The College

The basic task

Enlightened Agriculture is a simple idea — but infinitely complex in practice. Everything has to be thought through afresh from first principles. The task of the College for Enlightened Agriculture is to do the necessary thinking.

Conceptually, this task is divided into five strands:

1: Dialogue

“College” is understood in the traditional sense: not as a top-down dispenser of accepted wisdom, but as a meeting ground for people with shared interests to discuss and develop ideas. The task is to identify key issues, bring them into the open, identify discrete topics for research, and seek to ensure that the right people undertake the studies that are needed. The Campaign for Real Farming as a whole will become the eyes and ears of the College, bringing to light the issues that need to be discussed.

2: Research

Some of the research that is seen to be necessary can and should be carried out within the College itself. When the required research is more technical – including much of the science – the College will seek to link up with some university or centre that is better equipped for the task.

To a large extent, present-day agricultural research pursues a great many issues that are of little or no true benefit to humanity or the world, while neglecting a great deal that is.

3: Symposia

We can envisage a series of symposia focusing on specific issues of the kind that seem at present to be falling through the cracks of conventional thinking.

4: The think tank

All of the above will help to develop coherent theses to throw new light on the world’s problems. Since we will be gathering information from everyone who takes a serious interest this could reasonably be seen as “a people’s think-tank”.

Ideally, if and when the College acquires its own premises, it would be good to create the agricultural equivalent of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico – where scientists and other thinkers from all over the world with a special interest in the phenomenon of complexity, in effect drop in to exchange ideas.

5: Formal education

In the fullness of time, and in association with established centres of learning, the College could offer long-term courses at least at post-grad level, and shorter term residential and non-residential courses at all levels and on all relevant topics. Much could be achieved by what is now called “Remote learning”. If we ever acquire permanent premises the College could help to train the new generation of new-thinking farmers that Britain and the world so desperately needs.

How the College might develop

At present, the College is just a website — part of the Campaign for Real Farming. Even in this form – perhaps abetted by twitter, facebook, you-tube and doubtless others – we could involve vast numbers of people. But it would be good if we had the resources to do other things as well: to host meetings; publish pamphlets, reports, and even full-size books; produce CDs and films.

A permanent home – and the dream of a model farm

Ideally, as soon as the opportunity arises, we would like to establish permanent premises, and to set up a model farm. The farm would try out and demonstrate ideas and techniques; it would become a key player in the life of the local community; and it would provide an income stream. Then beyond doubt we would have a true Centre of Education – exploring both the minutiae of farming, and the myriad ways in which farming interacts with everything else that human beings do, and with the Earth itself.

Whatever form the College takes, the curriculum must be broad. In the present website, the essays are grouped under no fewer than 14 headings, as shown in the left-hand column – and there would be 15, except that for logistic reasons we have given “Food Culture” its own, separate section. The overall point, as throughout the whole Campaign, is to engage with the world at large. So please get involved – and please write for us!

Nature Plants on use of pesticides and arable productivity and profitability

Martin Lechenet, Fabrice Dessaint, Guillaume Py, David Makowski and Nicolas Munier-Jolain from the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and Agrosolutions in France recently published a research letter in Nature Plants (March 1 2017, … Read on

Bird flu – who’s to blame?

According to Rob Wallace, advisor to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy contrary to government departments and big industry it’s not wildfowl that are to blame but the “economic … Read on

People Need Nature policy report just published

Published on Jan 3 2017, this report was written by Miles King et al of “People Need Nature” Called “A Pebble in the Pond: Opportunities for farming, food and nature … Read on

Olivier De Schutter on why we need to shift to agroecology

This piece in today’s Guardian by Olivier De Schutter and Emile Frison, spells out the dangers of the so-called “technological advances” in industrial agriculture. That they “simply give industrial agriculture … Read on

New York Times on the corruption of agricultural research by the industry that sponsors it

This piece in the NYT (Dec 31 2016) describes what is now common practice in universities that take money from industry: “scientists deliver outcomes favorable to companies, while university research … Read on

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