3: Small is Beautiful: The New Revolutionaries

We should be searching for policies to reconstruct rural culture to open the land for the gainful occupation to large numbers of people. 1

In the rarefied world of the landowning aristocracy, the splendid Tudor manor in west Oxfordshire might normally be the financial hub of a modest 1,000-acre estate, providing a tidy income for the lord and master. Instead, Hardwick House, with its extensive woods and farmland, is the centre of a quiet agrarian revolution: to provide a relatively inexpensive space for aspiring farmers to live their dream and to hone their craft.

Beside the chalk and the flinty earth of the Chiltern hills, rolling through woodland down to the River Thames near Whitchurch, the estate has already been leading the way with one of the country’s older, more adventurous organic enterprises, inspiring smallholders and horticulturalists throughout Britain, Europe and further afield. And horticulture is a sadly neglected area since the disappearance of the LSA in the early 1980s, alongside other producers, as imports replaced a once-vibrant vegetable and fruit sector.

But, as we shall see, an inspirational movement is gaining momentum, creating short, field-to-fork supply chains around Britain, created by local growers and producers. Certainly, it’s not a stretch to label the people, and the organizations involved, as the new food – and land? – revolutionaries. Something is stirring: from the Knockfarrell organic croft in the Highlands of Scotland, to Canalside Community Food in Warwickshire, Cae Tan community market garden on the Gower peninsula, the diverse Plaw Hatch farm in East Sussex and Liv and Henry’s productive three acres at Down Farm in Devon, dedicated to “more on less land” and growing 50 varieties of veg.

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