It’s all about the plants!

The rise in “stock-free” farming

Even as plant-based diets become more common, and the word “vegan” crops up in everyday conversation, the global consumption of animal products continues to rise. Factory farming practices are taking root in developing countries, adopting western agricultural models, and with this comes the urgent need to address the effects — past, present, and future — of a now-global unsustainable farming system.

“Animal farming is one of the leading contributors to climate change and environmental degradation. At least 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal farming. What’s more, the agricultural sector is the number one culprit for water pollution, and is projected to make the smallest contribution towards meeting the UK’s 2050 carbon emission target.” ~ The Vegan Society

But, as Newton’s Third Law says: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction…” Millennials are increasingly turning their attention to sustainable living and the development of businesses and brands that align with their values. Within the sector of “stock-free” organic food production, these organizations include ALBA, Veganic Agriculture Network, and Vegan Organic Network, which provide aspiring young farmers with the tools needed to be successful in this up-and-coming industry.

What IS stock-free farming?

Stock-free organic farming, also referred to as veganic farming, originated in the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe during the 1990s, with the world’s first Stock-free Organic Standards being published by Vegan Organic Network in the UK. And now, veganic growers can be found across the globe.

 “Vegan-organics is any system of cultivation that avoids artificial chemicals and sprays, livestock manures and animal remains from slaughter houses. Alternatively, fertility is maintained by vegetable compost, green manure, crop rotation, mulches, and any other method that is sustainable, ecologically viable and not dependent upon animal exploitation. This will ensure long term fertility, and wholesome food for this and future generations.” ~ Vegan Organic Network

Ploughed crop field

Image credit: Jo Prendergast

But what role does stock-free farming play in the future of our food system?

Towards a sustainable farming future

Along with the general public’s rising interest in plant-based food products, influential environmental and public health institutions are also recognizing the environmental and human health benefits of plant-based diets. Embracing the production of plant foods through stock-free organic farming methods would boost us on the way to a cleaner, healthier planet and society.

The environmental and human health benefits realized by working with nature through stock-free farming promise to be significant and include:

  • decreased environmental degradation and pollution
  • minimized resource depletion
  • many fewer food-borne illnesses

The Vegan Society is leading the way towards this more sustainable approach to farming through its Grow Green campaign. This campaign showcases the human and environmental benefits of growing protein crops through stock-free farming practices; takes a holistic approach to food production; and works closely to support the work of farmers, policymakers, and campaigners.

In California, a group of scientists are laying the foundations for veganics research in the United States through conducting in-depth interviews of some 15–20 stock-free organic farmers. Their research will help us better understand the motivations and experiences of farmers across the U.S. who are transitioning to veganic farming systems. These researchers will explore their farming practices, the support needed by farmers, and the challenges they face to be successful in their shift towards a farming system that has the potential to revolutionize our food system.  The group will share results at conferences, in peer-reviewed literature, and in a veganic farming manual describing farmer-identified best practices and the supporting science.

The transition to a more sustainable farming system is not easy, however. Reshaping the current model means long-term efforts on the local to the international level. Tailored approaches are needed to accommodate the socio-political systems of different countries. We need to use smart and strategic approaches to influence government legislation, to work with those who currently provide us with the food on our plates, and to support the individuals who will form the future of our farming communities. Collaboration, flexibility, persistence, and patience are key.

“What we were doing worked in the past, but it’s no longer fit for purpose really. It consumes too many resources; it’s morally indefensible if you think animals are anything more than meat.” ~ Jay Wilde

This short video from BBC Stories introduces Jay Wilde, a beef farmer who went vegan and transitioned to arable, stock-free farming:

Be inspired. Read more about Jay Wilde and his transition to veganic farming.

Are you interested in supporting the shift towards a more sustainable farming future? Let VegFund support you!

Here at VegFund, we’re always looking for fresh and innovative outreach approaches that contribute to a more sustainable and compassionate world. Apply for a VegFund grant today and join us in achieving that vision. From research projects to innovative outreach proposals, these programs can provide you with financial support to help you get your project off the ground! We look forward to hearing from you.