We have found opportunity amidst these months. We connected and established ourselves as the founding team, then built a deep and inspired plan to ‘build a scaled regenerative agrifood enterprise in the UK’.
We are now ready to raise capital and to realise the next stage of our plan in 2021; more on that in January but, meantime we are always keen to hear from anyone who wants to join us on our journey.
There is much work to be done as the country reassesses our national food strategy, grapples with the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, and considers all of this against the backdrop of the climate emergency.
At New Foundation Farms, we are taking a holistic view as we set out to develop an organisation that will have the resilience and impact society needs.
I have spent much of my life at the interface between business and society. My journey started by making a contribution to the transition out of apartheid in South Africa. Back then, tens of thousands of people came together to do what was impossible – the first peaceful transition of power from a minority to a majority in human history. I see the magic of those times resurfacing as we build New Foundation Farms – so many brilliant people committing their energy, skills and knowledge to create not only regenerative farming and regenerative food, but also to do it in a regenerative business framework.
2020 has shown how much we need to change the world we create. It feels a gift to close the year knowing we are part of the story of a future that restores our relationships to nature, our health and each other.
A particular way of seeing things had been brewing in me for many years but I required a prolonged pause of an extraordinary kind for it to become clearly available to me. Significant changes in my personal and professional life, including a dislocated patella, then the Covid-19 pandemic and its companion lockdown, provided me with that pause.
Building on my understanding that regenerative agriculture is a solution to our multiple crises and literally a new foundation for our civilisation, new thinking in the form of a question emerged for me: Having taken degeneration this far, maybe we could explore just how far we can take regeneration?
What I found in 2020 is best expressed by the US American conservationist, philosopher and writer Aldo Leopold when he coined the phrase thinking like a mountain. To think like a mountain is to see things holistically and recognise how one is connected to the entire ecosystem. It means to have a complete appreciation for the profound interconnectedness of the elements in the ecosystems. It is an ecological exercise using the intricate web of the natural environment rather than thinking as an isolated individual.
For me, one of the manifestations of this way of seeing things was the publication of my report Farming Smarter: The case for agroecological enterprise, co-authored with Tony Greenham, by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission. Beyond the key message that regenerative approaches to farming are good business, the key insight I found was humans can reclaim the role of a beneficial keystone species in the larger global ecosystem when we develop the capacity to see and manage the complexity of interdependent living systems. From this perspective, good business and its profit is merely one indicator of a healthy organisation.
It’s ultimately the quality of how we relate to ourselves, others, and the natural world which determines what kind of ecology, economy and society or teams we co-create. On that note, 2020 has also been the year in which I have had the great pleasure of experiencing the founding team of New Foundation Farms and the wider circle of supporters recognising each other and emerging together. I have been in equal measure humbled and delighted by the humanity, generative creativity and sharpness of mind I have met. We can change the world we create. Sometimes we just need to meet the right people at the right time.
After a different kind of a pause for Christmas and the New Year, I am looking forward with great joy and anticipation to moving mountains towards some much-needed radical change together in 2021.
2020 has been a pivotal year for me. After two years researching alternative living models such as intentional community, training in permaculture and experiencing rural living throughout Europe, 2020 gave the time and space to integrate and pivot my energy towards agriculture.
What a challenging year for everyone. This year I’ve been inspired by the rallying of our health services, the scientific community and the personal risks and efforts undertaken by so many. I’ve also been inspired by nature.
Early in the year I hatched a plan to start a farming enterprise and built out a network of impact, sustainability and regenerative contacts to help it along the way, discussing and further studying topics from soil science to regenerative agriculture. That brought me to join the New Foundation Farms founding team and combine forces to achieve our shared vision. The year concludes as my partner and I have moved back to the countryside after 22 years in cities and I am happy to be studying for a master’s degree at the Royal Agricultural University. Wishing everyone a happy Festive season, a Happy New Year and look forward to working with you all in 2021 and beyond.
This year has been an extraordinary experience and not easy to keep up with and adapt to as there has been a lot of suffering. I have taken inspiration from the connection to colleagues, friends and family especially when we are on opposite ends of the debate.
To my surprise, I have witnessed friends starting to reflect the deep concerns of their children, especially in relation to the challenges and opportunities that we will face in the coming years of climate change. One of my best friends said, “I am coming round to your point of view” after reading the Telegraph’s article on the rapid decline of Britain’s sparrow population. It feels as if there is a genuine shift in understanding. Overall, it has been wonderful receiving positive energy from our many partners and being a part of the team spirit that has grown to carry us into the New Year.
My journey to this point began in earnest ten years ago and for every year that’s passed, I have worked to apply my creative and communications skills to an ever more urgent agenda for change.
I graduated with an MSc in Sustainability & Responsibility in 2010 while working in the ad industry. I first started working in the food industry in 2015 at LEON.
I found Mark and Marcus on LinkedIn this summer and as I have learnt more about the potential of regenerative agriculture over the past six months, I truly believe transitioning more of our UK farming to it is essential.
Watching films like ‘Kiss the Ground’ and reading first-person experiences from Gabe Brown and James Rebanks only served to energise this view. This is not just because regenerative agriculture presents a commercial opportunity for farmers and can yield the truly nutrient-dense food we so need, it is also because it can revitalise our human health, which is inextricably linked with planetary health.
It is a truly holistic solution for the challenges we face which I find very hopeful and let’s face it, after this year we need as much hope and optimism as we can find.
Speaking for nature
Lockdown was the chance to reflect on what food and outdoor spaces mean to us, all of us regardless of where we live.
For nature, there is a dark side and a light side when we consider this year;
- The Australian wildfires, worst in 25 years, raged through the first month of the year and those in California, have continued into the last month of the year. Both tragedies demonstrate the risk of our rising planetary temperatures.
- The sixth mass extinction is truly here with new research showing species are disappearing at 100 times the natural rate.
- The UK failed to reach 17 of the 20 biodiversity UN biodiversity targets, amid claims of insufficient funding for nature conservation and too little land being managed for nature.
And yet, we work to focus on the positives;
- We witnessed political progress, as America will re-commit to the Paris Climate Accord under Biden’s leadership and Denmark to end fossil fuel exploration.
- A new Agriculture Bill in the UK, which will fundamentally shift subsidies for farmers to nature protection, soil health, climate change mitigation, clear air and water, along with animal welfare. There was also recognition for the whole-farm approach in delivering sustainable food and farming.
- People in the UK rediscovered the magic of cooking from scratch, buying fresh produce direct from farms and for our open wild spaces.
Looking into our crystal ball, the immediate future is clear. 2021 will open with us going out to raise the capital for the next phase of the New Foundation Farms’ journey.
If you are interested in helping realise the first scaled regenerative agrifood enterprise in the UK by investing, please do get in touch with Mark Drewell by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beyond that, we are inspired by knowing that the power of imagination creates the ideas that build new stories, that become new realities for the future.
So, ten years from now, perhaps we will be able to look back on the dark days of a coronavirus world and know that in these times, the seeds of a regenerative future were planted everywhere and grew into an ecologically, socially and personally abundant future for us all.
“Wishing everyone a regenerative end of 2020 and a new dawn for 2021.”
Keep in touch
- Follow us on Twitter for news, views and inspiration we advocate for here.
- Get in touch if you would like to be part of our journey, as an investor or collaborator here.
- Sign up to our newsletter “Regenerative Insights” below to hear more from us in 2021:
“In wildness is the salvation of the world.”