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A Farm for the Future

Documentary by Rebecca Hosking; Released: 2008

This 'A Farm for the Future' review written by Mark Jeantheau, Grinning Planet.

The premise of this 48-minute movie, which was originally presented on BBC's Natural World series, is that oil will soon peak, and that this will have enormous implications for agriculture. Exploring this linkage is not new among peak oil films, but A Farm For the Future moves quickly past the framing sustainable farming video link; thumb of berries in a permaculture setting of the problem to spend most of its time exploring how the fuel/farming/food issue can be solved.

The film presents the connection between oil and food in a way that leaves little doubt that today's farms, even organic ones and small ones, are utterly dependent on oil and, to a lesser extent, other fossil fuels. There's a wonderful explanation using a simple deli sandwich of just how fuel-dependent our food is. But this is not a scare-us-to-death disaster film—it shows that "post-oil farming" can be done.

There will be several keys to success in this transition, and first among them is to begin seeing nature as a force to be enlisted, not a horrendous pest army that must be dealt with chemically. Various permaculture techniques, including fully pastured cows and "food forests," shun chemicals and instead use the power of biodiversity to increase yields and reduce labor and fuel use.

Many peak oil films of recent years alternate between video clip art and talking-head interview shots, with little original footage beyond the interview segments. No matter how well the editing-room technicians do their magic, the approach has resulted in a certain sameness to the look of most peak oil films. Not so here. A Farm For the Future has done the hard work of using mostly its own footage. The many shots that show the relationship between nature and sustainable farming give the film a very likeable, cinematic look, making it feel as much like a David Attenborough special as a farming-and-energy documentary.

A Farm For the Future correctly points out that industrial agriculture is a necrotic system—the soil is dead, and without constant inputs of chemical fertilizers, crops would not grow successfully. As part of a move to sustainable farming techniques, soil can be reconditioned and nutrient cycles can be reestablished to once again create a living system with naturally fertility.

But that won't happen by accident or inertia—we must start strongly encouraging this transition. We highly recommend this impressive little film as a good starting point.

Watch the film at this page: sustainable farming video

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