End of term report

And so we come to Small Farm Future’s final post of 2014 – the Year of the Family Farm, to which the British government’s considered contribution was abolishing CAP payments for entitlements under 5 hectares (oh well, I can’t say I’ll miss dealing with the Rural Payments Agency too much), and refusing to cap payments over €150,000.

Still, at least it hasn’t been a bad year for literary output from the Small Farm Future publishing empire. We’ve just heard that our CEO Chris Smaje has had his paper on perennial grain breeding accepted for publication in the academic journal Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, with a reply by the folks from the Land Institute in Kansas, so we’re pretty excited about that. We’ll write something on it in the new year – hopefully another opportunity to chew the fat with Clem about the role of plant breeding. Chris also published an academic paper about agroecology (‘Kings and commoners: agroecology meets consumer culture’) in the Journal of Consumer Culture, which apparently is the top rated journal in cultural studies – however they figure that out. Another blog post on that in the offing too. And in 2014 Chris chalked up an article in Dark Mountain, an interview on the Permalogues and – despite a summer break involving building a house and moving into it – no fewer than 31 blog posts in the course of the year. We just hope that in 2015 some of the other staff in the Small Farm Future office will step up to the plate and match this productivity.

Ah yes, blog posts, blog posts. Themes for the year included, at the start, my continuing sceptical but friendly engagement with permaculture – including the minor firestorm caused by my post Permaculture Design Course Syndrome, which got more comments than any of my other posts, ever. And towards the end, an admonishment from my permaculture teacher Patrick Whitefield for playing fast and loose with the evidence on polycultures. Well, fast and loose is how we like to play things on the Small Farm Future blog, but of course the whole point is to get useful feedback and so I’ll be writing a post or two early in the new year on the matter of polycultures. In the course of the debate I learned that Patrick is unwell, and I want to send my warmest wishes to him once again – a real titan of agricultural thinking and rural knowledge.

I also continued my much more sceptical and much less friendly engagement with those hair-of-the-dog philosophes in the eco-panglossian camp, with posts on urbanisation, peasantries, GM crops, energy and other such matters dear to the eco-panglossian heart. There are certainly interesting issues wrapped up in all of that which are by no means black and white. But I didn’t get an awful lot back other than the usual insults, mangled economics, skin deep analysis and self-regarding assurances that they’re the ones who really care about the poor. Ah well, I think I’ve looked deeply enough into the eco-panglossian soul now to learn what can be learned from it. I have a few more posts up my sleeve in which I attempt to engage with its distinctive (though strongly normalised) Weltanschauung, and then it’s time to move on.

My main focus next year, both in real life and here in the blogosphere, will be to engage in more practical terms with things that I think can help to make small scale farming productive, fulfilling, sustainable and community-building. And on the intellectual front, over the next year I also want to try to develop in further detail my thinking on some of the economic and political underpinnings necessary to develop a plausible agrarian populism for the future to help realise those practical aims.

Hmmm, next year. Well, next year and the one after it will be necessary for me to make my farm more profitable, not only to feed my hungry children but also to keep the wolves of Mendip District Council from the door, and Spudman’s superhero cloak safely mouldering in the cupboard. So I fear that – with various other little writing projects to reckon with too – my blog posts may become a bit more sporadic. But do please keep reading and commenting. I’m always interested to hear from anyone willing to engage constructively with debating a small farm future – so a festive greeting to everyone I’ve engaged with on this site over the past year. That greeting does not, however, extend to the ever-proliferating number of spammers. You lot can get lost. Yes, you. You know who you are. And no, I don’t want a bloody Louis Vuitton handbag.

On that upbeat note, see you in 2015.

7 thoughts on “End of term report

  1. Have a wonderful holiday Chris – and best wishes for a Happy New Year.

    Many thanks for the insightful work you put up here, and for the patience around all else you put up with.

    In the new year I will indeed look forward to plant breeding discussions. And I’ll look forward to all the other tidbits that fall from the table and offer ever more chewing opportunities to discern the various angles and vantage points that topics can be considered from [and the chewing metaphor… it needs some work].

    All the best!

  2. I discovered your excellent blog a few months back and I’d love me to thank you for your excellent and illuminative insights.

    I’ll keep reading!

    Festive cheers and all that.

  3. Chris,
    I have thoroughly enjoyed the past years posts. It gives me a chance to rub shoulders with you and Clem and the rest with more intellectual juice that I have got. I’ll look forward to the posts on agrarian populism, a topic of great interest and of even greater importance.
    Also, glad the Louis Vuitton folks found you. I sent them your way with my best wishes.
    Cheers to you and Ms. Spudman for an excellent Christmas and a productive 2015.

  4. Thank you for your comments, gentlemen. It’s been a pleasure debating with you – I look forward to more discussions in 2015.

  5. We have news on our side of the pond that a fellow countryman to our noble Spudman (and a fellow landholder…) has enjoyed a rather remarkable Christmas just past. It appears that on the 21st of December last a not small horde of ancient coins were discovered in a field in Buckinghamshire near Aylesbury. [and is it too trite to suspect the ‘bury’ part of Aylesbury could have been a clue… the coins were in a lead box and appear to have been deliberately buried on the site??]

    Whether this field is part and parcel of a Small Farm remains unknown on our side at this moment – but the photo of the site from the BBC makes me think this was not a broad acre planting in the 2014 growing season.

    At any rate, one would now have to consider that among all the other fertile means of making a go of a small English property, such as veg box sales, there is also the prospect that finding ancient coinage might leave all other pursuits wanting.

    We are seriously hoping that Santa left Sir Spudman a metal detector for Christmas!

    Warm regards,

      • No – Santa didn’t leave me a copy of any of his works 🙁

        Come to think of it, I didn’t get anything for Christmas with a link to Jolly ol’ England. [unless we count the warm and fuzzy of knowing that Chris will return with more good stuff to ruminate over].

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