovation needed on the future of agriculture.

    1. Absolutely, but the principles of soil stewardship that are demonstrated in the video apply to any form of farming. It looks different with arable crops of course, but low-till agriculture is growing rapidly in those big US farms that you mention. So is precision farming, which aims to target water and nutrients carefully so that there is minimal run-off into soil and water.

      We’d be starting in the wrong place if we took the existing food system and tried to imagine it without diesel – clearly impossible. You have to start further back, and look at what we eat in the first place. And I reckon that diesel used in farm machinery is one of the most legitimate places to use fossil fuels. We’d want to reduce energy use elsewhere in the food chain first and fastest, in shipping and processing.

      1. Something that gets missed in the equation regarding farm production is the way that efficiency gets measured. Per acre or hectare, small-scale, labour-intensive production is more productive. Large-scale farming is only efficient in terms of produce per person. When wage costs are high, that adds to the costs of production. Like you said though, we have to look at what we eat and where we grow what we eat to produce food for our populations.

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