Help us to Keep The Lights On for another decade! Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

‘In Our Hands’: Sowing seeds of change in farming

Ideas and Action

A new film made in Bristol about the Land Workers’ Alliance showcases producers “taking back control” from the industrial food system.

“The right of communities to define their own food and farming systems.” That’s the definition of ‘food sovereignty’ from global farmers’ network la Via Campesina, and its rallying call. Food sovereignty is also the theme of In Our Hands, the first film about Land Workers’ Alliance, the England and Wales arm of la Via Campesina, which was established just five years ago in 2012.

The Land Workers’ Alliance is an organisation of ecological, community and family farmers which campaigns for the rights of small producers and for a fairer food system. In Our Hands showcases the ethos of the young organisation and the ‘quiet revolution’ happening up and down the country.

Humphrey Lloyd, who runs Edible Futures, a salad growing market garden on the outskirts of Bristol, produced the film. He says he took on different issues in farming, like the dairy crisis, dominance of supermarkets, the pasture versus grain fed beef argument, and “looked at ways that individual farmers are somehow taking control” from corporate industrial agriculture.

“So what can an individual farmer do? You can set up a membership scheme and sell directly to clients. So they can short circuit the supermarkets,” explains Lloyd. And sure enough, featured in the film are farmers such as Josh Healy, a new entrant to the sector who sells his dairy products directly to consumers. In doing so, Healy retains all of the £1.15 a pint retail price of his milk, compared to the lowest ‘gate prices’ of produce sold to supermarkets at 12p per litre.

“Or you have farmers who spend a lot of money on expensive grain to feed the livestock and that also has environmental implications”, says Lloyd. “How can they take control? Well if we revert to the traditional practice of having diverse pastures, then they are using a free resource.”

As featured in the film, seed saving, the practice of saving seeds for use from year to year, is another issue of importance for farmers in the UK. “Most farmers get their seeds from seed companies, they’re patented private property assets of the seed company and the farmer has to pay money for them,” says Lloyd. “If we rejuvenate seed saving, and farmers saving their seeds, then the control comes back essentially from corporations and big businesses.”

Although In Our Hands mirrors the Land Workers’ Alliance in the way it is slanted towards newer entrants into farming, there are also farmers featured in the film who come from a more ‘mainstream’ traditional farming background. Gerald is a seventh generation farmer who turned to the Land Workers’ Alliance and a new business model because the industrial food model was “ruining his land, working him to the bone and not even remunerating him,” says Lloyd.

But despite the economic and environmental problems of the traditional farming sector, is it feasible that the population could be fed without industrial farming? Lloyd says the argument that industrial agriculture is necessary for production purposes is “debunked”.

“I came across one study from a famously radical organisation called the EU commission, they did a study of productivity of small scale versus larger farms in all the 28 member states. And in 21 of them, small scale farms outperformed big farms in terms of production.” In nine of the countries – including the UK – small scale farms were twice as productive.

The Land Workers’ Alliance is currently campaigning for a post-Brexit agricultural policy which supports small scale farming and agroecology.

In Our Hands is showing at the Arnolfini, on December 10th. You can get tickets here.

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?


Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

‘You needed young people’: how one man nurtured a community on an east Bristol allotment site

Tenants of Bristol’s sought-after allotments are pushing back hard on council proposals to hike fees. But back in the 1980s, plots in Eastville at Royate Hill were unloved and at risk – until Mike Feingold took custody of the land.

Rising demand and falling donations causing shortages at Bristol food banks

The cost of living crisis means more people need food banks – but fewer are donating. The Cable spoke to organisations across the city trying to help the growing number of households who can't afford to eat.

Why Bristol needs to build a sustainable food system – before disaster strikes

Bristol is recognised as a leading city in sustainable food. But with international food systems creaking and the impact of climate change on the horizon, even more needs to be done.

Cooking up a storm: The project tackling Bristol’s rising food poverty

The Mazi Project provides pre-portioned meal kits to marginalised young people to address food poverty in the city.

Listen: Bristol Food Famiglia by Steven Mitchell

Your Bristol Life is a new series of five podcasts shining a light on underrepresented aspects of Bristol's history. This BCfm series was made with the Bristol Cable, Bristol History Podcast and In The Dark.

‘It’s been a nightmare’: Bristol’s foodbanks sound warning over food and fuel shortages

While the government calls in the army to deliver fuel and tries to lure overseas HGV drivers to the UK, some of the city's most vital support services have been facing disruption just as a benefit boost and the furlough scheme end.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning