Being in nature, reconnecting with the wisdom of the land, and eating healthy food, fresh from the farm—what more can you ask for?
I was able to experience these when I spent a month in the Stanford Hall Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Leicestershire, United Kingdom—living off the land, off-grid, in what could be considered an alternative lifestyle.
The days mostly consisted of harvesting potatoes, carrots, squash (of different varieties), beetroot, swede, and leeks, among others, which were then prepared for CSA members.
On other days, we did some weeding, propagating, transplanting, and seed-saving. Sometimes, I was on animal care duty, ensuring that the pigs, chickens, and ducks are fed. There were a couple of days where I helped out with woodwork, installing roof planks for a roundhouse, a communal, and an activity area. I was totally out of my element but I enjoyed learning how to use power tools and how to saw and hammer and all that.
The work on the farm can be physically tiring but I have to say that it was fulfilling. Being up close to how food is grown and seeing the effort put into getting it on your plate make you appreciate food more. Strangely, time on the farm seemed slow giving you more opportunities to rest, reflect, and be with yourself—something we take for granted in a fast-paced city life full of distractions.
In the book “The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions,” Jason Hickel pointed out that subsistence farming was the normal way of life. Factories, however, demanded labor and consequently, through land grabbing, drove people out of their lands who then without any other choice had to work for wages.
What I saw in the farm and the community is that it is a means of going back to basics—an attempt of moving away from relying on the established capitalist system.
The issue of climate change and other environmental problems is proliferated by this very system and a solution proposed is degrowth. In essence, it is about redefining work and wealth, promoting ethical consumption, and prioritizing wellbeing, which can be achieved, more or less, through community-supported agriculture and community living.
This alternative lifestyle is definitely a path toward regeneration and climate action. I recognize, however, that this kind of life is not for everyone, especially those who cannot live without the comforts of a modern toilet, continuous supply of water and electricity, and the convenience of getting things done with a few clicks. Still, spending a month in the CSA farm gave me hope that we still do have the capacity to challenge the status quo and create the future we want—one that is centered around sustainability and wellbeing.
This is why despite the outcome of the recent 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which was disappointing to say the least, I still believe that global cooperation is crucial in addressing the climate crisis. It is immensely challenging but it is possible—if only we realize early enough that we need to go back to basics, learn from the wisdom of the land, uphold social justice, and perhaps, give alternative living a try.
About the author
Ryan Bestre has just completed MSc Climate Change and International Development at the University of East Anglia as a Chevening Scholar. He is a Climate Reality Leader and one of the 2017 Miguel R. Magalang Individual Climate Leadership Memorial Awardees. He is also a campaigner of #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement, an advocacy group supported by Greenpeace that promotes sustainable agriculture and plant-based diets.