First, we need to see that growing vegetables or crops or rearing animals is a full-time commercial possibility for small farms in a global market. There are many routes - going organic and shortening the gap between producer and customer with farmers' markets, co-operative selling and so on. The literature on "permaculture" is full of ideas for the eco- sensitive, productive use of the countryside and its resources for personal and community purposes.
There is currently a demand for land for permaculture schemes but, apart from the problem of the price of land - artificially high while subsidies guarantee return - these projects always run into planning problems as the system rejects building in the countryside unless associated with commercial agriculture. Perhaps they fear that what starts off as well designed eco-sensitive smallholdings of a few hectares will soon be sold to BMW man/woman in search of a good view and a speculative profit. Local authority rules about access roads, entrance splays and their costs don't help.
The Government should be investigating how it can free up land for well- designed, eco-based schemes which are largely self-contained for energy and water, waste and so forth. Creating a vibrant, ecologically diverse, small-scale, attractive countryside is possible - even if it won't be run by today's farmers.
Ysbyty Cynfyn, AberystwythReuse content