Agriculture is surely the most important of all human endeavours – by far the main source of our food, by far the world’s biggest employer, with by far the greatest impact on our fellow creatures and the fabric of the Earth itself. It is the foundation of everything that we might aspire to achieve, from good health to world peace to wildlife conservation. It is the thing we absolutely have to get right. To succeed we must treat farming as an exercise in applied ecology – agro-ecology. Agro-ecological farming, with a clear social and, indeed, metaphysical purpose, has been called, by me among others, ‘enlightened agriculture’ and ‘real farming’. Following nature, enlightened farms are highly diverse in what they produce and low input (as organic as possible). They are complex and so must be skills-intensive, needing plenty of farmers, which means there is no real advantage in scale-up – they are usually small to medium-sized. Control is bottom-up: a network of small farmers answerable to their communities. Such farms tick all the vital boxes: they are productive, sustainable, resilient and regenerative; they help to restore land that seems degraded beyond redemption.
But the people with most power in this world see agriculture simply as a ‘business like any other’ – and, in line with the dogma of neoliberalism, they conceive business not as a natural, economic pillar of democracy but simply as a way of maximising wealth. Their method is ‘industrial