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.

Animal Place Veganic Farm: Summer and Fall 2012 Update from Dr. Greg Litus

Thanks to support from VegFund, Animal Place Veganic Farm has truly thrived this season. The micro-farm experiment evolved into a definitive farm with the sale of produce to visitors and vegan restaurants. Efforts in community outreach and education have expanded to include public workshops, farm tours, elementary school connections and a live-in farm internship program.

Farm to School

Farm to School is a USDA funded program in Nevada County that promotes healthy eating through partnerships with local small farms. As a partner farm with a local elementary school, Animal Place stocks an after-school garden cart with fresh, veganic produce. The cart makes healthy eating accessible for student and their families and promotes veganism through the Animal Place brochures and newsletters that are displayed with the cart.

Third grade and sixth grade students will visit the sanctuary this autumn and next spring as an educational field trip, meeting all of the resident animal ambassadors, helping with age-appropriate activities in the veganic farm, and completing program lesson plans on plant anatomy and insects found on the farm.

Restaurants

The veganic farm has generated income for the sanctuary with the sale of vegetables to two vegan restaurants in the Sacramento area and one vegetarian café in Nevada City. Selling to vegan and vegetarian businesses has opened up a new channel of promotion for Animal Place, while spreading the message of compassion to an audience that may have originally patronized the restaurant for health reasons. The partnership with businesses also allows us to sustain the farm financially while offering restaurants and their customers the choice to go veganic.

This season we have sold tomatoes, basil, green beans, kale, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and eggplant, and in the process have learned the logistics necessary for restaurant customers – pricing, a certified scale, packaging, delivery and the estimation of crop availability.

Farm Stand Fundraising

Animal Place debuted the veganic farm stand at the annual fundraiser, Music in the Meadow, on September 22nd.  Hand-painted signs welcomed over 400 visitors with phrases like “Peace Love Veg!”, inciting the curious to ask about the definition of veganic, the purpose of the model farm at Animal Place and the ethics and how-to’s of food production. The veganic farm generated an additional $800 in produce sales and donations for the sanctuary.

 

 

 

Visitors

Animal Place is open to the public for both guided and self-guided tours on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Visitors are welcome to roam the wide aisles of the veganic farm and marvel over the bounty and luster of our crops. Many visitors are surprised to learn about the option of veganic agriculture, and ask questions to our staff and volunteer farm team. Guided sanctuary tours now include an overview of the veganic farm, sometimes stopping for awhile to pick sweet, cruelty-free strawberries. This summer we also hosted a tour and Q&A for the Master Gardeners group of Sacramento.

Internships and Volunteers

This year Animal Place introduced a live-in internship program for activists to learn and contribute to programs in animal care, advocacy and the vegan farm. Three consecutive interns joined the veganic farm team during the busy months of June to September. Interns were an invaluable addition in the field, and without their help the expansion of the farm would not have been possible. Interns also tabled at outreach events, engaged in organized discussions about animal rights with Animal Place staff and visited other sanctuaries. One intern has gone on to work as a caretaker at the House Rabbit Society in Richmond, CA, where she applies her new skills by growing bunny food in their backyard garden.

The veganic farm also attracts all kinds of volunteers, including local gardeners, an animal rights advocate all the way from Australia and a team from Americorps.

Outreach and Education

 Staff horticulturist Greg Litus presented a workshop on veganic farming at Eco-Life Festival in Grass Valley. The festival itself was not well attended, but Greg’s workshop drew in at least one dozen attendees. Greg’s account of the Turlock hen rescue and how it relates to feather meal used in many organic farms was particularly affecting to one local woman who, although not vegan, had come to the workshop to learn about soil inputs that did not originate from factory farms. Greg’s workshop, while hard-hitting on the cruel facts of animal-based inputs, hit on all the practical points of compassionate, plant-based farming and encouraged attendees to just go veganic.

 In June, Animal Place hosted a screening of the film Vegucated in Nevada City. Veganic lettuce, chard and kale were offered on a donation basis before and after the film, completely selling out after guest speaker Dr. Don Forrester answered audience questions about health and veganism.

 Future Seasons

 With the financial support from VegFund, we were able to accomplish all of this and still share much of our produce for free with the community; we have donated produce to a local homeless organization, supplemented the catering at Animal Place fundraising events and most importantly nourished our non-human animals at the sanctuary with food grown on the same land that they take refuge. Thank you, VegFund, for contributing to our success and giving us the experience and confidence to move forward with the veganic farm next season.

In 2013 we will continue with the outreach and sales markets established this year, with the restaurant, school and special events.  We are not yet financially self-sustaining, but that is our ultimate goal in proving that veganic agriculture is a viable option for other farmers.

Our goals for 2013 include:

  • Obtaining an organic certification,
  • Starting produce sales at farmer’s markets while educating the public about veganic agriculture,
  • Promoting veganic agriculture through increased outreach in local schools and events,
  • Establishing an on-site farm stand to draw more visitors to the sanctuary and
  • Expanding our offerings to additional vegan restaurants.