PLANS to create an Avalon Agroecological Area, within a five-mile radius of Glastonbury, bringing together farmers, growers, conservationists and local councils will be launched at Glastonbury Town Hall on 19th March.
The aim of the project, called 5FF (5 miles farming and food), is to support local farmers and food growers to embrace more nature- and climate-friendly approaches to food production.
Agroecology can help restore biodiversity by phasing out reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides and reducing fossil fuel use, lowering farmers’ carbon footprint and input costs, whilst restoring health and natural fertility to exhausted soils. In this way, it can help to future-proof food supplies without all of the detrimental effects of intensive, industrial-scale, conventional agriculture.
Its focus on building organic matter in the soil helps draw down potent greenhouse gases, making it a powerful, if low-tech tool for reversing climate change.
With subsidy payments going down, costs rising, and prices for produce being squeezed, food producers are under unprecedented pressure, with many thinking of changing their farming practices or leaving farming altogether. For some though, agroecological farming offers new hope: a reduction in input costs, access to new markets, more autonomy, and the satisfaction of bringing wildlife back.
Melissa Taylor, Glastonbury Town Council’s climate emergency and resilience officer, part of the 5FF working group, says the project is partly about mitigating climate change, “but it’s also about anticipating and adapting to changes in our weather and everything that comes with it. We’re right on the edge of the Somerset Levels here, so have a strong awareness of what sea level rises could do.
“What is perhaps less widely understood is the potential impact of biodiversity decline on our food supply, especially when combined with future weather extremes.”
The scheme has been welcomed by Sustainable Food Somerset, who organised last year’s regenerative farming showcase, the Somerset Food Trail Festival, which returns this July. and will feature some of the farms involved in 5FF.
Stewart Crocker, chairman of Sustainable Food Somerset says: “It is telling that even business leaders at Davos have called for investment in food system transformation in favour of regenerative farming. Our chemical-dependent food system is unsustainable in every sense.”
The launch event on 19th March will run at Glastonbury Town Hall from 10.30 to 4pm, and is open to anyone interested in learning more about agroecology.
“Whether you’re an allotment holder, a hundred-acre farmer, school cook or window box herb grower, we want to hear your views. We really want the whole community getting involved and being a part of this ‘movement’ in favour of a more nature-friendly and locally focused food system,” says Glastonbury’s deputy mayor, Indra Donfrancesco.
The 5FF project covers a five-5-mile radius around Glastonbury, five councils – Glastonbury, Meare & Westhay, Baltonsborough, Street and St Cuthbert Out; five conservation organisations – National Trust, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Mendip AONB, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (via SWT); and five farmers and growers – Plotgate CSA, Bridie’s Yard, Growing Happiness, Tor Farm, Brook Farm
The launch event will hear feedback about a five-month pilot project, that started in October 2022, involving five councils and conservation organisations with five local farms. .
To book for the launch, visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/519647809587
Pictured: Plotgate Community Farm.