The Crossing's Fight for Regenerative Farming

Emma Goodwin
Wednesday, 20th July 2016

Emma Goodwin describes how her family are fighting to keep their residency on a community based permaculture farm that builds deep, dark indestructible soil, cleaning the water and freshening the air.

Stuart and Emma Goodwin bought 8.5 acres of unimproved pasture next to a cycle track 10 mins from Forest Row, East Sussex in 2010. In 2014 they crowd funded and barn raised a 13m x 8m wooden shed to act as agricultural administration building, wwoofer accommodation, class room and affordable housing for agricultural workers and a family of 4. With a carefully considered business plan for a Community Supported Agriculture scheme and plenty of evidence about how to mitigate our impact as a species on the planet they entered the planning process. 

Wealden gave a flat refusal. As the Goodwins appealed, the council imposed enforcement notices that meant 15 days to find fees of £7,500 to appeal on the grounds that planning permission should be given. The Land Magazine writes “this is a corrupt and dirty tactic”. A high court challenge is now lodged whilst a second planning application is submitted. The Goodwins are crowd funding the possible £25,000 fees.

Standing on the cliff edge of climate change, wondering if I will ever be blessed with grandchildren, I imagine them saying, “Grandma, when you knew the earth was heating up, what did you do?” If that day comes, I will say I did what I could, I did what was within my power, I did what was within my means to find a different way. To change.

I am making it my mission to work towards dispelling the fear that surrounds us. Nurture the Eco-mind, letting the Scarcity-mind die a natural death. Main-stream media’s incessant fear mongering is the dangerous and insidious undermining of human potential. Turn off the TV, Turn off BBC R4. They reported really poorly on actual events at the Balcombe fracking site in 2013.  Seeing the reality on the ground and hearing the BBC reports made me realise: they’re not working for the good of all and to let all life thrive. Likewise, The Environment Agency, they’re not on side either. Nor The Planning Inspectorate for her Majesty’s Government it would seem.

It is an uncomfortable truth, that to effect a real change in the status quo, it is necessary to be civilly disobedient. We live in a civil society, with civil duties and I consider it my duty to be civilly disobedient. Martin Luther King spoke of being maladjusted. He said, “I never intend to adjust myself to…” racism, segregation, inequality. Well I never intend to adjust myself to a food production system that has profit at its centre. I never intend to adjust myself to an industrial agriculture system that maims and poisons the animals imprisoned within it. I never intend to adjust myself to seeing the stick thin children gaunt, with dark rings under their eyes or obese and the majority with behavioural issues.

I mean the children I see on the street here in so called affluent Sussex. Here we are in this ‘green and pleasant land’ thinking it’s everyone else in the world who needs help, and yes they do, but are we blind to the subtle desertification of our own fields as the top soil washes away down the gutters of our road sides, silting up the rivers, flooding the houses.

Do we really see that we are literally spoiled for choice in the supermarket aisles stocked with ‘food-like’ products that are made of ‘anti-nutritients’. Food-like products that are robbing our own bones of minerals (refined carbohydrates) and disabling us on a cellular level when we ingest them (heated vegetable oils).

Can we admit to ourselves that the industrial animal products industry is the most despicable, tortuous and toxic system imaginable: Give grain to a cow, give it serious digestive problems, medicate the ensuing inflammatory disease with pharmaceuticals and antibiotics, which carry on killing in the food chain, and kill your own biome of life-giving gut flora. Then, for good measure, pasteurize the milk to kill off and destroy all the good bacteria and enzymes that help you digest milk in the first place. (Louis Pasteur recanted on his death bed and said he got it all wrong about pasteurization).

Who is working for us all? for the good of all? and to let all life thrive? Francis Moore Lappe wrote Diet for a Small Planet in the 1970s and now, Frankie, a seriously sprightly 72 year old is definitely working for us all. At the 2nd birthday party for the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), July 13th, Frankie spoke of Industrial Agriculture as ‘dead end’, futile. Frankie is working for the good of all. Kumi Naidoo (ex Green Peace CEO), also at the CAWR birthday party, said ‘there is a need for civil disobedience, every major threat or injustice that humanity has ever faced has required brave women and men to take a stand’. He’s working for the good of all.

A new tribe of risk takers

We are a new tribe of risk takers who are ready to stand up to the expected norms and counter the dominant narrative. I want to tell my children stories of possibilities, give them a sense of another way. I want my children to be change makers. So I must change. I do Paleo Coaching: condensing seven years of experience using food as medicine to help other families transform their energy levels and the family dynamic. We do stock pot cooking and make green smoothies. This is an awesome marketing tool for the veg we grow for the Community Supported Agriculture scheme. People pay me for a share of the harvest. The fruit and veg is completely clean, free from pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. I move my sheep to fresh, herb-rich pasture every day, they require no medication.

As I stand on the cliff edge of climate change, I can see, (in the distance, and after a long journey on a rocky road) a convivial society, living in a flourishing biosphere. Where domesticated animals live with us as co-workers, husbanding a resilient landscape. We are nourished and non-toxic. Biodiversity means adaptability in extreme weather, if one crop fails, we can still eat something. Swales and reservoirs catch water and hold it onsite letting it soak slowly, raising the water table, protect from flooding down stream. We are drought tolerant, flood resistant.  Careful grazing and no-dig growing systems with nitrogen fixing trees sequester carbon like there’s no tomorrow rebalancing the damaged atmosphere.

We need more examples of these growing systems in England, for more people to learn of them and reskill to make the transition from a farming system that is literally cutting up and poisoning the web of life to a farming system that builds deep dark indestructible soil, cleaning the water and freshening the air.

Regenerative Agriculture

There are hundreds of thousands of acres being managed with Regenerative Agricultural practices in Australia, America and South Africa. The Crossing was asked to speak at the Oxford Real Farming Conference in 2013 with Biologic Design who helped us create our ponds and swale system. Hundreds of real conventional farmers were all there looking for another way. The Pasture Fed Livestock association was inaugurated that year. Things are changing. I want to be the change.

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