Our farming business is now carbon negative. Read report.
Vision: Proving productive farming alongside abundant nature (whilst occasionally having a day off).
The ambition at Rushmere Farm was always to grow food productively, whilst maintaining a place for wildlife. Now, the final steps towards certified organic, nature friendly farming have been taken in a commitment to grow nutrient dense, healthy food, with a positive environmental impact. If this is something that interests you, you have questions or you want to get involved, please get in touch. We are now running lots of workshops, volunteer days and feasts with opportunities to stay in a yurt, a shepherd’s hut or use the space for your own activities.
Farming is one of few industries that has the capacity to be carbon neutral, to bring about a net gain in biodiversity, and to improve human health. To affect this change the farm will initially see a dramatic reduction in crop yield, as a result of zero chemical inputs. The soil will recover, but it will take a minimum of 4 years, and whilst it is unlikely that we will ever again produce (e.g.) 3 tonnes of milling wheat per acre, the wheat (and other food) that we grow will contain a greater density (and variety) of minerals and vitamins. It feels like a bold step, to give back a level of control and to trust in nature to do its thing, but we feel that a local food system that is part of the ecosystem is incredibly important. Some areas may look a little messy up on the hill and we hope you don’t mind; these are designed to maintain something close to a natural ecosystem’s balance above and below the ground. The wildlife areas and cropping have been designed around the footpaths so that you can all enjoy them, without them being significantly impacted by humans and dogs.
Can organic farming feed the world?
People often say to me 'we can't feed the population with organic farming.' Not being brave enough to back myself or quick enough to remember the numbers, I might answer: 'if we lose ecosystems there will be no food at all'. However the dramatic depletion in biodiversity over the last 80 years, in large part caused by industrial agriculture, is not tangible or easily recognisable, unless you have witnessed, for example, hand pollination of apples in the absence of sufficient insects. My answer also does not present a solution. So I checked the numbers.
There are 7.8 billion people in the world. 1 billion are undernourished, whilst 2 billion suffer from 'diseases of affluence' (e.g. 400 million with diabetes). We produce 2.5 billion tonnes of cereal per year. 1 tonne of cereal can supply three people with enough macronutrient (food energy and protein) for a year; so 2.5 billion tonnes is enough for 7.5 billion people. Cereals make up less than half of our food, with the rest (including many micronutrients) coming from pulses, root and stem tubers, seeds, nuts, fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, fish, etc. As such we easily produce enough food for 15 billion people. 48% too much. Short term macroeconomics require us to consume in order to prevent employment from falling, and yes, food waste, global trade, logistics, human behaviours and politics are complicated. But when global food production output per capita has outpaced global food demand for at least a decade, and growth in obesity and malnutrition indicates that global production is not meeting nutritional needs, why are we all still convinced that we need to produce more of the same food?
Average organic yields are 10-30% less than 'conventional' depending on sector, soil type, etc. The transition away from chemicals towards high yielding, healthy soils cannot be made overnight, therefore, let's make the conservative assumption that organic farming can only produce a third of what is produced using chemicals. On that basis, if we were to increase the organically farmed area from the current 1.5% to 50% (replacing conventionally farmed area), there would still be enough food for well in excess of the global population predicted for 2050.
In short, organic farmers cannot feed all of the population based on its current demands. However, no more people will starve if up to half of agricultural land is farmed with zero chemicals. We can prevent the natural world from collapse - and in doing so, save ourselves.