Rich Hardy From Undercover Journalist to Vegan Farmer

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Visit to Rich Hardy in Cornwall where he shows us how he’s turned half an acre of land into a small scale 100% veganic veg box scheme

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Rich Hardy, Lazy Meadow Farm

From Undercover Journalist to Vegan Farmer

For two decades I lived a double-life.

And with the help of a hidden camera, some water-tight cover stories and a little luck I traversed the globe working undercover to document the damage factory farming was doing to the planet and the billions of suffering animals used to feed and clothe us. My images and testimony helped shape some pioneering legislation and were used by global animal charities to generate hard-hitting media exposés. But while it helped create change and promoted vegan lifestyles, it came at a bit of a personal cost.

Burnt out and in need of a change I turned to growing. Partly to help heal my soul a little after what I had witnessed but also as a challenge to the cruel factory farming model that growing food needn’t involve animal suffering or be so destructive. So, with my partner Pru, and taking an activist-inspired approach, we’ve set up a vegan farm in Cornwall that is half-way through its first season. Using veganic techniques and operating under a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model we harvest weekly and deliver veg boxes in and around Falmouth, Redruth and Truro.

Cherry and Dan from VON went to visit Rich on his land this summer to see how he was getting on in his first year as a veganic farmer.

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What is Veganic Permaculture? Interview w/ Tony Martin

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Since our recent trip to Farm Dirt in Houston we started learning about sustainable, nutrient rich compost which is free from all animal byproducts that are in conventional and organic compost. This led us to veganic farming and permaculture. But what in the hell is veganic farming and permaculture?

“Veganic growing is but one aspect of a dynamic culture. Our commitment is to peace and justice for people, animals and the environment in a sustainable balance. To achieve this we must change our lifestyles and introduce a philosophy which will continue to maintain our unique planet. We are motivated by our awareness of the great unease in society that we are moving towards a world that can no longer sustain life in the natural way it has always evolved.” -Tony Martin

Tony Martin has always been interested in gardening since sampling real food grown in his grandparents garden when he was a kid. After growing food for 13 years in a 5th of an acre garden in Derbyshire UK he decided he needed a bigger play space and 15 years ago brought 5.5 acres of Welsh hillside where he planted over 12,500 trees and hundreds of fruit bushes. He has recently taken over as editor of the Vegan Organic Network’s magazine Growing Green International (GGI).

The Vegan Organic Network Aims:

-To educate the public about how their food is grown.

-To network with growers locally and around the world.

-To specify the methods and standards for veganic growing and to enable growers to become certified using these standards.

-To support veganic demonstration, education and research centres.

-To encourage veganic cultivation on a small scale as well as commercial growing.

-To support farmers who want to convert to veganic growing and individuals who want who want to learn how to grow veganically.

-To campaign for a veganic standard label on produce.

Vegan Organic Fest 2021

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Vegan Organic Fest 2021

Report by Giles Bryant

The inaugural Vegan Organic Network Fest took place August 12-16  at the beautiful Chyan Community near Falmouth in Cornwall.

The ever-smiling Dan Graham, set the tone for the festival with his relaxed demeanor as event organiser.  He did a fantastic job bringing a wide range of people together, from many parts of the world, to learn about veganic growing and the wide benefits it brings.   

I attended the event with two of my children (aged 4 and 9) and wife, Juliette.  I was booked to play music, and Juliette to give a talk on plant food and medicine.  We were part of an incredible schedule that had something for everyone: yoga, foraging, ecstatic dance, vegan organic talks, cooking demos, live music, walks, wild-swimming and delicious food.

The location for the event was perfect.  The Chyan Community and Farm has followed veganic principles for many years.  It powers itself from natural energy sources, has healthy spring water, super compost loos and an abundance of edible plants.  The fantastic structures they have created, largely from re-cycled and local materials provided spaces for workshops, live music and getting to know people over vegan cake and tea.

Personally, there were many highlights for me.  Seeing my children making friends, happy and free in a safe environment was wonderful.  Education is about learning new things but also about just ‘being’ as educationalist and Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore said, ‘so we may awaken the infinite wisdom from within’.

The movement and explorative games run by Nadya were wonderful.  She got a room full of people getting to know one another (and themselves) in a beautiful way.  The talk by Rich Hardy about his 2 decades as an undercover investigator into the abuses of the animal industry was both heart wrenching and enlightening.  Rich has now walked away from his undercover life to manage a veganic smallholding, and you can tell how being close to the soil, and serving a local community with great ethically sourced food is helping to heal the scars of the abuses he witnessed.

The live music at the event was wonderful.  There are too many great acts to mention but I particularly enjoyed flute player Dave Merrick teaming with guitar virtuoso Clive Mills as ‘Inner Voice’ –they brought deep relaxation to the evenings.  Things got a bit livelier with Anairda & The Anarkistas with their rebellious spirit.  The music jams that I led with Woodland Studios 432htz and Mark Barnwell raised the roof. 

On the Saturday night we were treated to an incredible circus performance in Chyan’s gigantic geo-dome.  In combination with the local Arts Trust and other charitable bodies, Chyan put on a top-class evening that left everyone spellbound with parkour from an amazing talent Said Moushssine from Morocco and a wild trapeze artist.

The event was inspiring, restorative and educational.  On the first morning Jon Dale led a foraging workshop.  In attendance were a number of foraging experts, and Jon’s humble and open style led to an incredible sharing of information.  Listening to conversations was fascinating: ‘This is how my grandmother used this plant in Latvia’.  ‘In France we call this plant pissing-the-bed’.  ‘My mind is blown!  I had no idea about the plants all around me.’

We celebrated our wedding anniversary during the event, and have treated ourselves to a spa day in the past.  This desire was taken care of at the Vegan Organic Network Fest, with the spring-fed natural swimming pool and wood-powered sauna and hot-tub.  Chyan even has posh changing rooms and a bath!  What a place!

The festival closed with an open forum led by Dan Graham about the next steps for the Vegan Organic Network.  Many people passionately shared their views and takes on this.  Certainly it provided food for thought, and helped people learn more about why the veganic way is so important for humanities future on this planet.

A big thanks to Brett Jackson and his team from Chyan who worked tirelessly to make sure everyone had a great time.  Brett taught yoga in the morning and then when their chef called off sick, donned his apron and prepared delicious and very reasonably priced food.  Some of the participants were ‘raw vegan’ and they had there fill too, as other food stalls appeared during the event – including raw cakes, raw smoothies and the wild foraging of Theresa and Effat (who led a 6 hour workshop on preparing local foods!)

It was lovely to meet so many inspirational people and to spend time in a place that we would one day like to replicate back in our part of the world.

The world needs more vegan organic wisdom and compassion.  This event was a wonderful way to spread that into the world.

Giles Bryant

Wisdom from the Vegan Organic Festival | Awakening with Giles Bryant & Guests

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/wisdom-from-the-vegan-organic-festival-awakening/id1547668661?i=1000532466961

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6mfXfkShr8h9O5QM5LjJS2?si=K-1pI0ozQpK8bcQ_JiUM1g&dl_branch=1

Spreaker: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/46153758

TuneIn:http://tun.in/tlpzvN

T

See you next year!

Growing Fresh Produce Under the Sea: A Most Surreal Experience

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By Colleen McDuling – Science Correspondent to the Vegan Organic Network

It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel or film, but there really is an undersea farm. Situated 40 meters off the coast of an Italian town called Noli in the Italian Riviera, and at a depth of around eight meters below the surface of the sea, Nemo’s Garden is the brainchild of an Italian father and son duo.

Back in 2012, Sergio Gamberini, a passionate diver and an equally passionate gardener,  was walking along the shore with some friends. Gazing out over the ocean, he pondered, “Would it be possible to grow basil under the sea?” And the idea was born. After much experimentation, a pilot undersea garden was set up. By 2018, Gamberini and his son, Luca, and their team were successfully growing a multitude of fresh produce: Basil, Thyme, Sage, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Liquorice, Black Cumin, Marjoram, Tomatoes, Strawberries, Lavender, Calendula, Stevia, Aloe Vera, Lettuces and Radishes.

However, in 2018, the fiercest storm ever recorded in the history of the Mediterranean struck. It was a disaster. Nemo’s Garden was almost destroyed. In 2019, the undersea garden was rebuilt. But then came the pandemic where the team was not even allowed to travel to the site. The team never gave up and Nemo’s Garden is now a thriving undersea venture where plants grow prolifically and healthfully.

But how are they doing this? And what is the science behind it all?

It’s quite simple, really. Below the surface of the sea are six transparent domes called biospheres. One might expect that they would be filled with sea water, but that is not the case. Only the lower part is filled with sea water, the remaining portion of each biosphere is filled with air! These biospheres are anchored to the sea bed by strong chains, screws and other reinforcing devices.

In the middle of the six biospheres is the “Tree of Life”, an apparatus that holds the monitoring cables which are connected to each biosphere and which feed data to the control tower on the shore. Each biosphere is monitored 24/7 for humidity, air temperature, carbon dioxide, oxygen, pressure, sea temperature and light. Webcams are available so that the interior of each biosphere may be monitored and there is a webcam on the ocean floor to monitor the external aquatic environment. There are intercoms for the diving gardeners to communicate with one another as well as the control tower on the shore.

The rationale for this uniquely novel way of growing plants is that since these plants are grown in a controlled environment, there is no need for any type of agrochemical. Plants, being delicate, need constant temperatures, water, light and protection from harm. Unfortunately, in conventional terrestrial farming practices, this is not always possible. In these biospheres, all of these factors are carefully controlled. The sea provides a constant temperature, a lot of water, the right pressure, the right humidity in the biospheres and the right level of light filtering in from above. But what of the salt? Well, evaporation of the sea water occurs, condensation (minus the salt) forms on the inside of the domes, and this is how the plants get their water. There are no insects, terrestrial snails and slugs, small mammals or anyone else usually found on land, living in the sea. And so the plants are free from predation. Although, a few crabs and one or two octopi, have been known to visit the plants out of sheer curiosity. Finding them not to their liking, they have graciously exited the domes.

Most of the plants are grown hydroponically, and thus, by definition, are not strictly veganic. But this method of growing fresh produce fits in perfectly with the ethos of veganic farming. No harm is done to the environment, no agrochemicals are used, no manures are used and most certainly no artificial, chemical fertilizers which contain animal products are used. Those who have tasted the fresh produce say that their flavour far exceeds that of conventionally grown crops. Indeed, the team have used their basil and other ingredients to make a delicious Italian pesto!

Sergio and Luca Gamberini are hoping to make this way of growing plants scalable. After all, the conditions on Earth are deteriorating. And some areas of the Earth are simply not suitable for growing fresh produce in any significant amount. Thus far, this appears to be a sustainable way of growing much-needed and nutritious food for Earth’s burgeoning population. And it is all solar powered!

For those of you who are interested, please go to Nemo’s Garden on the internet. There you will see their website and many reports of this. There are videos on YouTube, Vimeo and other similar platforms describing this novel and revolutionary way of growing our food. You might even see seahorses gliding up the anchoring chains. And there is a livestream on their site which is also accessible on YouTube. But be warned, watching the livestream is mesmerizing and you might not get anything done for the rest of the day. Seeing fish swim around whilst these plants are growing is indeed surreal. And if you are lucky, you might see the divers enter the biospheres to do their gardening – without their scuba breathing apparatus which they take off once they are in air.

Yes, it is surreal. But who knows? This could be the future of growing at least some of our much-needed vegan food. Only time will tell. We wish the Gamberini duo and their team the very best in this sustainable and novel horticulture endeavour.   

Save our Wildlife Arts Competition-Youth Groups and Home Educators

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Plant power!

Exciting environmental competition for young change-makers  

Do you have a passion for our planet, an affection for our animals, and a natural love for nature?

There’s no greater feeling than doing something good for our planet. And a new, whole-group initiative is pretty exciting, too!

Take part in our creative ‘Save our Wildlife’ competition this August, and your young environmentalists can raise their voices, save our planet, and win some incredible prizes.

Get involved in the 2021 Save our Wildlife Youth Arts Competition!

We are pleased to announce that our first Save our Wildlife arts competition is open to all home educators and youth groups.

Submissions are accepted in most art forms – let your imagination run WILD!

Our competition is suitable for all ages and will be fun and educational for younger children and challenging and engaging for older students.

One winner in each of the 5 key stage groups will receive a day with willow artist Cherry Chung or £250.00. We will also have gift voucher prizes for the top 15 entries from individuals.

COP26 Climate Change Conference is in November 2021.

HAVE YOUR SAY: through YOUR ART!

Did you know ONLY 4% of ALL MAMMALS are WILDLIFE, 60% are FARM ANIMALS and 36% HUMAN?

Click Here to Find out Why.

Join our competition, learn how even the littlest change can make a huge difference, and play your part in creating a more sustainable future.

Help students become better-informed about the environmental crisis we’re in, and the part they can play to help solve it.
Explore the impact of what we eat and the way food is grown, and take steps towards a healthier future.
Support your geography and citizenship curricula, and get help teaching engaging, accurate sustainability topics.

Use the competition to support your school’s Eco-Schools Green Flag accreditation application, and showcase your environmental actions to your school community.

Can what we eat really help save wildlife?

Winning entries will demonstrate how we can save our wildlife and care for our common home.

Who can enter?

Young people can enter individually, in pairs or in groups.

We welcome entries from young people of all abilities , from age 3 right up to age 19. We can only accept a maximum of 10 entries per group – so be sure to whittle them down to your best creations!

Gifts for entering the competition

The first 150 groups to submit their competition entries will receive a twisted living willow wand plant, a bird box and a copy of Growing Green International Magazine and seeds to plant.

Prizes & judging

Entries will be split into age groups for judging, with one main prize winner per key stage, and five prizes per age group in the following categories (20 in total)

Prizes are as follows, with a total of 20 prizes awarded:

Age groups: 3-7, 7-11, 11-14, 14-16 and 16-19 year olds

  • 5 x Individual winners, 1 per age group- £20 voucher
  • 5 x Paired winners, 1 pairs per age group – £10 voucher each
  • 5 x Group winners, 1 per age group – Prizes decided on a case by case basis, and will be a £50 voucher, or cheque for the school to choose appropriate prizes
  • 1 winner in each age group will receive a day with Willow Artist Cherry Chung or £250, 5 in total (international groups will receive the £250 prize)

What we eat and how we grow our food today will decide the future of tomorrow!

Resources:

Eco-Schools Green Flag

Animal Free Farming

Living Planet Report 2020

Act Now!

How to Save Wildlife

Watch Time is Running Out

Saving Earth Wildlife through Radical Change

Animal Aid: educational resources