Monday, 29 October 2012

Future of food production and climate change

The year has been and still is one of the most challenging in living memory. Harvests almost without exception have been reduced and many arable farmers are struggling with sowing winter crops.
How can we secure our food supply with the rapidly changing and unpredictable climate? Every sector of Agriculture pushes itself forward as the answer to all our future unknown problems.

The large monolithic corporations claim their chemical and genetically modified systems will solve all our problems. Yet the production loss due to drought in the USA this year has not been alleviated one jot by GM crops or pesticides.
The wet year in the UK has proved difficult for both the conventional and organic sectors. Organic wheat growers are concerned about disease implications for seed raised in the wet summer while conventional farmers are struggling to harvest and sow crops with heavy machinery on wet ground.

In an unpredictable and changing world we cannot know what methods of production will succeed. One thing seems certain, a small number of widespread and uniform production methods puts us at serious risk of food shortages. The monopolistic nature of the big agribusinesses and their blanket approach to production surely risks catastrophic crop failure at the point of radical climate change.

So where is the solution, what should our food production system look like? The answer lies in diversity. The wider the range of production methods and scales the better. It would be naive to believe that we can do away with industrial production methods overnight or even in the medium term. It is equally foolish to put all our eggs in the agri corporations basket if we want to avoid the risk of acute food shortages.

Diversity is the key in our food supply network. The wider the range of methods of  production and distribution the wider the range of solutions we will have to future food crisis. Governments are always looking for the silver bullet that one solution that will solve all our food issues, the bad news for them is that life is way more complicated than that.

We need large farms, small farms, mixed farms, Community Supported Farms, Farms Shops Bio-dynamic Farms, Organic Farms, Permaculture Farms. A wide ranging and complex industry for food production and retail will provide us the best opportunity for solutions in an unpredictable future

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Autumn so far

The summer as has been documented was one of the worst growing seasons in living memory. Most crops have been between three and four weeks late right through the season. In my experience most crops catch up by mid summer but this year crops stayed behind for the whole season which effectively meant three weeks lost from the season.
Surprising for me was the fact that Leeks that need lots of daylight were early compared to last year, nothing is straight forward with organic growing. Most of our various crops are or have been harvested but production is generally much lower than previous years.

The Ram is in with the ewes and has done his job on 3/4 of them. We are looking at lambing from the end of March onwards. At the Hill Radnor show and sale I sold all the ewe lambs except one and they fetched a reasonable price. This year will see the last of the other breeds of sheep on our farm and we will concentrate on Hill Radnors.

Following the loss of my sheep dog Millie we bought a trained dog which we've called Shiv. A mature dog who initially was very shy and nervous, she was unsure of everything so was 'sticky'  when working and hesitant taking instructions. Now after four weeks of back to basics training she is starting to show what she is capable of.  

The bees have produced about a quarter of last years crop which in itself was poor. The main concern though is how well the colonies will winter. The poor summer will have meant patchy mating of queens  which could result in high losses during winter due to queen failure. There is little we can do to influence this we just have to wait and see.