Farming is far too important to leave to governments

The College for Real Farming and Food Culture is to do the necessary re-thinking, or at least to set the balls rolling.

But at the same time as the great re-think we need to start doing: setting up the kinds of farms and markets and other enterprises of the kind we really do want, which really could help to bring about the Agrarian Renaissance. Many such initiatives are already in train, though the cards are stacked against them. Our own Funding Enlightened Agriculture initiative (FEA) is helping things along, and so too are various excellent groups at home and abroad.

Above all, since the present government does not take agriculture seriously, and no government of any party has taken it seriously since post-war years, if we seriously want farming that does the job that’s needed then we, people at large, need to take matters into our own hands. In the immediate term, farmers and their surrounding communities need to work together to push things in the right direction. In the longer term – though as quickly as possible – we need to rescue agriculture from government. It needs its own agency, run by people who understand it and care about it, and care about humanity and the biosphere at large, and are also answerable to people at large; an organisation with power that is also democratic and, perhaps above all, competent. The BBC was run like this in its early days – not perfect, but admirable nonetheless. I am told the Dutch dikes also have their own agency, with the power to do what needs doing, because if they did not they would drown. Some things are just too important to leave to governments and farming, beyond doubt, is one of them.


I coined the term “Enlightened Agriculture” in 2003 in a book called So Shall We Reap. At a meeting in 2008 with friends and my wife, Ruth (West) we decided that “Real Farming” would be catchier and so (with a generous grant from one of the assembled company) we set up “The Campaign for Real Farming”, including this website. At about that time too Graham Harvey suggested that the world needed an antidote to the establishment’s Oxford Farming Conference and so he, Ruth and I set up the Oxford Real Farming Conference in 2010 (which is still going from strength to strength). Then Ruth and I felt we should establish a fund to help new enterprises of an enlightened kind, and so we started Funding Enlightened Agriculture, FEA. Then we gathered all these threads – the Campaign, ORFC, and FEA – together under the umbrella of a new charity, the Real Farming Trust, which has built up a truly outstanding board of trustees. Finally, out of all this came our College for Real Farming and Food Culture, designed formally to access and to carry out all the necessary thinking that governments and the NFU, the BBSRC, and most of academe are singularly failing to do. The College website is still building but it is well in train. The College is also building a programme of seminars – the next of which are in September and October of this year (more news to follow). In the fullness of time the College may have its own premises with an experimental farm attached. We’re working on it. Thus the Agrarian Renaissance might come about through a kind of co-evolution: the necessary thinking and the new enlightened enterprises developing in synergy.

Colin Tudge April 30 2017

One thought on “Farming is far too important to leave to governments

  1. Dear folks,
    Do you know of a similar program or group in the USA? I was looking for old-fashioned strawberry varieties when I found your site. I am a research dietitian and organic gardener/rancher in Texas trying to raise food by hand and with horses.

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