Blogpost: What is #OurField all about?

The main topics of conversation I have heard time and time again at food events are:

1. People should pay more for our food

2. People should eat organic and local

3. People should care where their food comes from

These three points have been discussed over and over again — but it’s all speaking within a bubble. For me this is not what #OurField is about. Of course, most of the people at food events adhere to these three principles. And I am absolutely in this category of people: I am happy to pay more for my food; I eat organic and local where possible and I investigate where my food comes from. I’m fully aware that I have chosen to engage with food in this way due to a combination of circumstances in my life. This is my perspective — but I am weary of the word ‘should’ and can see that people have good reason for this not to be their perspective.

We recently had the launch of #OurField, a cooperative grains growing project initiated by Farmerama (a podcast sharing the voices of smaller-scale farmers that I co-create) and Future Farm Lab.

#OurField was inspired by a collaborative art project by Anne-Marie Culhane and Ruth Levene in 2016 called A Field of Wheat. The project brought a collective of 42 together to invest in & make shared decisions about a 22 acre field of wheat in Branston Booths, Lincolnshire. The collective explored & reflected on the global and local economics, social, environmental & culture impacts of cereal growing in the UK today.

I was one of the collective members and the experience completely changed my perspective of the landscape. I now pass all the cereals fields covering the south of England and wonder — how are they farming it? Are they locked in to the world markets? Do they grow for animal feed? Do they enjoy farming in that way?

I have a much greater understanding of the complexities of decisions around farming, and how organic isn’t always possible right away. I also have much greater respect and understanding of farmers and their role on the earth.

For me the #OurField project, and movement, is a continuation of this journey. It is not about how people ‘should’ be relating to their food. It is a shared journey, a journey of empathy and compassion. It will allow people to discover what it takes to grow a field of grain. The collective will share in the highs and lows, feel the risks every step of the way, as a farmer does.

This is a new way of engaging with the food we eat. It may be that people choose to pay more for their food, or eat organic or even care where their food comes from as a result, but I think it’s imperative that these ideals do not frame the journey.

This is a journey of discovery for people and planet. Each member will have their own perspective — we want to work on this puzzle together not just have a bunch of like-minded people agree.

We will use quaker communication principles to mediate across difficult questions, lifeline decisions and allow the collective to navigate to a common ground. In our divided world we wonder if food and farming could be a web that will connect us all. We invite you to join whatever your perspective.

Find out more at OurField project and if you want to learn more about perspectives from the farming world then tune in to Farmerama monthly.

Abby Rose