Iain Tolhurst has been growing organic vegetables for more than 40 years and is considered a pioneer of the UK organic movement. His farm in south Oxfordshire was the first to attain the Stockfree Organic symbol in 2004. There have been no grazing animals and no animal inputs on the farm for over 25 years.
He says: “We see a big future in stockfree organic systems as they use considerably less land than livestock dependent systems, have a much lower carbon footprint and lower energy requirements. We are pleased to have been at the forefront of developing this important food growing system.”
Still, the idea that animal manure is essential to crop production persists. With animals there are many additional costs, such as fences, buildings, water supply, plus all the bureaucracy and vets bills. You simply don’t get something for nothing!
Animals use energy, they produce methane and lots of waste and if they need additional feed, such as soya, grains or other crops, it defeats the whole object of keeping them for their manure to help grow crops. Farmers are realising there’s a lot to be gained by going stockfree!
Then there’s that old chestnut – what about land where you can’t grow crops? Trees can be planted on poorer soils to provide fruit, nuts and timber and enhance the landscape. Trees also provide a valuable service by locking up carbon they remove from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Forests store more carbon than any other type of plant ecosystem, either above or below ground.
Storing up carbon
Soil organic carbon is the carbon stored below ground in plant and animal materials at various stages of decay. An estimated 10 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in UK soils, 50 times the carbon stored in UK vegetation, other than trees.
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change says that due to losses of soil organic carbon from intensive farming, around 12 million tonnes of the potent greenhouse gas CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere each year from UK soils. We need more trees!
There has to be a massive reduction in livestock farming, not just for environmental reasons, but also to feed the growing global population. The argument that we need animal manure for crops just doesn’t stack up.
Stockfree farming uses less land, less water, has a much lower carbon footprint and lower energy requirements than livestock farming. In warmer countries, it offers increased resilience against drought – a problem that is only going to get worse in the current climate emergency. In short, it’s a no-brainer, stockfree ‘veganic’ farming is the future and you can start in your back garden today! Give it a try.
Want to learn more about creating a haven for wildlife in your garden? Click here to learn more.
Viva!Health is a part of the vegan charity Viva!. We monitor scientific research linking diet to health and provide accurate information on which you can make informed choices about the food you eat. www.vivahealth.org.uk