Courses Overview >> Short courses >> Ecological Food Systems - Sustainable Food for All (Policy and Practice)

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Ecological Food Systems - Sustainable Food for All (Policy and Practice)

£ 735.00
Course fees include basic accommodation, all meals, field trips, materials and all teaching sessions.
The programme will run from Monday to Friday afternoon, and includes four nights private accommodation and all vegetarian meals from the first lunchtime you arrive through until the lunchtime before your departure.

With Colin Tudge, Ruth West, Jyoti Fernandes, Ed Hamer, Rebecca Hosking, Miguel A Altieri (by Skype) and Tim Crabtree

Today we live in a world with an abundant supply of food. Therefore how is it possible that hunger grows worldwide?

Humanity, and it's increasing numbers, urgently needs an alternative agricultural paradigm, one that works in harmony with nature and values forms of farming that are ecologically, biodiverse, resilient, sustainable and socially just.

This course brings together the leading advocates, both internationally and locally, to consider the policy and hands-on practice of a new paradigm, one that in reality is already being enacted by millions of small-holders, family farmers and indigenous people all around the world.

Evidence from this type of farming, based on the principles of agro-ecology, is being clearly shown to enhance food security while conserving natural resources, and empowering local, regional and national small scale farmers organisations and movements.

Join us to learn more about the ecological, social, economic, cultural and political dimensions of a new agricultural paradigm and how it is taking shape around the world and in the UK, whilst visiting some of the most pioneering agro-ecological projects in the local area.  

This course is based in the classroom in the field and is a mix of philosophy, practice, inspiration and action.

Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge about the principles of ecological food systems and their application for the design of biodiverse, productive and resilient farms
  • Understanding of the principles that underlie successful ecological initiatives that promote food sovereignty
  • How ecological food production can be used to promote socio-political change of the dominant food systems

Who is this course for?

This course will appeal to students, researchers, farmers and public in general interested in food justice, and alternative agricultural production systems.

Thanks to a very generous donation specifically for this course, we have additional bursary available above the 20% usually available. Please apply using our application procedure - click here.


Colin Tudge

Colin is a biologist by education and a writer. He was born in London in 1943; educated at Dulwich College, 1954-61; and read zoology at Peterhouse, Cambridge, 1962-65. Colin has written a great many articles for a great many publications and for a time was on the staff of Farmers’ Weekly, then New Scientist, then BBC Radio 3. But mainly he writes books – on natural history, evolution, food and farming, and, lately, on the philosophy of science and metaphysics. He also enjoys public speaking. In the early 2000s Colin coined the expression "Enlightened Agriculture"; in 2008 Colin and his second wife Ruth established the Campaign for Real Farming (link is external) and in 2010, together with Graham Harvey, they launched the Oxford Real Farming Conference (link is external) as the antidote to the established Oxford Farming Conference.

Ruth Tudge (West)

Ruth has followed a varied career from community worker in London’s east end in the early ’70s to coordinator of a farmers’ market in the last few years.  In between she has worked as a researcher and campaigner in the areas of health, the environment and human rights with spells as consultant for the WHO, UNEP and the Commonwealth Secretariat; run a research foundation exploring subjects that don’t fit the current scientific paradigm —  which at the time included climate change, as well as dowsing and healing; and got involved in setting up a social enterprise with a group of indigenous women in the Peruvian Andes.

Jyoti Fernandes

Jayoti Fernades is a Dorset smallholder farmer at Fivepenny Farm and land activist. She is currently working on a campaign to influence DEFRA to adopt more policies to promote food sovereignty.She is also m also a member of the coordinating committee of the European Coordination of La Via Campesina and works to represent small-scale producers around Europe in the European and Global agricultural institutions. Fivepenny Farm is a 43 acre low-impact, sustainable smallholding where Jyoti Fernandez and her husband Dai Saltmarsh, with friends Oliver and Kerry Goolden, grow organic fruit and vegetables, and keep a small number of cattle, chickens and pigs. They specialise in growing traditional and heritage varieties of vegetables including many different tomatoes, selling their seasonal produce in Bridport market. There is also timber-framed, thatched barn with solar and wind power, which provides a local food processing facility for a co-operative of mainly organic farmers and producers. They have an orchard, planted 5 years ago when they bought the land, two small areas of woodland and are restoring wildflower meadows.

Ed Hamer

Ed Hamer is a young farmer from Devon and a journalist. He was born and brought-up on the north-east edge of Dartmoor where he has worked on farms for most of his life. In 2010 he co-founded Chagfood Community Market Garden, a community supported agriculture scheme supplying 75 ecologically-produced veg shares a week to Chagford and its neighbouring parishes. Ed trained his own work horse, Samson, and uses working horses for the majority of the cultivation and tillage on his fields. Ed talks about the practicalities and viability of working horses in market gardening and the contribution that traditional farming skills and knowledge can make to the resilient farming systems of the future.

Rebecca Hosking

Rebecca Hosking grew up on a farm near Modbury in Devon and, after obtaining a degree in photography, film and television, joined the BBC's Natural History Unit. Her film 'A Farm For the Future (link is external)' explored how peak oil will effect farming and food distribution and why permaculture design, forest gardening and other regenerative agriculture practices could help us to cope with soaring fossil fuel prices that drive current agriculture practices which relies on fertlisers, mechanisation and distribution by transitioning to organic practices, diversifying yields and relocalising food supply. Rebecca now farms 'Village Farm' (link is external)- a windswept, misused neglected, coastal farm in South Devon.  Her aim is to turn it into an abundant rich landscape that produces nourishing, healthy, high welfare food with 100% traceability while simultaneously becoming a haven for wildlife.

Miguel A . Altieri

Miguel A . Altieri received a BS in Agronomy from the University of Chile and a Ph.D in Entomology from the University of Florida. He has been a Professor of Agroecology at UC Berkeley since 1981 in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. (link is external)

Dr. Altieri served as a Scientific Advisor to the Latin American Consortium on Agroecology and Development (link is external) Chile an NGO network promoting agroecology as a strategy for small farm sustainable development in the region. He also served for 4 years as the General Coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme’s Sustainable Agriculture Networking and Extension Programme (link is external) which aimed at capacity building on agroecology among NGOs and the scaling-up of successful local sustainable agricultural initiatives in Africa, Latin America and Asia. In addition he was the chairman of the NGO committee of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research whose mission was to make sure that the research agenda of the 15 International Agricultural Research Centers benefited the poor farmers of the. Currently he is advisor to the FAO-GIAHS program – (Globally Ingenious Agricultural Heritage Systems) a program devoted at identifying and dynamically conserving traditional farming systems in the developing world. He was for 6 years President of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (link is external). He is the author of more than 250 publications, and numerous books including Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture and Biodiversity, Pest Management in Agroecosystems and Agroecology and the Search for a Truly Sustainable Agriculture (link is external).

Tim Crabtree

Tim Crabtree has been involved in “new economics” for 30 years, after studying economics at Oxford University and then working for the New Economics Foundation for 5 years. He has experience in policy development, local economic development and business advice, and was the co-founder of a number of a successful social enterprises including the Wessex Reinvestment Trust group and Dorset-based Local Food Links Ltd – where he was responsible for developing farmers’ markets, food festivals, community gardening projects, a specialist workspace (the Centre for Local Food), a vocational training programme for young people and a school meals catering service, employing 25 people, which now supplies 33 schools with a turnover in excess of £1 million p.a.

After stepping down as chief executive of Local Food Links, Tim then worked for Cardiff University, researching the future direction of the community food sector. He continues to work with one of the Wessex Reinvestment Trust social enterprises - Wessex Community Assets - which co-ordinates the UK's largest programme of community land trust housing, as well as supporting community share issues in areas such as renewable energy and local food.

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A place can not be guaranteed unless we receive your deposit or payment on your chosen course. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please do this before making your course application.

Short Course Bursaries create an opportunity for an individual to experience the powerful transformative learning by joining a course that assists the participant to inspire their wider community and benefits from the participant’s own unique contribution. It is our hope that our bursaries support a wide cross section of participation on our short course programme. The number of bursaries available is limited, competition is strong and funding is not always available for every short course. Please be aware that most bursaries are in the region of 10% – 20% of the course fee so please be prepared to raise funding from other sources.  A bursary award is not intended to cover travel or incidental expenses.

Applications are viewed on a case-by-case basis and we are unable to enter into discussions on any decisions. We generally have many more applications for bursaries than we have funding available. We can only offer one bursary per person per year and priority is given to those who have not attended the college or received a bursary before. To help us support as many people as possible, please only apply if you would be unable to attend the course without a bursary.

How to apply for a bursary

Six weeks before the course is due to start all bursary applications will be considered and responded to.  If successful you will be required to accept our Bursary Terms and Conditions.

Please answer the following:

  1. What does a bursary mean to you?
  2. How will your attendance on this course benefit the wider community?
  3. If your financial situation justifies you applying for a bursary, how much are you able to contribute towards attending this course?

Please be prepared to supply an appropriate reference in support of your application.