Whole Health Agriculture
The premise is simple. “To promote the concept and practice of holistic farming systems which enhance the health and wellbeing of soil, plants, animals and people”. All good.
WHAg was set up in 2018 to create a broad approach to agriculture that looks at the whole. We were well aware of the good work done by organisations such as the Soil Association and the Biodynamic farmers. Many of us were also part of HAWL, teaching farmers about the effective and responsible use of homeopathy on the farm.
What we wanted to do was to create something that encompassed the whole. This would allow farmers from any background to access support if they wanted to improve their holistic approach to farming. In turn this would mean that the end consumers of the food would benefit.
Today’s Farmer Discussion Day was looking at the question of health. It was being held at Abbey Home Farm, which is an established organic farm near Cirencester. As well as having a variety of livestock, its own dairy, arable, fruit and vegetables, it also has a wonderful shop, organic cafe as well as conference facilities.
The aim was to get a focussed discussion about what makes a healthy farm, how best this can be achieved and how it can be measured. This was very much a day for the farmers where they would be giving much of the input, rather than a day of teaching.
We had organised a meeting of farmers from a variety of backgrounds. They all had an overarching interest in improving their farm health. The day started by exploring the living dynamic of the different components of the farm. We then went on to look at the different influences on the farm. Next we explored the different ways of measuring the effects.
In the afternoon there was a chance for farmers to look at how the different ideas could be put into practice. We considered how aspects such as economics, people, soil, plants, animals and the outputs of a farm could all be considered in producing a holistic model for a farm. The key issue was that the farm had to have health as the priority.
What was uplifting to see was that all the farmers had a deep concern for the health of their farms. Beyond this, they wanted to look with genuine compassion for health at all levels. Health was their priority and from this point they would develop good levels of productivity.
The following day we met again and reviewed the year so far and looked forward to the future. We reflected on the deep understanding of all aspects of health. This is epitomised by this famous quote:
"Health, - whether of soil, plant, animal or man, - is one and indivisible"
Lady Eve Balfour
If this is true of health, then it is also true of disease. Thinking optimistically, if disease can be infectious, then let us also make health infectious. The more people that start to focus in a health-centred direction, the better.
It is still early stages with WHAg as the network of farmers, consumers and supportive professionals is established. If you want to know more, then check out the Whole Health Agriculture website.