The sixth and last study tour of the project
was held in England, from 23rd to 27th April 2018.
Jyoti and Laurie, from Land Workers Alliance, prepared a very special menu of visits for the representatives of contrasting, diverse and complementary experiences, with a constant underlying stream: the human dimension in each one, the collective, solidary, connected and committed thread that brings it all together.
The tour started from the visit to the headquarters of the LWA, Jyoti explained how the organisation started, its fast-growing success (from 12 to 900 members in 6 years), and how it is influencing today the shift of UK post-Brexit policies. She explains how bringing politicians to the field, and bringing field people/farmers to the politicians, transmits the passion and triggers change “it is pulling their hearts”. Things are far from being perfect, access to land and tenant conditions, echoing old privileges, are appalling, but voices are increasingly heard. And the very tangible results touched tour participants. The visit continued to the PEPC (coop) processing barn, with members and consumers connected through direct sales.
After that, they went to Tamarisk farm, a model of cooperation with government and environmental initiatives, walked through steep green fields, cascading to the sea through breath-taking views, covered by an incredible diversity of sheep races, with their new lambs. The representatives touched the diverse and rare natural colour fine organic wools, listened to the depth of knowledge and felt the “force tranquile” of these farmers, a 3-generation family recounting the story, their story. In the evening, the group heard about the successful struggle of Ruth O’Brien and her Steepholding Off-Grid Farm, part of the Ecological Land Cooperative and also visited CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture); the Community Farm CSA, 800.000-pound turnover fruit and vegetables, aiming at reaching over one million pound, 450 veg boxes a week, 1500 people volunteering in 2017, paying other organic farmers 20 to 30% above market price. They visited more CSAs: Sims Hill Shared Harvest providing for Bristol and surroundings, highest margin on salad and parsley. A kaleidoscope of CSAs with as many forms and shapes as the CSAs themselves.
They then travelled to Bristol to learn about the Bristol Food Network and its uniquely progressive Food Policy, with silver Sustainable City award, now aiming for gold; heard more and more about collective action, about the Edible Futures of Feed, heard about people taking control over the urban public flower beds, and transforming them into vegetable growing, free for anyone to pick! They stopped on way back at the Gloucester Services, a famous highway service committed to source quality and ethical foods.
The last day was dedicated to the visit of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, an efficient, profitable and rewarding system of livestock production, delivering high standards of animal welfare and animal stewardship. Walking on the green fields, looking at the healthy cows and their calves, grazing peacefully on endless mixed flowery fields (5 legumes, 5 grasses, 5 different herbs), while deer jumped in the background was a great highlight, while Ian Boyd was telling the group about his KIS (Keep It Simple) approach, and how taking the lenses of nature photographer had given him a new perception and perspective about what farming means, and how everything starts with the soil.
Thank you, Jyoti, thank you Laurie for a fantastic, and immensely appreciated by all, study tour! The food, the place, the visits, the marvellous local musicians and dance the last evening, the dynamic and passionate contributions, all was just a wonderful journey.
The tour had 10 representatives: Iulian and Dragos from Romania, Dora and Mireia from Spain, Tomas and Martin from Czech Republic, Dorka from Hungary, Ewa and Marcin from Poland, and Lucy from UK. 5 women, 5 men. Gaetano was with the group as film maker, and on the CU side it was Julia, Alex and Angela.