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Social Justice in Farming

social justice in farming

The Project

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.

Social Justice Growing Project

Sowing seeds

Social Justice Reading
The growing team at no.69

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.

Migrant Crisis
@MollyCostello

For more information about the project, visit our Growing Solidarity page here: hempen.co.uk/growing-solidarity/

To support the project, please donate here – each time you shop with us, you can show solidarity with our local community!

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Moisturise the NHS!

Moisturise the NHS! Hemp Moisturiser

After a recent stint in hospital (welcoming a new baby to his family and our community!), one of our crew noticed how dry the hands of maternity ward staff are becoming. A call was made to moisturise the NHS!

Current advice, by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and our NHS is to wash our hands! Wash them frequently, and use sanitiser when out and about.

Soap has the power to wash away the microbes, whilst sanitiser directly kills microbes. Both are important ways to stop the transport and transfer of microbes in this crucial time. Solidarity can take many forms. One way, is to uphold high personal hygiene standards. Unfortunately, washing our hand a lot like this can take a toll on our skin. Often leaving our skin dry, sore and cracked. This, in its own way, can have negative impacts on our health.

Moisturising is an important full stop, in the hygiene process! We’ve noticed! Recently, we are making more of our Organic Hemp Seed Moisturising Oil… are you finding our moisturising oil helpful?

Why is our Organic Hemp Seed Moisturising Oil both Relaxing & Energising good for this…

  • Hemp seed oil is deeply moisturising and encourages new cell growth.
  • 100% natural, organic, and non-comedogenic, meaning that the oil allows the skin to breathe and doesn’t block the pores.
  • It contains vitamins A, D and E which help prevent premature ageing and skin disorders, by providing nourishment to all types of skin.
  • The unique essential fatty acids found only in hemp seed oil have therapeutic effects.
Hemp Moisturising Oil
Organic Hemp Moitsuring Oil

the nhs is a public service

Nowhere is hygiene more thorough, than among our frontline workers. When washing and sanitising your hands often around the clock on shift, it is safe yet irritating for the skin. NHS have to do this to treat patients, while minimising the spread of this virus.

We wholeheartedly believe that the NHS is a public service, not a charity. Our government have a duty  to properly fund this indispensable service. We worry, that recent public fundraisers to provide PPE for frontline workers, are needed only as a result of this woeful underfunding. While we do not accept this underfunding, we do recognise that as individuals and communities can try to fill the gaps.

Whilst clapping at 8pm on Thursdays are a great way to bring attention and show our support. We hope that the conversation around this continues. Clapping alone is not going to #SaveTheNHS!

We are inspired by mutual aid groups and volunteer networks working hard, up and down the country, to support vulnerable people. Likewise, we are dropping off over £350, worth of our Hemp Seed Moisturising Oil to Royal Berkshire Hospital local to us. To moisturise the NHS!

And in this spirit, we will also be offering NHS Staff one third off our moisturising oil or 15% off everything online. Thank you, NHS!

Email shop@hempen.co.uk and send an image of your ID card to receive your own discount code. Your unique individual code will be valid for three months and reusable. 

NHS Staff
NHS Discount Offer

And for the most fun way to wash your hands see Wash Your Lyrics, to add you favourite lyrics!  

And for a more textbook option, see the NHS Page.

#protecttheNHS #clapforourcarers #mutualaid #supportthenhs  #StayWell #ThankYou

Wash Your Hands Poster
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Food Sovereignty Matters

Food Sovereignty Matters
Last Wednesday, the UK Agriculture Bill was debated in parliament. Despite an impressive campaign forged by the Landworkers’ Alliance and more than 5000 letters sent. The amendments seeking to recognise farming as a public service, and incentivise UK farming that is ecologically and socially sustainable, were defeated. We have a long way to go, it seems, before food sovereignty matters. Even though time is not what we have!
 
It is entirely possible, to produce all the food we need in ways that benefit people, community and planet. Big farms are not the solution.
 
COVID-19 is rattling communities and economies alike. Exposing the fragility of the food systems that we all rely on. There is an urgency in changing the way that we produce and consume. Recognising the foundational role that farming plays in the wellbeing of us all. 
 

The words of Soul Fire Farm, located upstate New York, resonate:

This outbreak reveals the interconnectedness of our world in a very personal way. It is showing, conclusively, that the health and well being of one is intimately bound to the health and well being of all. We must take action to protect the most vulnerable who will be hit hardest: those whose health is already compromised, those who are denied access to medical care, those who bear great risk in asking for help and those on the frontlines of poverty and pollution.

We stand with the immigrants who are demonized, and the people in prison who are denied the tools to protect their health. We stand with our elders and neighbors with compromised immune systems. We stand with the workers in healthcare and service industries, who are at the front line of financial and health risks. We stand with the farmers and landworkers whose livelihood is at stake.

Here, now

Eat Natural Bar

Many counters of a local corner shops are stacked with tempting snacks. Crisps with familiar flavours, and weird ones, jelly snakes and sweets shaped like emojis, classic Kit Kat’s and chunky ones with peanut butter in them. It was all there, arranged invitingly. Amid the spread of cheerful colours and fonts, can be spotted a label which read:

“Sorry! no brazils.” 

 

On an “Eat Natural” cereal bar, an innocuous looking information bubble explained that failed harvests have led to a worldwide shortage of brazil nuts. The mind whirred. Stumbling across yet another disconcerting example of the impact of environmental changes was no surprise. What felt so stark was the way this reality had crept into a routine activity. Marketing companies expertly avert our attention from the convoluted and unfair supply chains of land and labour; and the impact climatic fluctuations have on essential supplies. This label felt as though the marketing mask had slipped. The label was a glimpse into a situation, that doesn’t look as ordered and dependable as a typical wrapper might have you believe. It is so easy, to browse the vast range of food on the shelves in brightly lit supermarkets. And, not give a thought to the people, or environmental conditions that brought it there. 

Food Sovereignty

Though, it is the backbone to all our lives. The tireless effort of farmers is rarely acknowledged and given the respect it deserves. Nor is the land, and it’s complex ecology and interactions from which our food, and many other essentials, are derived. It is labels, like the one at the corner shop, jolted our collective complacency into a new perspective. When we take our food, and all else that we derive from the land, for granted, we do so at our peril. Even more so when we overlook the labour involved.

The work that farmers do to meet our needs has far-reaching implications. Both globally and at a UK level. Many farming practices are not good for the land, for farmer wellbeing and security. Neither for rural communities nor for us as consumers. Our world was not created to undergo such incentivise practices. 

The brazil nut shortage is a reminder that farming practices, impact the quality of what is grown. As one article put it, the shortage is “a canary in the mine of climate change”. There is an urgent need for widespread change, which honours the vital role that farming and farmers play in the survival of us all.

Big problems need big solutions

The challenges we face are global, but can we do anything on a local or national level? And, how can this slot into a global picture?

In recent decades, farming has become increasingly industrialised. Small farms are being swallowed by larger ones – in the UK, 30,000 small farms have closed in 10 years. Along with them, knowledge, skills and rural culture have been lost. Supply chains and local markets are being swept out of the way. With big business taking their place – 95% of food retail is controlled by supermarkets

The diverse and dynamic form that farming can take is being hampered and shut out by government policy. DEFRA’s market-based approach, rewards intensive and industrial scale farms. Power is being removed from the hands of small-scale producers and communities with it. 

Furthermore, currently less than 1% of the population owns over half of all agricultural land. Land is opportunity: opportunity to grow food, opportunity to produce energy, opportunity to build homes, opportunity to access to nature. With land in the hands of a wealthy few, only a tiny minority of people get to decide how land is used and farmed, and who benefits. Access to land needs to be fair, it needs to be a resource for the many, not a vehicle to entrench power and privilege.

What this means for farmers

The hurdles and obstacles that farmers face have heartbreaking consequences. In the UK, one farmer a week takes their life. Farm work conditions are not easy; work is often hard and repetitive. Farmers work in environments that they have very limited control over (increasingly so in a changing climate). To top it all off, farm work is undervalued in society: farmers are key workers too, where are their claps? Forced between a rock and a hard place. Either they, having to opt for corner cutting; or industrial scale production. Which then threatens the health of land and compromises the quality of what is produced. Or, take on large financial and personal risk, if they choose to opt for a smaller scale, ecologically gentler approach to production. 

Time for change

As it stands, it is not easy for farmers and rural communities to challenge the state of affairs that prioritises the interests of corporations and international free trade agreements. We, as land workers, need to  reclaim the farming system so that policy and practice accounts for the needs of all of us. Anyone who grows, prepares, distributes or eats food is represented and has contributed to the answers. We need distant policymakers to recognise that we operate in the finite limits of the earth. And as such, we need policies that promote a system of using land within its means.

Could a return to farming, through a patchwork of smaller holdings, offer a way out of the multitude of challenges we face? Research suggests it could. A recent report points towards the ways in which small farms promote diversity and innovation in the farming sector. Offering meaningful, skilled work and the opportunity for training.  As well as, reducing supply chains, to allow for a more responsive way of working that connects farmers to consumers. Good news for rural economies and communities.

Food Sovereignty Matters
Developed by the LWA, Global Justice Now, the Ecological Land Co-op, The Centre for Agroecology and the Permaculture Association.

This involves incentivising and rewarding work that promotes on-farm biodiversity, practices. Which promote healthy and well-structured soil. Including practices which look after the people who work on the land and in-connected work. In her book, Farming While Black, Leah Penniman centres the oppressive impacts of policies and structures. She centres the disproportionate effect these have on people of colour. Impeding access to land and good food.  When we take a socially and racially just approach to these issues, the strategy for how to challenge oppressive policies and structures will be enriched.

Where does hemp fit?

Though the problems we face are vast, complicated and difficult to untangle. Local scale farming practices and innovation offer us exciting possibilities to address these challenges. At Hempen, we’re excited about hemp for its manifold possibilities; from social to economic to ecological. Recognised worldwide for thousands of years for its versatility in providing societal and, economic benefits to people and community. Growing hemp offers a promising stepping stone on the path out of the entrenched extractive practices of modern industry. Towards regenerative ones. This one plant can provide us with much-needed resources, whilst also giving back to the land. 

Hemp is easy to grow organically because the dense canopy it forms eradicates weeds and is naturally resistant to insect pests. Its strong root networks can restore soil health by preventing erosion and promoting bioremediation. We have used hemp in our crop rotation, replenishing land which is used by us or other tenant farmers. Bees love hemp flowers for their pollen which they use in nest building and feeding their young.  Small birds and mammals such as ground larks and deer, enjoy the shelter the plants provide. 

Growing fields of hemp is also effective at sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere, for every ton of hemp grown, it is estimated that 1.63 tons of carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere – an indispensable tool in combating the climate crisis.

Local Systems

Small scale farms, mean less movement of food. Which means more local food networks. More farmer to fork produce, fresher produce, less environmental impact. More connection to where and how your food came to your plate. Hemp can be grown in many places, with its many uses, holds great value to local farming practices. Hemp provides a great source of local nutrition, both protein and Omegas! And could even create housing from locally grown hemp. Farmers and the people would have more control over this type of system.

From the perspective of rural livelihoods, hemp is also powerful. It is said to have more than 25,000 uses, including as building materials, plastics, energy, and for health and nutrition. We are harnessing the plant to promote economic and social opportunity in our community. The small-scale production and processing methods that we use for our products provide reliable communal work in our community and form part of a varied and meaningful week. Hemp is key to regenerative small scale agriculture and should be freely accessible to farmers.

 

There are considerable and unjust barriers preventing the expansion of hemp farming in small scale farms in the UK. Hemp licencing is outdated, based on legislation created in the 1960s. Hempen is working with other farmers and activists to educate and lobby decision makers within the Home Office. To challenge current legislation and push for reform.

Stepping Stones

Growing hemp can be a stepping stone, on the route towards a farming industry that is in harmony with the wellbeing of people and planet.

In the UK, the Land Workers Alliance (LWA) is working to assess and reform the way that farming is legislated, to include the voices of… Land Workers! In their post-Brexit policy recommendations, LWA are focusing on making sure that small-scale farmers have a ‘seat at the table’. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) does not reward small-scale farming, there is a democratic deficit in how farming is legislated. Meaning the government is failing to ensure that producers and consumers can meet their needs. Reforms can revive family, community and co-operative based farming for high quality and healthy produce, while “enhancing the environment, strengthening communities and supporting good livelihoods for farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk”.

Farming should be recognised and valued for what it is. Food sovereignty matters! Just as healthcare workers look after us in times of need, and educators support us to learn, farms nourish us. Farming is a public service. 

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Why CBD helps with Anxiety

Anxious? Depressed? You might be suffering from capitalism

The title of this blog ‘Why CBD helps with anxiety’ is also the title of recently published research from the journal of Sociology, Health and Illness. It suggests, that society’s mental health crisis is strongly related to the capitalist system. We are living in a time when politics is often framed by polarising narratives that simplify and divide.

Where vital services such as hospitals and schools are being battered by austerity, where tech and social media tend towards sideline human-to-human connection, lengthening our working day and providing us with round-the-clock stressful media updates. All set to the backdrop of looming climate breakdown. (It is important to note that tech is also a huge enabler for many of us, affording vital and empowering possibilities for meaningful connection, creation and organising for people of all walks of life.) It’s a lot to take in, to say the least, and we would be remiss to not name the system that pulls the strings in which all of this takes place: capitalism.

Lots of different things affect how we feel. We can do a lot to help ourselves. But it is important to keep in our sight the larger forces at work

Feelings of anxiety and helplessness in society, are on the rise, and it is no wonder. Anxiety can be felt in the body as much as in the mind. It can be described by feelings of restlessness or panic, and difficulty making decisions, taking criticism, or taking risks. In our target-driven culture, where more value is put on our ability to produce than on our wellbeing, there can be little space left to notice and untangle our feelings, let alone, make steps to understand where they’re coming from or address them. 

The options available to tackle anxiety are wide-ranging. But pharmaceutical options bring side effects, while the suggestion of a “mindful minute” from your boss at the start of an 8-hour working day can feel tokenistic and a cynical attempt to improve economic performance. The wellbeing movement is soaring, with gong baths, yoga retreats and cacao ceremonies being an increasingly mainstream go-to for people feeling the need to duck out of their day-to-day. Meanwhile, more and more people are reconnecting with the power of plants to help them feel well.

CBD helps with anxiety

Ancient folk wisdom teaches us the benefits of integrating cannabidiol (CBD) into our lives, as a way to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. CBD, extracted from the flower of the hemp plant, works in a way very similar to the psychiatric option of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. CBD impacts the brain receptors responsible for our body’s response to anxiety, bringing your serotonin to a normal level. At Hempen, we’re constantly moved by our customers’ accounts of the impact that CBD has had on their wellbeing. 

But despite the many options we, as individuals, have at our disposal to treat our malaise. It is so important to remember, that mental illness is not a personal failure. We all live in the world. We all have to cope with all the things that happen in it. And we are all less in control of our lives than ever before. The psychiatrist Peadar O’Grady explains: “The term ‘anxiety’ is used particularly when the threat is not immediate or is unclear, but it is fear by another name”. Our wellbeing cannot be solved simply by us working to change ourselves. Beware of the many ways that wellness solutions can distract us from honest conversations about the system we live in and the anxiety that stems from its toxic roots. Capitalism is making us sick. A small example: how easy is it to find a place outside your home to sit down and catch up with a friend without having to buy a coffee or fork out for a venue? The monetisation of everything, including just being, is an inhibiting vice.

Some sound advice from @Emilyonlife

If you’re feeling low, struck by a sense of isolation or lack of meaning, it is ok. You’re not on your own. CBD can offer you effective relief. But it is not necessarily the elixir to solve all. We need to directly challenge the systems that pedal our problems – though being an important part of wellbeing practice for many of us, no amount of pills, pipettes, gongs or yoga mats will get at what is really going on. There is a stark gap between what we need as human beings and the conditions that we live in, under capitalism. It’s important to keep in mind that so many of us are raised to understand our value as being attached to how hard we work. And that this notion is convenient to productivity and profit.

Human beings need connection, they need safety and they need meaning. Luckily for us, this trio is highly compatible, if not fundamental, in what is needed to counteract the forces underpinning our unwell society. Stop to reflect on what actually brings you feelings of connection with others, a sense of security, a sense of meaning. Is it really ticking off a long to do list?  In her podcast, Krista Tippett explores “how settling inside ourselves right now, and kindness towards ourselves, are gifts to the world we want to make.”

Have a break. Get your body engaged. Sit down. Hang out with a tree. Do nothing for a bit, like Tom!

Also think about how your actions could feed into a bigger picture. What struggles can you offer your energy to? What resources can you give?  What perspectives could you bring to what gathering? You and your wellbeing are important. And so is the wellbeing of the people around you. A good balance is there for all of us, and for all us the balance is going to be different. Let’s stick together, look after ourselves and each other and join in the struggle for a better world. Collective organising and mutual aid is more powerful than the highest-strength CBD.

You are important and you have power .

Note: This blog was written a while back, before ‘coronavirus’ was a word we all knew. This moment we find ourselves in, provides a lens for reflection. How can we embrace lockdown and, the different forms of impact it is having on our lives. Maybe as an opportunity to connect with ourselves, and observe the experiences of our body, our mind, and our heart. At the same time, be curious to meet and navigate the bigger forces at work? How can we understand the interactions between our individual lives and the structures, both enabling and oppressive?

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Changes for the better…

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…

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?

4 Day Working Week Campaign

“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

Be the change you want to see.