In this week’s column Leeds based photographer, Walter Lewis, talks about his project ‘Feeding Body and Soul’.
Our current food production system is destroying the very earth on which we depend, and in its drive for cheaper and cheaper food, is producing more imbalance between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. When a system is as broke as the food system of the western world, it is no good tinkering around the edges. A radical new approach – or approaches – is required. A case is presented for moving towards farming and growing systems which are actively regenerative of environment and community.
I am a photographer and researcher who for most of 2015 travelled around England and Wales visiting people who have decided to produce food in ways that are regenerative of the earth, the environment and community. The result is a project I have called ‘Feeding Body and Soul’ – a project that presents the stories of a small but growing group of people who have rejected globalised, factory-scale food production, and instead have chosen to become farmers that produce food in ways which constitute an agrarian renaissance.
These small-scale sustainable farmers form a loose web of low profile, environmental action. Here food production is destined for local markets, is community supported, organic or biodynamic in method, small in scale, highly rotational, biodiverse, low in energy use, low in intervention and high in animal welfare.
It is everything that factory farming is not. And yet, in choosing to grow in this way, the practitioners are not opting for an easy way out. The lifestyle is demanding, often off-grid of public services, and motivation is driven by an activist mind-set and the belief that change can only come from us all individually choosing to live better lives. It involves living both a practical and a spiritual act, fuelled by hope for the future; daring to think and live alongside, but out-with, the norms of contemporary society.
The emergence of such activities could not be more timely in terms of humanity’s tenuous hold on this earth. Despite their apparent idiosyncrasies – and a self-effacing, low profile – their produce is available to the rest of us through direct sales and local markets. They are a (sur)real alternative to the supermarket. They throw the gauntlet down to the rest of us on where and how we source our food. Is it to be sustainably sourced or are we to support the fault-bestrewn status quo?
My blog site, www.feedingbodyandsoul.com, documents all my visits with a write up and photographs. Please do take a look.