English Permaculture

(Mark Diacono, Martin Crawford and Sheila Dillon)
I’ve just listened to the Food Programme on BBC Radio 4, which was about a couple of the farmers at the cutting edge of English ecological farming, Mark Diacono and Martin Crawford. I’d been aware of Martin and the Agroforestry Research Trust for a while but Mark’s work at Otter Farm was new to me.
They both use Permaculture and forest gardening techniques and have developed really productive land use systems. By not digging the land they stop the release of soil based carbon into the atmosphere and help the mycorrhizal fungi sequester carbon and build soil fertility. As well as helping mitigate climate change, (by not using fossil fuel based fertilizers, pesticides and fuel and by sequestering carbon) they are showing us how to adapt to climate change by growing a much greater diversity of plants, many of which have not been grown before in Britain, and by growing them in an agroforestry system they are very much more resilient in the face of climatic extremes. One small example is the exceptionally dry spring we have just had which has reduced the productivity of many annual crops but which has very little detrimental effect on established forest gardens like Martins.
The question now is who will be the first to develop a farm that learns from the ecological sustainability of forest farming, permaculture and models like Otter Farm and the Agroforestry Research Trust, then combines this with the social inclusion evidenced by Will Allen and the Growing Power group in Milwaukee and perhaps adds other elements like academic research into soil carbon sequestration. Now that really would be cutting edge farming!
Listen to the programme here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010xy3g#synopsis
Sheila Dillon’s blog asks what we gardeners could learn from such systems
Martin Crawford and the Agroforestry Research Trust:  http://www.agroforestry.co.uk
Mark Diacono and Otter Farm or ‘climate change farm’:  http://www.otterfarm.co.uk