In January, we launched the Growing Solidarity project. We are fortunate to have the means to be on bountiful land. On the farm we work, live and collectively grow organic food together. We recognise the importance of nature connection. Furthermore, we want to do what we can to provide the same access to others…to share what we have got. Knowing that there are many that don’t have the same opportunity, nature can bring opportunity. When do we hear about social justice in farming?
From choice comes empowerment…
The crisis opened up a space to grow something! We began working with Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) to deliver seeds, seedlings, soil, from our farm. To support individuals and families in our local migrant community. As we, cautiously, approach an easing of lockdown, it appears it’s possible to reopen our farm to visitors again. We are located next to a wonderful forest in the Hardwick Estate, inviting the RRSG community to explore with us. Offering space to connect with nature, rest and socialise. It’s a chance to share and grow together, in a beautiful natural setting.
Standing strong in our belief that everybody should have the opportunity to grow food and medicine. In order to sustain themselves, their families and their own communities. The aim is to listen to the individuals and families that we work with. Provide resources to support the ideas that they come up with. And, empower them to shape the project and take it in directions that they choose.
Before the crisis, we were regularly opening up our farm for this project. As we were unable to host visitors during lockdown, we have been connecting with people directly at home. Each week, we deliver a range of seeds and plants to homes. Along with planters (up-cycled from pallets!), soil, tools and knowledge about growing. What we bring each week, is led by the individual or household. People can choose to fill up their own planter, and choose the seedlings they want. Having a choice, is important in what we offer.
During our visits, new gardeners have given us their own pickled delicacies. People have also been sharing their seedlings and produce with others in the community. Through sowing seeds in a literal sense, it is our hope that this project can be a seed from which all kinds of fruits will grow!
Practising social justice in farming
Crisis expands our imaginations around what is possible…
As Canadian activist Naomi Klein puts it, “the status quo is an emergency…in this moment of vulnerability, we must shine light on what is possible and carry this forward into building a different future”.
It is a time of disconnection and fragmentation. Not only from each other, but also the natural world. In the hemp industry, we are reminded often it’s difficult and constricting barriers. There are many loops to jump through to get into this industry. As we grow, we want to make social justice in farming part of our journey. We see investing in connection to one another, our communities and the land, as a necessary stepping stone towards a better future. And a more resilient future. Growing Solidarity offers one of those steps.
The world we share is rapidly changing. We are watching each day as more news of coronavirus (COVID-19) comes through. It’s the main point of conversation lately. It’s changing the way we live our everyday lives. The plans we made are gone, or on hold, just like that. But can we use this to make changes for the better?
Our sympathies are with those who are most affected by this, especially our loved ones. Key workers have been called to action. The people on our minds are our nurses, doctors and NHS staff. They are working overtime and without the proper protective equipment. We are genuinely, feeling the effect this is having on our community and friends.
Somewhere inside us, we all knew, at some point something had to give. The polarised society between the rich and the poor, the constant acceleration in the destruction of our rainforests, the continual rise in the production of toxic plastic, the mass drive for profit and greed. We are living in the time of the anthropocene.
A crisis, stirs up a time for unimaginable change. It could mean that we also have a chance to purposefully and positively affect the trajectory we were previously on.
‘’Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken, depend on the ideas that are laying around.’’ Milton Friedman.
“We know this script. In 2008, the last time we had a global financial meltdown, the same kinds of bad ideas for no-strings-attached corporate bailouts carried the day, and regular people around the world paid the price.” Naomi Klein.
Watch the video and read more: https://interc.pt/2IOfBQb
Real changes for the better…
Right now, governments and big business will use this crisis to push through policies that were very distant discussions before…for the worse or for the better. This is a time of great danger or opportunity.
There have been some more drastic measures taken that are not nice for any of us, like being home bound for the foreseeable. For those of us who can, a more positive outlook on this situation could bring about ideas and policies that were once seen as far too radical or unfeasible. In fact, they are actually happening overnight…
- The demand to release detention centres, some 300 people from detention already released
- The homeless being housed in empty spaces (hotels)
- Government funds for businesses, the employed and self-employed at risk
- Flights being cancelled, transport and travel restrictions leading to clear skies and less air pollution
- UK farmworkers being recognised as key workers
- Bans on wild animal meat in China and calls to stop hunting & large scale factory farming worldwide
But what would be disappointing for us and the generations that follow after us, is for big industries to be bailed out, again. The same ones that are causing the most environmental damage, with complete disregard in being inline with the Paris Climate Agreement.
What changes for the better would we like to see for the best of all? Potentially permanent changes, that could fight poverty and the climate crisis. Even, at the same time, mitigate the chance of another disaster of this kind. How and in what ways should we be returning to work in response to these problems? How should we value jobs that sustain quality livelihoods and empower a greener future?
“100 years ago we won the weekend & the 8hr day. Today we sure as hell can win a #4DayWeek.”
At Hempen, we encourage a model of working 3 days a week. Community residents add-on 1 day a week. This is because we believe a shorter working week could improve the economy, our environment and our society as a whole. We don’t want to be confined to our work only. We need time for rest and play. Less working hours could also provide an opportunity to address inequalities, lack of time to live sustainably, and help to reduce carbon emissions.
Universal Basic Income
At the very least, temporary enactment of UBI could be in place for a trial of three months. Throughout the crisis, this would mean the spike in renters being evicted recently could have been avoided. Every day, we hear new ways in which the government plans to help alleviate financial hardship, though many businesses and people are in uncertain circumstances. If UBI was to be brought in, we can see how it might work for our economy in the long-term. Leaving people without a means of income induces stress, which in turn lowers our immune systems. Isn’t this somewhat counterproductive.
If 8 men have as much wealth as the rest of the world, it seems possible that more wealth could be shared. The Spanish are introducing UBI! If you feel inclined, then sign the petition for Basic Income: https://bit.ly/2QDIClE
Oher like-minded start-ups like ourselves and independents, having access to UBI provides freedom, so that more people can create projects that are built from their own passions and skill sets. And especially now, when so many may face unemployment or lack of work, this could help. It could spur society on with more environmental, social and conscious work. Though we are not talking about a small UBI. This needs to be enough UBI to cover average rent prices and food per week or month to work effectively. And not just be a token amount.
Real Support For Key Workers
Bolster the National Living Wage, Save the NHS, Encourage Food Security by Supporting UK Farmers.
In this emergency, we get a rare reality check of the type of jobs that are important. As our country heads into lock-down, NHS staff, cleaners and food producers are noticeably the key workers in our society. Note, that the likes of airlines, banks and such…are not in this mix.
Hempen’s products are classified as food and essential. We continue to go about our daily business with some adjustments. Keen to produce organic and healthy, nutritious hemp food.
For our community, we are planting more vegetable seeds and are searching for ways to use our fields to be of use. We hope many others are using their own gardens. Even gorilla growing in an abandoned or unloved spaces. Now is the time for councils to open up unused spaces to communities. There are signs of a global food shortage ahead, so we are calling for a government package to protect local food supplies and increase local production. If you like the sound of that, please sign: https://www.change.org/LandArmySupport
We can be part of the debate and changes ahead, let’s stay active!
Written by Sophia, Member of Hempen
In light of the quickly developing situation, we wanted to fill you in on what the new government advice means for Hempen.
In common with most organisations dealing with the effects of COVID-19, Hempen is following government guidelines. Enacting additional hygiene and cleaning standards to our usual procedures. We are proactively working to minimise the spread of the virus, and promote the wellbeing of our crew.
Being mindful of many people across the country are benefiting from our products, we are aiming to continue our operations as long as it is safe to do so. This includes continuing to produce our hemp products and retail these online and at markets.
We are only attending Farmers Markets where social distancing is facilitated. This includes limiting the number of people at stalls and 2m distance between people queueing.
Many of our crew are working from home, when possible. Though for many of us, this changes very little, as we mostly live where we work. We have been fortunate to be living in a community and this has helped us to continue our work.
We’re also putting more people power into ensuring that we can offer the best customer service possible at this time. Our phone line will now be available Monday to Friday. I know, finally! If your having difficulties ordering online or have a question, please do call us. We will also be checking and responding to email queries on firstname.lastname@example.org with increasing regularity. We want to ensure no-one is waiting too long for a response. Thanks for your patience, as we put plans into place.
Customer Service Contact Details:
Telephone 10am-5:30pm Mon-Fri – O7597 2637O2
Email 10am-5:30pm Mon-Fri email@example.com
We have been looking beyond producing our hemp goods. We are reviewing our resources, to harness possible ways to be a supportive presence within our local community.
This will include increasing our capacity to grow food and contributing to a strengthening localised food supply chain. We want to recognise the strategically important position of farmers and land workers to buttress our food supply.
As the situation continues to develop, and we will keep our operations under safety review over the coming weeks.
We appreciate people’s thoughts and perspectives, we are all learning quickly in the context of this pandemic, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
We remain committed to our mission to cultivate locally-grown, organic hemp and through it, build socially just, ecologically sustainable and economically-resilient rural communities, which we believe the nation needs now more than ever.
Love & light, the Hempen community
Ever fancied working as a Tofu Morale Manager? It might not be the life dream you shared in circle time at primary school, and maybe it wasn’t what your career adviser suggested for work experience in your teens, but join the Twin Oaks Community Foods workers co-operative in Virginia, USA, and this job could be yours. Workers co-operatives do business a little differently; along Twin Oaks, Hempen is no exception.
We are coming to the end of Co-operative Fortnight, a 14 day long celebration of the power of co-operation and alternative economics. Co-operatives recognise that in a world where cut-throat capitalist models dominate, it’s possible to step out of the mainstream with worker-owned business models. With their origins and influences in grassroots activism, co-operatives offer exciting spaces for people to organise collectively for mutual benefit, explore the nature of work, capital and how we can forge and shape new possibilities in a co-operative way. Hempen is a farm co-operative and at the core of how we work is an appreciation for why we work, prioritising values over profits, ethics over growth, well-being over productivity as a measure of success.
Co-op membership is open and voluntary
Co-ops are open to those who are able to give their services and accept the responsibility of membership. Hempen is collectively owned by its members, and we’re lucky to live as a tight-knit community with the additional contribution of long-term volunteers and short-term volunteers supporting us when extra hands are needed.
Co-ops are controlled only by their members, who have equal say
At Hempen, self-help, responsibility, equality and solidarity are core values in our organising and decision-making. We regularly meet to discuss both day to day needs, plans for action and wider visions. We use consensus decision-making to ensure all voices are heard and the direction we take reflects our values as a collective. From seed to soil, from plant to oil, all the workers in our co-operative are involved in the discussion and decision-making that feeds our work and our vision.
Co-ops are autonomous and independent self-help organisations
For us, there is huge possibility in our autonomy. Hempen strives to innovate in hemp farming, the products we make and the way we organise as both a business and community. We recognise our social responsibility to empower and educate our members as well as the wider community through a culture of openness and care for each other, the community and the land.
Co-operation among co-ops benefits members and the wider co-op movement
Wherever possible, we look to collaborate with other worker co-operatives, sharing ideas and resources, to help the movement strengthen and grow. As the philosopher Alan Watts put it, “no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.” We find when we prioritise co-operative ways of working and living, with a balance for what we enjoy and care about, we connect to our tasks and to each other and to why we do what we do.
Yes, there are some parts of running a hemp co-operative that can be a little tedious, but we’re a fun bunch, and haven’t needed to draw up a Hemp Morale Manager job spec yet!