This event was organised and funded by Triple Bottom Line Accounting (TBLA) and co-sponsored by the Enterprise Centre (TEC) to bring together businesses and individuals who want to know more about the topic of sustainable food production and to network with other sustainable businesses from within the area. The event raised £1,127 for The Feed, Norwich.
Over 130 people attended including TBLA clients, regenerative farming design consultants, eco design consultants, project managers, IT and management consultants, marketeers, yoga teachers, many social enterprises and charities, wealth managers, therapists, resilience workers, academics from the Norwich Business School, Tyndall Centre and the Norwich Research Park, artists, plumbers, green start-ups, diverse small businesses, not to mention a number of farmers, growers, and food distributors. TBLA is very grateful to Becca Lawlor, Front of House Administrator at TEC, who helped ensure the event ran smoothly on the day. The building has been dubbed by the press as the UK’s greenest building, showcased at COP26 in 2021. It achieved the Passivhaus standard and a BREEAM outstanding rating. The speakers and panellists drew from decades of multiple experiences in agroforestry, organic, biodynamic and regenerative farming.
The evening opened with a 2-minute trailer from a new film, Six Inches of Soil. It is an inspiring story of British farmers standing up against the industrial food system and transforming the way they produce food; healing the soil and benefiting our health. It features some of the speakers and panellists at this event, and their farms. Colin Ramsay and Claire Mackenzie, the co-producers, were able to answer any questions and share their findings.
The event was chaired by Dr Mick Collins, who has had a long-term interest in the interconnections between soil, society, soul, and systems change. Mick’s research and writing centres on the process of psycho-spiritual renewal and the collective efforts needed to tackle and transform the multiple crises in the world at this time.
Jake Fiennes spoke about his experiences as Director of Holkham Nature Reserve and Conservation Manager of Holkham Estate. His achievements in restoring biodiversity, while continuing to produce food commercially, are stunning. Jake writes in his recent book, Land Healer: According to the National Food Strategy, any future’ food system’ should ‘make us well instead of sick’, be resilient to global shocks, help restore nature and halt climate change ‘so that we hand on a healthier planet to our children’, and meet the ‘standards the public expect’ on health, environment and animal welfare.”
Marina O’Connell spoke about her experiences over many years, starting with studying Horticulture at Bath University and gaining a Masters in Environment and Society under Professor Jules Pretty. Marina is a director of the Apricot Centre, and in 2015 she left her farm in Essex and took on the tenancy for Huxhams Cross Farm in Dartington, Totnes, Devon. The team is rapidly growing as the farm itself grows. It has regenerated this small 13-hectare farm by weaving together biodynamic farming and agroforestry. Marina designed the farm using permaculture design techniques. Marina handed round some before and after soil samples: the infertile soil of the farm she took on in 2015 and the fertile, productive soil it has become in less than 6 years. She explained how they completed an impact assessment of Huxhams Cross Farm after 5 years and found that the farm is carbon negative, sequestering more carbon than it uses, supports more biodiversity, produces a wide range of local food and is economically viable. The farm now produces fruit, vegetables, eggs, and small-scale grain. It provides training and includes a well-being service for children and families. The farm is in partnership with another farm and bakery and has created “Reclaim the Grain”. The group grows, mills, and bakes local grains in collaboration with other farmers and bakers. There is a new school for level three regenerative land-based systems starting in 2022. Marina’s new book ‘Designing Regenerative Food Systems‘ is published by the Hawthorn Press.
Jake and Marina are quoted at length by the EDP’s agricultural editor, Chris Hill in this article covering the evening.
The two panellists responded to the two speakers and answered a range of excellent questions from the audience. Josh Smith spoke from his experience at Goodery, supplying local people with locally grown organic food. “We want to make positive contributions to our climate for every order we deliver. We do this by supporting local, ethical businesses and by drawing carbon emissions out of the air and sinking it into the earth”. TBLA has enjoyed weekly zero emission fruit deliveries from the Goodery for over a year.
David Wolfe of Wakelyns, an organic farm on one of the longest-established and most diverse Agroforestry sites in the UK, stated, “we want our 23 hectares to provide the best produce and food; help tackle climate change and the nature crisis; and provide construction materials, crafts, energy, work, accommodation (including for visitors), learning, public access, community, inspiration and well-being.”
A good debate followed with questions about providing affordable housing with smallholdings, making good nutritious organic food available to all incomes and the education needed on healthy eating and where our food comes from.
Ticket sales totalling £1,127 were donated to The Feed, whose marketing manager, Chris Elliot, rounded off the evening with an explanation of what this Social Enterprise has achieved and its vision for the future: to motivate change in order to prevent poverty, hunger and homelessness in Norwich. The Feed runs cafés and a catering enterprise which produce delicious homemade food to generate much of its income. They are places where they help people who have faced or are facing mental ill health, homelessness, substance misuse, or have a history of offending or learning difficulties. By participating in their supported work experience programme or receiving 1:1 support, their clients learn new skills, build their confidence and motivation, and develop new positive routines to move forward into employment. The Feed provided a super buffet, and attendees were able to buy organic wine from regenerative vineyards provided by Norwich-based Substrata Wines.
During the evening attendees browsed some interesting stalls Wakelyns, Goodery, Hudson Architects (sustainable building design), The Enterprise Centre and Andrew Cook Cranial Sacral therapist who also runs resilience workshops in Norwich.
Fran Ellington of Triple Bottom Line Accounting who curated the event concludes, “My key takeaway from the evening is that there is no time like the present to change how we farm and distribute food. It needs to be sustainable economically, socially and environmentally. Adaptation is crucial, and there is no one solution – a collaborative systems change approach is needed. The size of the audience and their feedback suggests that there is definitely an appetite for this.”
Thanks to Angela Brett, Claire Mackenzie and Tatiana Blana for the photos.
Fran joined TBLA in 2019 after a long career in teaching. Her roles include human resources management, ESG and Marketing. During 2020 and 2021 she developed the TBLA Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) impact service. As part of the process, she has carried out an impact analysis of the TBLA social and governance profile and a whole company carbon calculation with accompanying target setting, carbon reduction action plan and impact narrative. Fran is now working alongside the growing ESG team to help more SMEs plan for Net Zero around the UK. Fran is also on the board of the Norwich Business Climate Leaders hoping to accelerate the transition to Net Zero.