RACE night with a difference

Farming has the potential to save the world, and in April we had the inaugural meeting of our Regenerative Agricultural Community (East), a community group set up by Rebecca and Stuart Mayhew, based at Old Hall Farm. RACE is actively seeking engagement from those who would like to be involved in helping to run the group.

why RACE?

R – Regenerative: if we don’t start regenerating our communities, our soil, our food, our lives, then what hope is there for our children? There’s a lot about our food system that needs to be healed and regenerative systems are a conservation and rehabilitative approach to food, farming, and life in general.

A – Agricultural: why agricultural? We eat three times a day if we’re lucky enough to. Every meal is an agricultural act, albeit rather unwittingly on the part of most people. We CANNOT eat without farmers to grow the base ingredients, and food is one of the most powerful tools in the fight for health. Farming is the most important job in the world.

C – Community: we all live in a community, although the use of IT, technology, and social media means, in many ways, we are more isolated from one another than ever before. Regeneration, therefore, when applied to communities is VITAL. Remember that wonderful community spirit during lockdown? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that feeling could last forever? Looking at what faces us over the next decade, strengthening our community networks and resilience is essential to life as we know it. We need to make a better version of the much talked about ‘new normal’. 

E – East: hopefully our movement, our group, will catch on.

The aim is to connect farmers, consumers, and local retailers and shorten supply chains to encourage true regenerative farming techniques and to improve food security. We saw the pressure put on supply chains during the lockdowns and this, combined with the issues surrounding health and food, has inspired us to do something that makes a difference.

We were delighted to have over 80 people at our first RACE night and enjoyed listening to our other wonderful speakers – Hugh Somerleyton from Wild East, Nathan Nelson from Deepdale Farms, and Josiah Meldrum from Hodmedods.

All of our speakers gave their perspective on the cultural change needed to reverse environmental decline while feeding a growing population whose food choices are often driven by fashion and convenience rather than provenance. Price, too, plays a part, but what value do we put on good health? 

It sounds like it might be impossible, but it isn’t. We do need to remember, though, that every successful revolution begins and ends with agriculture and, as such, farmers are key to success. Farmers and landowners have the tools at their disposal to make all the difference in the world to climate change, to people’s health through food and farming, and how we look after our soils and our ecosystem. Taking a holistic approach is the only
answer. We should have done this long ago, but the next best time to start is right now. 

What we would like to achieve with RACE is to encourage connectivity between those who grow food and those who eat it. To do this, we will need to enable people to talk about food production systems, and conversion to agroecological systems – this will require a steep learning curve for everyone, but it really is crucial.

For children especially, the journey to understand more about soil, food, farming, and animals has the potential to have a huge positive impact on their mental health, which has never been more at risk and has never been more important.

As regards food and health, people are beginning to take up to the fact that if you eat food that is artificially grown and artificially stimulated with chemicals, then you’re putting artificial ingredients – I won’t call them nutrients – into your body. What does that make us? Certainly not healthy. Microplastics are now being found in almost every organism on the planet – including us. Surely, it’s time to be the difference?

“What should I eat to be healthy and sustainable?” is a question that more and more people are asking but perhaps, unsurprisingly, the recommendations vary so much that many are utterly confused about how we should respond to the climate and nature crises in relation to our future diets.

For months now, we’ve heard how the war in the Ukraine is causing major disruption to farming and food systems on a global scale, permanently increasing commodity prices and challenging the availability of key staple foods on which millions across the world depend. 

There have been some in the press who argue that the appropriate response is to further intensify food production methods, mirroring the Dig for Victory campaign seen in WWII. The fact that we are so reliant on food from thousands of miles away should rightly scare us; we HAVE to redesign our future food and farming systems in such a way that addresses the climate and nature emergencies we are facing today. 

The tragedy in the Ukraine is speeding up what was already happening, and we need to keep the pressure on to accept the end of the industrial farming era and address the implications of this on food prices and food security. 

What can we do, on a day-to-day basis, is something that RACE wishes to help with. We speak with people regularly who believe that the only way they can help with climate change is to put the right item in the right coloured bin. In reality, their choices are much more powerful than that.

To quote Joel Salatin, we can “heal the land one bite at a time” and ourselves with it. 

Instead of farming being one of our major environmental problems, a UK-wide farmland transition could enable our future farming and food systems to be part of the solution to regenerate our planet. The thing is, we just need people to believe in their farmers again, and this is one way we believe that RACE can help. 

  • If you’d like to learn more about RACE and get involved, then do e-mail us at oldhallfm@gmail.com We have LOTS planned, and it’s not all about us – we really want to encourage community involvement.
  • Dates for the diary – Farm Walk and Talk with MIND on 28 June, a book signing for Sarah Langford’s Rooted on 27 July, and much more – for full details visit www.oldhallfarm.co.uk.
  • Click here for the recipe for our chocolate celebration cake with raw Jersey mascarpone
    – don’t forget to share your photos with us @eatnourishdrink

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  1. Fran Ellington

    Dear Stuart and Rebecca
    We wondered if you would like to attend this event and speak from the audience during the debate – I think it is very relevant to what you do: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sustainable-food-production-in-a-time-of-ecological-and-global-crisis-tickets-367497784767

    we have sold 65 tickets so far and expect to double this in the 2 weeks leading up to the event.

    1. Samantha Mattocks

      Thank you for this – I have passed on to Rebecca and they have made contact.

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