Sunday, 8 May 2011

Climate change farm

This week I'm urging you to leave this page and listen to a 25-minute programme available on the BBC website.

This week's programme in the series The Food Programme has the title 'Climate Change Farm'.

The introductory programme information says:
How do we produce food to deal with climate change? To find out, Sheila Dillon visits Mark Diacono's "climate change" farm in Devon to look at a new way of producing food, mixing exotic plants with agro-forestry.

Mark's guiding principle is plant only what you passionately want to eat. His own list began with mulberries and expanded to include many things that were historically impossible - pecans, Japanese wineberries, Carolina allspice, peaches. They all have their place. But climate change might not just mean warmer summers - it could mean more unpredictable weather; droughts, downpours, and floods which can wipe out annual crops. So Otter Farm is a test bed for perennial horticulture and forest gardening, inter-planting trees, shrubs, climbers and groundcover, plants that grow back every spring and are more resilient to extreme weather.

Also joining Sheila at Otter Farm is Martin Crawford of the Agro-forestry Research Trust in Devon which has been practicing agro-forestry for nearly two decades. It is low maintenance but very productive, and has a considerably lower carbon footprint than conventional farming which relies on chemical inputs and tillage of the soil - both significant emitters of CO2.
Sheila, Mark and Martin share a "climate change lunch" with Gerry Hayman of the British Tomato Growers Association, growers who've received negative press for their sustainability credentials e.g. heated greenhouses vs. tomatoes grown in the Spanish sun. It's also the kind of monocrop that the Otter Farm model cites as being unsustainable in the future. Over lunch they discuss the pros and cons of British tomato growing, the horticulture industry in the UK, and new ways of producing food for an increasing world population.
The programme discusses a future for food that is more subtle than worrying only about 'food miles'. The presenter and guests discuss forest gardens, perennial allotments, and other ways of growing perennial foods for seasonal eating, without huge inputs of water and fertiliser.

The farmer contributing to the programme is Mark Diacono at Otter Farm.

The programme was broadcast on Sunday 8 and Monday 9 May, and is now available to listen on BBC iPlayer. The Food Programme recordings are archived on the website, so you're not limited to seven days listening.

Go listen!
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