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Food, Farms and Metaphysics: The Great Re-think

Small Farm
Key Info: 
  • A joint venture between Schumacher College and the College for Real Farming and Food Culture

With Colin Tudge, Jyoti Fernandes, Ruth West and Tim Gorringe

£ 650.00
Course fees include all meals, field trips, materials and 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. We recommend attending this course as a fully residential participant however for you may choose to book as a non-residential participant. Please call 01803 847237 for more details.

We need to dig very deep. We need to re-think, from first principles, all the big ideas that we take for granted and dominate our lives.

We could easily ensure that that everyone who is ever likely to be born on to this Earth has access to food of the highest standard – nutritionally and gastronomically; that everyone has somewhere comfortable to live; and, overall, and at least as important, that everyone has a chance to achieve personal fulfilment. We could achieve all this and still ensure that our fellow creatures, of all kinds, flourish alongside us. In short, we could be looking forward with real hope to the next million years.

Yet right now we see disaster on every front – ecological, political, economic, and social: death, destruction, and a great deal of unhappiness. Why is that, and what can we do about it?

To trace the causes of our troubles – and why there is such a gap between what is possible and what is -- we need to dig very deep. We need to re-think, from first principles, all the big ideas that we take for granted and dominate our lives: from the practicalities of cooking and farming -- and of building and medicine and education and all the rest -- down through the mechanisms and ideologies of politics and economies, to the underlying notions of science and moral philosophy (all informed by the arts), and on into the murky, vital, but much neglected notions of metaphysics which, in reality, underpin all our understanding and values. “We”, in this context, means all of us. Our leaders – the oligarchy of big governments, corporates, financiers, and their chosen intellectual and expert advisers -- have lost the plot, intent it seems on continuing the status quo, or resurrecting past remembered glories.

In short, the change that’s needed is radical in the literal sense. We must get down to the roots of things; change what we do, day by day; change the way we organize our and the world’s affairs; and, perhaps above all, change our worldview -- our understanding and our attitudes. Nothing less than transformation is required, a metamorphosis, or indeed a virtual re-birth – a 21st Century Renaissance, even more profound and far-reaching than the European Renaissance that brought the Middle Ages to a close. But the Renaissance that’s needed now must be driven by us: people at large.

It’s a tall order but it surely can be done. All the necessary ideas are out there and many millions of people worldwide in many thousands of organizations are already doing the kinds of things that need doing. The task now is to develop and disseminate the ideas and to coordinate thought and action.

Come and discuss what really needs to be done to put the world to rights, and find out who is doing what, in a five-day course at Schumacher College in collaboration with the College for Real Farming and Food Culture. The course includes a day at Five Penny Farm in Dorset, where Jyoti Fernandez is showing what wonders can be achieved on a smallholding of a mere 20 acres – and is in touch with small farmers everywhere over via the world’s peasant movement, La Via Campesina.  

The speakers include: 
Colin Tudge
Jyoti Fernandes
Ruth West
Tim Gorringe

--- plus a variety of local thinkers and doers who are already framing the necessary ideas and doing the things that need doing.

The sessions will include:
1: The Great Re-think
Why everything needs to be re-thought – and why everything needs to be re-thought in the light of everything else to give a coherent and truly holistic overview

2: The Perennial Wisdom in Everyday Life: science, morality, politics, economics – and metaphysics
Perennial Wisdom is in essence a distillate of all the best ideas from all cultures from all times, which in essence are agreed by all. All the biggest ideas are rooted in metaphysics which asks “the ultimate questions” – but metaphysics alas has been sorely neglected and needs to be restored.

3 & 4: The Future and the Importance of Religion (two sessions) 
Actually metaphysics does live on – at the heart of all the world’s bona fide religions; both global and traditional. The task is to identify the common ground between them all and build upon it, and then to apply the findings to our lives and to care of the biosphere.

5 & 6: The thing we absolutely have to get right: farming fit for the next million years. (two sessions)
The key is “Enlightened Agriculture”, rooted in the principles of food sovereignty – societies with control over their own food supply; and agroecology – individual farms conceived as ecosystems and agriculture as a whole conceived as a positive contributor to the global biosphere.
We will see what this entails in a day at Five Penny Farm, a truly agroecological smallholding.

7: True Food Culture: “The Future belongs to the Gourmet”
Enlightened agriculture cannot succeed unless people at large support the farmers who are trying to achieve it. We need to develop a true Food Culture -- to cast off standard beliefs and prejudices and acknowledge that compassionate, eco-friendly farming, sound nutrition, and great cooking go hand in hand. We don’t need to be vegans on the one hand, or GMOs or CAFOs or synthesised animal flesh on the other. We just need to re-learn how to cook.

8 & 9: A People’s Takeover  (two sessions).
Around the world we find that billions of people want the world to be different – more convivial, more secure; that many millions are doing things and developing ideas that are moving us in the right directions; and that many thousands of organizations, including NGOs of all sizes, are making a difference by acting concertedly. In short, there are easily enough people with enough ideas and goodwill to form a critical mass that could change the whole world around. The task now is to frame a coherent philosophy and to coordinate what’s already out there. 

With Colin Tudge, Jyoti Fernandes, Ruth West and Tim Gorringe
Colin Tudge

Colin Tudge

Colin Tudge studied zoology at Cambridge and then became a science writer – with World Medicine, New Scientist, Farmers Weekly, and BBC Radio 3; and for the past 25 years or so has been freelance. Mainly, though, he writes books – on many aspects of biology, food, and agriculture, and, lately, on metaphysics. Among the most recent are Why Genes are Not Selfish and People are Nice; Six Steps Back to the Land; and The Secret Life of Trees. In 2008 he and his wife, Ruth West, began The Campaign for Real Farming. Out of the Campaign came the Oxford Real Farming Conference; Funding Enlightened Agriculture; and the College for Real Farming and Food Culture. All are conceived as projects of the Real Farming Trust

Jyoti Fernandes

Jyoti Fernandes

Jyoti Fernandes is a Dorset smallholder with vegetables, Jersey cows, goats, pigs and sheep which also provide excellent fleeces and knitting wool; and produces apple juice, cider, and cheese. She is also the Campaigns Coordinator of the Landworkers’ Alliance, the British arm of the worldwide peasants’ organization, Via Campesina.

Ruth West

Ruth West

Ruth West has a lifetime’s experience with NGOs at home and abroad with a special interest in indigenous cultures and traditional medicine. Since the outset in 2010 she has been the principal organizer of the Oxford Real Farming Conference and is coordinator of the Real Farming Trust, with a special interest in helping to fund new projects. She also helped to set up and to run the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology which aims to introduce agroecological thinking into mainstream British politics.

Tim Gorringe

Tim Gorringe

Tim Gorringe is Emeritus Professor of Theological Studies at Exeter University and with his wife Gill he also runs a 15-acre smallholding, with sheep, chickens, bees, fruit and vegetables, and makes cider and wine; and is a member of the Transition Town movement and the Iona Community. His books include The Common Good and the Global Emergency, (2011); Earthly Visions: Theology and the Challenges of Art (2011); and – most recently – The World Made Otherwise (2018).

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