More think farms than ever in the UK

When we think of ‘small business’ these days, usually what comes to mind is a shop of some sort, or an internet-oriented service or perhaps a KFC franchise etc; few of us immediately think farm. However, the few are notably increasing, and there is a growing movement in the UK to rediscover the rewards and benefits of small farming.

The Landworkers Alliance is, in its owns words, “. . .a national alliance of peasants (people who work the land). . .” and support the concept of small-scale food production as opposed to huge corporations.

The ‘peasants’ who formed the alliance earlier this year are predominately young and highly educated, with serious goals and viable ideas about how to revive England’s rural culture and agriculture.

One of the misconceptions they want to correct is that ‘the country’ is where rich people go for a temporary getaway from real life and take pictures of quaint cottages and old castles. The Landworkers Alliance is working to make changes in government policies and in public awareness that will allow small farmers to use some of that country to make a living for themselves as they produce food and goods for their communities.

“Large-scale farming can produce the food, but so can small-scale farming, with less machinery and more human interaction. And there are people who want that lifestyle,” says Simon Fairlie, editor of The Land magazine and also a smallholder. There are apparently at least 200 million people, worldwide, who want that lifestyle; last week representatives of the Landworkers Alliance met with some of them – members of La Via Campesina – in Jakarta.

La Via Campesina, an organisation described by John Vidal for the Guardian as “what may be the largest single political movement on Earth” was formed about twenty years ago in Europe and has gained a substantial voice in 90 countries around the world with more than 180 member organisations.

Its leader is Henry Saragih, who says that the global movement embodied in this group is one that needs and deserves support from governments and policy makers. A ‘living, working countryside’ may be the world’s best defence against ever-increasing poverty, hunger and inequality.