5 ways to support regenerative farming this Christmas!

Gaia’s Rowan Phillimore shares how to support regenerative farming this Christmas. See our five gift recommendations and read more about a ground breaking year for small growers of food and seed!

Rare black welsh oats, being revived through Gaia’s UK & Ireland Seed Sovereignty Programme. Photo: Andy Pilsbury

Despite the chaos, sadness and uncertainty of 2020, for smallholder farmers and regenerative farming in the UK & Ireland there has also been great progress.

As supermarket shelves lay bare, people looked closer to home for their vegetables, bread and milk. They looked towards the passionate farmers, fisherfolk and land workers, revaluing healthy, seasonal and nutritious food grown using methods which support rather than destroy Nature. This sudden demand for local, fresh produce was accompanied by a grow-your-own renaissance like nothing seen since the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign during World War II.

Through our Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland Programme we have witnessed these phenomenal trends firsthand. Our seed producing partners– The Seed Cooperative, Vital Seeds and Real Seeds – each saw an increase in seed demand 0f 600% compared 2019. Their websites crashed due to over-demand. They had to put up disclaimers announcing that orders would only be taken for limited time slots each day. But ultimately they rose to the challenge.

At the time, this felt like a seismic shift in demand for diverse, organically produced seed and awareness of its importance. But would it last?

Encouragingly, now in December, Gaia’s Seed Sovereignty Programme Manager, Sinead Fortune, reports that the demand for UK-grown seed has not waned since the lockdown in March:

“Our partners are still informing us of an unprecedented demand for organic and open pollinated varieties, forcing them to temporarily close their online shops so that they can keep up! The exciting thing is, the quality of the seeds will speak for themselves once sown, harvested and tasted in 2021, so we anticipate that customer retention will be high. This really is a turning point for home grown, agroecological seed.”

Beyond seed alone, the pandemic has catalysed a huge change in attitudes towards the UK’s smallholder farmers and their produce. It is a change that some have been waiting for for many years.

Ian ‘Tolly’ Tolhurst, of Tolhurst Organics, who features in our new book We Feed the World, described his recent experience on his blog:

The Box Scheme numbers almost doubled in two weeks …when suddenly our local community got scared at the empty supermarket shelves and realised that their local veg grower was able to supply their needs! We came into organic food production over four decades ago with some radical and determined beliefs. Those beliefs and ideals are still with us and are primarily to enable us to feed people with quality food without trashing the Planet. Four decades is a long time to wait, but finally I feel that we are valued and respected for how we manage our land and that perhaps our time has come.”

To celebrate this shift in consciousness and the smallholder farmers and fisherfolk leading transitions towards a regenerative farming future, we’ve compiled a collection of Christmas gift recommendations that will help you support and share this vital work.

With thanks to all those who have worked tirelessly to meet unprecedented demand during an extremely challenging time. Cheers to starting 2021 with optimism that the seeds of change have truly taken root.


We Feed the World

We Feed the World is a brand new 300-page photographic book celebrating the stories of the farmers and fishing communities that feed the world!

Over three years The Gaia Foundation gathered together 47 of the world’s most renowned photographers, including Rankin, Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr and Graciela Iturbide, to photograph the triumphs and challenges of the world’s smallholder farmers and fishing communities. Documented through a series of poignant and intimate portraits, theirs are stories of resilience, of community, nutrition, agroecology, women’s empowerment and the critical role of seed and food sovereignty in navigating the climate emergency.

This is timely and important book amplifyies the voices of the people who really feed the world.

Brought to you by The Gaia Foundation and published by Little Toller. Please support independent bookshops!

Buy Here


Vital Seeds Gift Packs

Vital Seeds was established by Fred Groom and Ronja Schlumberger in 2018 in response to the lack of open pollinated and organic seed available to buy in the UK. All of the seed they produce has been grown without chemical inputs and to a high quality standard for ease of growing, resilience, taste and cooking quality. What’s more, they’ve created fantastic gift bundles so you don’t have to! “In this day and age, with our ecosystems clogging up with bits of plastic and other unnecessary things, we need to be more conscious of how we gift and celebrate each other. We think that seeds are the perfect gifts – they provide a mixture of experience, nourishment, and connection, and because all of our seeds are open-pollinated you can save your own for future use.”

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Landworkers Alliance 2021 Calendar

The much loved Landworkers Alliance calendar returns for another year with stunning artwork from UK printmaker Rosanna Morris. Another Farm is Possible features a unique work of art every month, collating farmer stories from across the UK. Look out for the month of August which this year features Llafur Ni – Welsh for Our Cereals – which has been established to support the revival of heritage grains as part of Gaia’s Seed Sovereignty Programme in Wales. Proceeds go towards the critical work of the LWA in strengthening grassroots agroecological farming movement.

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Tickets to The Oxford Real Farming Conference 

For the regenerative farming movement in the UK, the Oxford Real Farming Conference has become an unmissable event in the calendar at the start of every year. January 2021 will see the conference go global, taking place 100% online. An exciting first for a conference that goes from strength to strength. The perfect gift for foodies, farmers and anyone who wants to nurture their mind!

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A Small Farm Future

A bible to accompany the regenerative farm transition! Chris Smaje is a social scientist turned smallholder farmer in Somerset. Chris has been running Vallis Veg on the outskirts of Frome for many years as well as being an active commentator on the future of agroecological farming practices. In A Small Farm Future he analyses the complex forces that make societal change inevitable and explains how low-carbon, locally self-reliant, agrarian communities can empower us to successfully confront these changes head on.

A Small Farm Future: Making the Case for a Society Built Around Local Economies, Self-Provisioning, Agricultural Diversity, and a Shared Earth was published by Chelsea Green Publishing in October 2020.

Buy Here