Farmwel
projects

Farmwel

Argyll, United Kingdom

Farmwel was established to identify and promote the opportunities presented by the UK’s departure from the European Union. Farmwel works globally to advocate policies which enable a transition towards sustainable and accountable mainstream agriculture and aquaculture.

Working together with like minded organisations, such as FAI Farms — a globally respected Oxford-based farm consultancy which supports the food sector to overcome key challenges and implement better farming practices — Farmwel advises government ministers on good practice in the sector and presses for a far-reaching overhaul of UK agriculture and practice. Farmwel’s goals for sustainable food are supported by the Food Ethics Council.

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FARMWEL’S EVOLUTION

In 2015 ffinlo was managing a food labeling campaign on behalf of the Farm Animal Welfare Forum (FAWF) — an influential group of farm animal welfare organisations. Following a forum meeting, ffinlo and sankalpa founder Ruth Layton shared a short taxi journey where they discussed farming, or more precisely — the need to highlight stories of farming good practice. One conversation led to another and a couple of months later ffinlo was undertaking his first piece of sankalpa funded work.

‘I knew I wanted to work with Ruth as I found her practical approach very inspiring. At forum meetings people would share ideas about how we could increase animal welfare and Ruth would always ask the question “Great idea, but how does this work practically?”’.

In June 2016 the British government held an EU referendum, the results of which confirmed that a vote for Bexit meant a vote to leave EU agricultural policy. Seeing Brexit as an opportunity to do something exciting and new, ffinlo set up Farmwel a think tank with the intention of identifying and benchmarking sustainable farming excellence, applying direct advocacy inside Westminster and developing a farmer to farmer networking and knowledge exchange.

‘At a time when there was a lot of negativity focused towards the Conservative Government, I could see that there was a real need to develop a positive change story and to help people to compromise and work together — and so I founded Farmwel, with the support of sankalpa. By focusing on the opportunities that Brexit had to offer I was listened to by the government and I became a key stakeholder in the new agricultural debate.’

In 2017 sankalpa funded Farmwel to work alongside FAI Farms, an organisation focused on sustainable sourcing solutions for the food supply chain, to develop 18 goals for sustainable agriculture. Applying these goals, Farmwel produced a blueprint for agricultural reform. Many of the basic goals and structures included within Farmwel’s proposal were integrated in the government’s approach and became central to the UK’s agricultural policy.

‘sankalpa’s adaptable approach to funding has allowed me to be responsive to political changes and focus on doing work that matters as opposed to trying to create outcomes that fit around a prescriptive funder’s model.’

In 2019, with the continued support of sankalpa, Farmwel worked with FAI Farms and Oxford University to draw large scale attention to groundbreaking research into the global warming impact of ruminant methane. The scientists, which included Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) authors, discovered that methane from ruminants is not causing additional global warming. Instead ruminants, when well managed in grass-based systems, can produce food, restore biodiversity and help deliver net zero emissions from agriculture. Farmwel has advised UK Government departments on the true impact of ruminant methane and promoted this scientific discovery around the world.

‘Although livestock produce methane almost constantly, the focus on their emissions is misleading — it's the warming impact of those emissions that actually matters. The Oxford University research presents an opportunity to deliver truly sustainable agriculture, with land managed to deliver a multitude of positive outcomes, including nutritious food, carbon sequestration, and improved biodiversity and soil health.’

In 2019 Farmwel began producing the Farm Gate podcast, funded by sankalpa and delivered jointly with FAI Farms. With topics ranging from the ethics of veganism to the impact of climate change on food availability, subscribers to the weekly podcasts tune in to hear stories about the people and solutions that are creating a regenerative future for food and agriculture.

‘Farmwel does not exist for its own sake — we have always aimed to fill gaps in advocacy and communications. The podcast is the latest tactic to help persuade more farmers and policy-makers to deliver regenerative solutions for agricultural land use and food production.'

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FARMWEL TODAY

Today Farmwel is a government trusted think tank that has been fundamental in supporting the production of good practice guidance for the UK. Farmwel continues to engage politicians and the Farm Gate podcast and ruminant methane project continue to inform sustainable farming excellence through direct advocacy and farmer to farmer networking.

Meeting ffinlo back in 2015, it was clear that he had the passion and capability to positively impact policy and practice — but he was in need of flexible, long-term, funding if he was to have any success. Working in a stand alone position, ffinlo did not have capacity to spend time applying to various funders. Instead, he needed someone to trust and invest in him. We began providing Farmwel with core funding in 2016 and over the past few years we have provided additional funding for specific Farmwel activities. We chat with ffinlo regularly, so we know what’s going on, and we review his funding requirements on an annual basis. A flexible and trusting approach to funding has allowed ffinlo to focus his time on building partnerships and creating positive systemic changes that have informed and altered the UK’s approach to sustainable agriculture.

The amount of bureaucracy in the charity sector is often unhelpful and not the way to get things done. Being trapped in a funding loop/ reporting cycle, needing to be able to prove that you have linked every single thing to an outcome, means that you can’t concentrate your time on doing the things that actually matter.

sankalpa is different. The flexible approach has allowed me to be responsive, to do what needs to be done as opposed to meeting a straight jacket formula. We talk a lot — it’s important to keep speaking so people know what’s going on.’

sankalpa has allowed a good idea to become a force for change and has allowed Farmwel to establish itself as a credible force in the regenerative agriculture debate.

We are part of nature, and as dependent on its cycles and processes as any other living creature. Farmwel’s work is about understanding and advocating practical food production systems that work in harmony with nature, not only for human kind, but for all living things.

ffinlo Costain, director of Farmwel
Ffinlo Farmwel 210520

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