Posted by: Mike Grenville | 26 February 2009

A Farm for the Future

Farm for the future

This powerful and moving film shown on BBC last week explores the state of farming in the UK in the context of Peak Oil. Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking, who turned Modbury against plastic bags, investigated how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future.

The film features a crash course in peak oil from Colin Campbell (pictured) and Richard Heinberg, a trip to the Soil Association conference and much more besides. Perhaps the most shocking moment was a short piece with some film from the early 80s of her dad ploughing their fields, followed by a riot of birds, all wanting to get at the soil creatures being exposed by the ploughing, which was contrasted with now, the tractor ploughing the same field, but with not a bird in sight, so impoverished has the soil life become.
Rebecca Hosking interviews Colin Campbell
It offered a powerful combination of looking back and looking forward, underpinned all the time by her clear deep affection she has for the farm itself. and the deep respect she has for both her father and his work. It was surprisingly personal and moving. It was also very powerful for people to start to realise that food production and biodiversity are not necessarily, as is often believed, mutually exclusive.

Writing on the, Chris Vernon said that “Perhaps the most impressive thing about this film is that it exists at all. Within the BBC, the Natural History Unit is one of the most conservative. The producers of had a tremendous struggle getting this film made. The hope is that with the Natural History Unit producing a film with peak oil at its heart, the gates are now open to all the other departments such as News at Ten, Panorama, Horizon etc. to cover peak oil. There is knowledge and understanding of peak oil within the BBC but also nervousness about reporting.”

Vernon added that “Above all the presentation comes from the heart. It is sure to capture the imagination of many people who, not least due to the deepening recession, are primed for new ideas like never before.”

Rob Hopkins commented that “We are all in Rebecca’s debt for so passionately and coherently showing the nation both that food and farming is in desperate need of a Plan B, and that that Plan B could actually be more biodiverse, more resilient, more beautiful and nourishing, than what we have come to view as ‘normal’.”

A feature length article about the film in this Daily Mail article.

In the UK you can watch it online on the BBC watch again here till 15th March.

For those elsewhere there may be some helpful comments on Rob’s blog post:



  1. I and my wife saw this on the BBC iplayer. It is very good and gives, as said above, interesting information on the produce you can get from permaculture. It should be seen by a wide audience. As well as presenting us with some sober facts it also presents us with a way forward if we are prepared to take it. I hope they make it available on DVD.

  2. A brilliant programme. But despite the fact that the BBC seems to repeat almost anything, it doesn’t seem to be repeating this one for the benefit of those of us who didn’t record it first time round, and the iplayer repeat expires soon. Please can the Transition Network lobby the BBC for a DVD? Rob appears on the credits so presumable has internal contacts with the programme makers?

  3. Definitely agree that we need a DVD of this programme.

    I think (having planted our forest garden 10 years ago) that some of the claims for permaculture were a bit optimistic, but the explanation of the implications for food production of energy insecurity were the best I have ever seen.

    Could really use lots of people from different food growing backgrounds seeing this.

  4. A powerful and beautifully thought out film.
    BBC could we please have at least one repeat soon and a DVD please.

  5. A very balanced film, which makes a change! Agree DVD would be helpful tool in spreading the gospel rather than all the doom & gloom films.

  6. A DVD would be so helpful could it be distributed through the Permaculture Magazine/organisation

  7. I’ve blogged about this: (post #72, Food For Thought) and have had responses from people very unconnected with the permaculture world. It’s such an accessible way-in for total newbies to this topic and I’m so grateful to Rebecca for making it and Maddy Harland for recommending it to me. Yes yes to a DVD!

  8. The site wouldn’t let us see the BBC film – if you have another site to see it? Maybe in youtube?

    We’re struggling through here in MN and would welcome any and all ideas.

    Many warm Thanks!

  9. a friend of mine has this film viewable on his site;

  10. just spotted that it is downloadable and viewable here

  11. A Farm fo the Future was one of the most “gripping” Programmes I have ever seen, I watched it three times, and would Dearly Love to have a DVD, surely, somebody will oblige

  12. try this link too, if you are still searching for live links :

    Still I am also looking for a DVD format…

  13. Wonderful programme – everybody should see it and act on the issues raised! We too hope there will be a DVD made.

  14. Several friends and I are starting a sustainable farm in Colorado, USA. I’d love to see what this video can offer. If you plan on reposting it somewhere, please let me know. Thanks!

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