Tim Green was a polymath; superb wildlife photographer, film maker, producer, ecologist, then gardener, farmer, inventor, regenerative agriculture pioneer. Tim spent his life experimenting and pushing the boundaries of possibility in any area or subject that he turned his considerable attention to.
Tim was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire. He grew up in Ratley where he spent most of his time sneaking onto farmland, playing with his mates in the woods and beginning to film and watch wildlife. It was his grandfather's love of British wild birds that inspired his first love of the natural world. This led to a degree at Bristol University in Zoology which was right on the doorstep of the BBC's Natural History Unit where he started his career at the BBC.
Tim's career as a wildlife photographer and film maker was stellar. He directed David Attenborough and produced his own stand alone films, travelling all over the world to document extraordinary species and habitats. He prematurely retired from his career as a producer in his 30s.
Whilst Tim was directing, Rebecca Hosking was also filming at the BBC's Natural History Unit. Her encounters with plastic pollution in the seas and its effect on wildlife led her to launch the Modbury Plastic Bag campaign, banning free bags in the Devon town in 2007. This was to go viral and was finally implemented across Britain in 2015. Behind the scenes, Tim was a key ally and adviser to the campaign.
I first met Tim after he had made 'A Farm For The Future' with Rebecca Hosking. It was the first time I had seen permaculture treated in depth and with serious respect by the British film makers. It became the most viewed film by the BBC's Natural History Unit and was to become a turning point for Permaculture Magazine and the permaculture movement in general. Suddenly, many thousands of people from all over the world woke up to the potential of broadcsale multi-layered food forests and other farm-scale techniques that could feed the world whilst regenerating the land and boosting biodiversity. It caused a storm.
Not content with researching, writing and filming regenerative agriculture and solutions to oil depletion and climate change, Tim and Rebecca wanted to test out their ideas on the land. They started their experiements with Holistic Planned Grazing, breeding resilient breeds for short tailed sheep and agroforestry at the Hosking family farm in Devon. Needing more space and freedom to try out their ideas, they moved to Village Farm on the cliffs of south Devon. There they built a team and developed their unqiue system of 'farming with nature'.
Rebecca Hoskings gives this moving account about Tim and Village Farm's enduring tribute to him:
The 10th of February is from now on always going to be an incredibly sad day for the rest of our lives. The 10th of February is when my bestest friend and co-director of Village farm, Tim died in a horrific tractor accident. We’re all still trying to adjust to his loss and get used to talking about him in a past tense.
Tim was many things. He had a devilish wit, a super smart, problem-solving mind and was amazingly creative. He was kind and trusting to a fault and never thought bad of anyone. He was a walking encyclopaedia – he loved hoovering up facts and was a stickler for grammar – he was forever correcting me. He was so blooming stubborn at times but when he was, he always had a twinkle in his eye. He rarely did the washing up, his desk was so messy it could easily be considered a fire hazard and he would wear the same pair of socks for so long that they could happily stand up by themselves once he took them off. He was humble and self-deprecating, yet everything he did in life was researched, judged, weighed and measured. He was in large part our genius.
The biggest driver in Tim’s life was ‘other life’, of nature and wildlife in all its forms. He and I shared that same goal: To make our little corner of the world a better place by increasing the amount of wildlife we cohabit the land with.
We both knew conventional farming is the biggest destroyer of wildlife, and so to challenge that and find a new route, we had to become farmers and change the practices used on the land we worked.
Since his death, I’ve heard folks call Tim principled for acting like this, but to him it wasn’t principled, it wasn’t noble, it just made common sense. It was his daily drive to turn this farm into something more wild, to create more diverse habitats, and become a home for more native species.
He hated with a passion the industrialisation of farming. He was a stickler for us not using heavy machinery on the land and so it’s with some dark irony that he was killed by one of the lightweight tractors we did actually use.
Reflecting on his death, it’s so utterly needless when you think of all the wrongs of the world. Here was a humble, intelligent lovely man trying to make things better and for that he was taken.
With all of this you could easily get into the mindset of “What a waste of a life”, but Tim wouldn’t want us thinking like that. He was staunch atheist and proud biologist and firmly understood that from death comes life.
He would hate cut flowers on his grave, particularly ones grown in winter shipped in from aboard. I can hear him in my head kicking off about their air miles and how the land they were grown on has been doused in pesticides. So on his crash site in the mud that first the tractor carved and then the paramedics made worse whilst trying to save his life, we have patted in wild flower seed.
Yet the biggest legacy for Tim is that we at Village Farm carry on and celebrate his death with life. To this end, he left us a massive clue. Tim was just about to inherit a small amount of money and with this he planned to buy trees for the farm.
It was incredibly sad to open up his desktop after the crash to find the PDF he’d finished just before he went outside to get on the tractor. There on the screen was the list of tree species he’d intended to buy.
Tim would be the first to point out, “We don’t just need more trees on this land, we need more cover, more shrubs, more wild flowers, more ponds and water ways. We need to keep creating habitat.”
So with this in mind, we’ve started a page on our site in memory of Tim. It’s called “How you can help wildlife”.
Tim was my dearest friend, we’ve been by each other’s sides for almost 20 years and this past week is the first time I’ve experienced the 21st century without him. The pain of him leaving is unbearable, the sorrow of knowing we’ll never get him back is heart breaking, but what we can do is carry on… carry on his work of bringing more life into the world. He would like that.
Image: Tim Green with his friendly Robin. Photo credit: Rebecca Hosking