America

Soil Carbon: Where Life Begins

pic1

Back in 1967 my brother and I ran an organic macrobiotic restaurant and food store – we followed macrobiotics, the way of eating described in the book Zen Macrobiotics by Georges Ohsawa. The restaurant bought as much as possible from organic producers around London so we built strong links with the Soil Association, which was founded by Lady Eve Balfour in 1946.   In order to talk about biochar I will first talk about soil, because that is the context into which biochar fits.   Satish Kumar also spoke about soil last year in his excellent magazine Resurgence.

pic2

What is soil? Where did it come from? When life on earth began there was no soil, just rock. On and in that rock lived fungi that eked out a precarious living extracting carbon from the calcium carbonate of limestone. The atmosphere was mostly carbon dioxide and when it rained the rain became a weak carbonic acid solution that helped fungi to extract carbon from rock.

pic3

The rock slowly broke down to sand, silt and the finest particles - clay. But there was no ‘soil’, no humus, none of the decomposing plants, organic matter and living organisms that define soil.

pic4

Then a miracle happened

Tiny single celled organisms, ‘cyanobacteria’ (Latin for ‘blue bacteria’) developed the ability to take carbon dioxide and water and, with the help of sunshine, convert CO2 and H2O into simple carbohydrate: C6H12O6, or sugar. This was and is the fuel that powers all life on earth. The fungi saw their opportunity and locked the cyanobacteria into cells and strung them together in chain gangs.

Then they started to bundle them together in a form that we would recognise as plants

pic8 These strands of cyanobacteria became the earliest plants, such as horsetail

Plants were an efficient way to comb CO2 out of the air. The original plants didn't even have roots, the fungi had their own root system inside the plant to extract the sugar as soon as it was made. The plants were the root extensions of the fungi, not the other way round, which is how it appears today. Plants evolved with root systems and the fungi continued to keep their root network in the plant's root system. These fungi are called 'vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi'   ‘Arbuscular’ means 'tree-shaped' and reflects the form they take when the occupy the root system of a plant. 'Myco' means 'mushroom' and 'rhizzal' comes from rhizome and means 'root' - so they are ‘tree-shaped root mushrooms’. ‘Vesicular’ refers to the vesicles that are the storage areas where the mycorrhizae hold a stock of nutrients and sugar.

mycorrhizae

A plant will deliver in its sap from 10-20% of the sugar it makes in its leaves to the mycorrhizae, retaining the rest for its own growth. The mycorrhizae increase the reach of the plant’s roots by up to 10 times, penetrating soil that plant roots can’t access.

The ‘arbuscular’ shape of the fungus is shown in a root cell – this tree-like shape is a mirror of a root system – the fungus has its roots in the plant, the plant has its roots in the soil.

fungus

There are other organisms in the soil that live symbiotically with the mycorrizae. Most notable are the actinomycetes bacteria – originally they were thought to be fungi because they copied the form of fungal hyphae, with filamentous threads. With the advent of electron microscopes they turned out to be bacteria that had strung themselves together in chains in order to efficiently ferry nutrients to the mycorrhizae in exchange for sugar.   Most of our antibiotics come from soil bacteria. Streptomycin When a plant needs medicine, the mycorrhizae can farm it by feeding sugar to the bacteria that can produce that particular antidote – most commonly jasmonic acid, salicylic acid (aspirin) or ethylene. These medicines are sent up with the sap of the plant to provide it with immunity to fungal and insect attack.

One example of how mycorrhizae are used in farming is the French practice of ‘alley cropping’ where rows of fruit trees keep the fungal network going and enable crops planted in between to flourish rapidly thanks to the existing network of mycorrhizae supported by the trees. In Windsor Great Park an oak nursery accelerates the growth of oak saplings by raising them in ground surrounded by mature oaks – the big oaks provide the sugar to support a large mycorrhizal population. The baby oaks get sugar and nutrients from the mycorrhizae and grow away rapidly and healthily.

Soil is fascinating. It’s wonderful stuff. So what do humans do with it? Since the dawn of agriculture we mostly just kill it. Ploughing breaks up the neural network within the soil, though it reconnects fairly quickly but with a lot of casualties. Adding chemical fertilisers breaks up the symbiosis – the mycorrhizae no longer can exchange mineral nutrients for sugars because the farmers is providing them for free. The plant cuts off the sugar supply to the mycrorrhizae clustered around its roots and the mycorrhizae die off. Their 10,000 or so co-dependent microbial species also die off. The plant is then exposed to the challenge of fungi and other pests that give it nothing and just want to consume it. This creates the need for pesticides including fungicides, which further deplete the microbial population of the soil.

I have several generations of form in the area. My great great grandfather farmed virgin soil on the Koshkonong Prairie in 1842, cutting down trees and raising crops of grain and grazing cattle. My great grandfather farmed virgin prairie in Nebraska. These Norwegian farmers were notoriously stingy. They were frugal people in everything they did, they wasted nothing and recycled everything. Here’s an example:

Frugalism-Less is More

My grandfather would deliver eggs from his chicken houses to the Safeway supermarket and other stores in Sioux City. He would then purchase tools, sugar, flour, salt, paper and other essentials that could not be produced on the farm. The flour sacks were made of calico, so the farmer’s wives would recycle the bags to make overalls for their boys and dresses for the girls.

Nell Rose flour company bags

Flour is a commodity – one bag of white dusty flour is just like the next. So the Nell Rose flour company marketing people got clever and printed nice floral patterns on their flour bags.

This appealed to people like my grandmother and she used Nell Rose flour to make the dresses for my mother (on the right) with her sister Thelma and their cousins.

Margie on the farm

This remarkable frugalism and avoidance of waste stands in stark contrast to the way that the soils of the Midwest were relentlessly wasted, often beyond recovery. Here there was no recycling, just relentless ploughing and harvesting, breaking down the soil. The farmer’s wives wasted nothing, their husbands wasted the fertile heritage of millennia. When land was ‘farmed out’ people would just move further west.

The original Louisiana Territory and adjacent territories embraced the great river network of the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers, a 2000 mile wide water system draining into the Gulf of Mexico.

Original Louisiana

By 1925 more than 80% of the trees in this great river network had been cut down in order to create productive farmland.

trees cut down

The result was inevitable – the Mississippi Floods of 1927 were devastating – 27,000 square miles were inundated, up to depths of 30 feet. It triggered huge migrations of Afro-American farmers to Northern cities. Below Memphis Tennessee the Mississippi was 60 miles wide, 3 times the width of the Straits of Dover. The land was flooded from April to June. Floods

This great flood was followed by further devastation. The weakened fractured soils of the prairie began to turn to dust and the winds blew up vast clouds of dust that reached as far as Washington DC, prompting Congressional action.   President Roosevelt created the Civil Conservation Corps and 3 million recruits planted 10 billion trees from Mexico to Canada to try to hold down the soil.

Dust bowl

This destruction of soil happened also in Argentina, Manchuria, Ukraine, and other fertile breadbaskets around the world as tractors and chemical fertilizer accelerated the rate of soil destruction.

The greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane that were emitted accounted for half of all the increase in greenhouse gas levels between 1850 and 1980. Since then agriculture’s annual rate of emissions has continued to grow, but has fallen behind the astronomic rate of emissions growth from manufacturing, energy and transport.  But it is still responsible for at least one third of our excess emissions.

Emissions

From 1850-1980:

Total CO2 from Farming:      160 Billion Tonnes

Total CO2 from Fossil Fuels: 165 Billion Tonnes

How can we stop this wasteful and environmentally damaging activity?

Part of the answer lies in a discover that was made nearly 500 years ago. When the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzarro was buy looting the silver and gold of the Incas he heard about cities of gold with even greater wealth. He deputed his brother and Francisco de Orellana to find these cities and to bring back their gold.

Orellano

The parties were separated and Orellana could not return up river. The chaplain on his boat kept records of their travels. They encountered wealthy populations but were repelled by armed natives, led by fierce women warriors. These natives knew already that if you came close to a white man you would break out in red spots of measles or smallpox and then, because they had no immunity, die. They attacked and drove them away – Orellana described his boat as looking like a porcupine after one such attack. They called this region the Land of the Amazons and this is how the river got its name. When explorers sailed up the Amazon about 30 years later the wealthy civilisations Orellana had described were gone – wiped out by disease. People questioned whether the ‘El Dorado’ he had described ever really existed.

pic18

Within the past 50 years archaeologists have found that the areas he described as populated coincide with areas where the soil is black to a depth of several metres - the ‘Terra Preta’ of the Amazon river settlements. Farmers who have Terra Preta have little need for fertilizer and even sell their soil to less fortunate farmers who are on the typical infertile jungle soils. The Terra Preta was made by the Amazons by taking all their waste, including animal bones and forest waste and domestic waste, piling it into pits, covering it with clay and setting fire to it. Once it was burning hot they’d cut off the supply of air and the material became charcoal and provided the growing medium for the next season’s crop.   The contrast between Terra Preta and soils of the forest is apparent when the land is cut away.

Terra Petra

Brazilian farmers who farm on Terra Preta benefit from its fertility and crops like corn grow vigorously when planted in black earth. They sell it to other farmers and bag it up for sale in garden centres. It is what we now call ‘Biochar’ – charcoal for use in the soil rather than charcoal for use for barbecuing sausages.

So what is Biochar? What does it do?

Biochar provides a supportive environment for mycorrhizae and their associated microorganisms. This leads to a doubling or more of the microbial population that is the living essence of soil.

Biochar had a high surface area – a single gram of biochar can have twice the surface area of 2 tennis courts – this means there are lots of points where minerals can stick, each point has a negative charge, so it sticks to minerals with a positive charge – this stops the leaching of nutrients from soil, keeping it in the zone where it can reach the plant.

Biochar also helps retain moisture. The result is healthier plants, more nutrient availability, more water availability and better soil structure.

Biochar also reduces soil emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Biochar stays in the soil, too, for anything from 10 years to 4000 years, depending on the type of biochar, the soil type and the farming system. The scientific consensus settles around 1000 years. This represents carbon dioxide that is kept out of the atmosphere – most woody biomass ends up returning to the atmosphere by rotting or being burned. Thus biochar can be an important tool for reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. It is estimated that recycling woody waste as biochar could remove 1 billion tonnes of CO2 annually from the atmosphere. Instead we burn it.

Biochar cell  structure

Biochar retains the cell structure of the original feedstock. So biochar from bamboo has larger pores, biochar from chestnut has small pores. But all those pores provide a refuge for mycorrhizae and a base from which they can expand even if they are disturbed by ploughing or by predators such as mites, protozoa or nematodes that feed on them.

Imagine the pieces of biochar as a ‘five star hotel’ for mycorrhizae or, even as Norman castles in the English countryside. Each biochar particle is a base for a contingent of mycorrhizae, helping them to weather the stresses and pressures of life in the soil.

We have an image of mushrooms as passive softies but they are much more than that. When nematodes that threaten a plant enter mycorrhizal territory they get more than they bargained for. The mycorrhizae attach to them with sticky substances that hold them fast, then insert their filamentous hyphae into the tiny worm and suck out its amino acids, providing protein for more mycorrhizal growth and nitrogen for ‘their’ plants. Some mycorrhizae form lassoes that are scented with fragrances that attract nematodes – the nematode pokes through the lasso that then snaps tight, holding the nematode while it is digested.

nematode

Mycorrhizae also oversee the production of insecticides and fungicides. When there is a threatening insect or fungal pest the news travels fast through the underground internet – the mycelial network. The appropriate preventive medicine such as jasmonic acid, salicylic acid or ethylene is produced and delivered via the plant’s sap to the threatened area. How is this done? We don’t really know but it is likely that the mycorrhizae simply feed more sugar to the bacteria that produce these defensive chemicals and then pass them over to the plant.

pic22

It may be that the plant produces the defensive chemical itself or that it produces it in conjunction with the soil microbes. Both the plant and its supportive microbial community have a shared interest in defeating any disease threats quickly, before they have time to weaken the plant.

Biochar, by providing a resilient and abundant network of soil fungi and bacteria, is the framework of the plant’s immune system and helps it with nourishment and water.

So what have we done at Carbon Gold to turn this theoretical ideal situation into a reality?

biochar kiln

The first thing we discovered was that the production method for charcoal was expensive, slow and inefficient – we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint in biochar production as much as possible and make it available cheaply to small farmers. We developed the Superchar 100 kiln.

It makes a 100 Kg batch of biochar in 8 hours instead of the usual 3 days. It delivers double the yield of traditional ring kilns. It has greatly reduced emissions – we recycle the gases emitted by the wood and burn them to heat the kiln contents instead of letting them escape into the atmosphere. They’re now hard at work in Belize, Botswana, Turkmenistan, Fiji, Brazil and the UK, with orders for more in the pipeline.

We also make a double-barrelled kiln that will produce 2 x 400 kg batches of biochar in a 12 hour day.

This one is part of a marshland regeneration project north of Perth, in Scotland

double barrelled kiln

Whitmuir Organics, just south of Edinburgh, are making biochar for their horticultural operation and are experimenting with it in pig feed, where a small amount makes a big difference to pig health and feed conversion.

The first UK field trials of biochar were on my smallholding near Hastings in September 2010. We planted cabbages and winter lettuce in late September, some with biochar and some without. In November we had heavy snows and the lettuces were covered in snow for 3 days. When the snow melted the winter lettuces without biochar had died. Those with biochar were intact. I think this could be that a high microbiological population in the soil acts as underfloor central heating, biological activity generates heat and this is probably what saved the plants. We also discovered that biochar has no repellent effect on hungry pigeons, which destroyed the cabbage crop completely.

biochar field trials

We work closely with Rijk Zwaan, the world’s 5th largest seed company and one that regards GMOs as an obsolete technology – they are world leaders at using natural breeding methods harnessed to genomic data. Their Field Trials Manager, Martin Kyte, stopped a comparative trial of Carbon Gold seed compost and peat compost after a few months because the results were so obviously in favour of our seed compost.

pic26

And Fergus Garrett, head gardener at the marvelous Great Dixter gardens in Sussex, has switched to biochar.

Stephanie Donaldson, Gardening Editor of Country Living magazine, trialled Carbon Gold with lettuces. After one month the difference was significant:

In Belize one of our shareholders took 3 Maya cacao farmers to Cornell University in 2008. We studied biochar production and its use with Johannes Lehmann, the world’s leading authority on biochar and founder of the International Biochar Initiative. After that we helped the farmers build a simple kiln. They did trials and found that cacao tree seedlings raised with biochar outperformed those without biochar in the nursery. A $50,000 UNDP grant helped them expand production and recently the Inter American Development Bank funded the establishment of 9 new nurseries with a target of producing 45, 000 cacao trees to really expand cacao production. It normally takes 6 or 7 years for a cacao tree to begin to produce, with biochar it starts in 3 years – that makes a huge economic difference to a farmer who has invested in establishing a cacao orchard.

cacau

Belize: Biochar + Cacao = fruit within 3 years

Normal maturation time: 6-7 years

We’re also working with farmers in Africa.

In Ghana, where tomatoes retail at $12 per kilo, Sunshine Organic Farms are starting to grow tomatoes near the capital, Accra. Biochar will help ensure healthy abundant cropping.

In Ivory Coast cashew nut waste will provide a feedstock that can then be used on cashew trees and in Senegal it will be rice husks that provide the feedstock.

We have just shipped a kiln to Botswana. Farmers in Fiji are now making biochar with our kilns to improve their fertility and cropping.

Wight Salads grow more than half of the organic tomatoes sold in the UK every year. They have greenhouses in Portugal and the Isle of Wight. Last year they started using biochar from us. The results:  8% higher yield, 10% higher sugar content in the fruit, less watering and fertilizer cost and, most excitingly, a dramatic fall in the population of root-eating nematodes. They had a lower level of this pest in their organic biochar production than in their conventional production where they use nematicide to kill this damaging pest.

Wight Salads tomatoes

They were considering cutting back on organic tomato production because of these nematodes, but now they are going to expand.

nematodes2

Some nematodes work collaboratively with mycorrhizae, some eat them, some just eat plants and some provide food for the mycorrhizae when they venture too close to the plant the mycorrhizae are protecting. Once lassoed they are soon converted into nitrogen compounds

Biochar works wonderfully on turf as well. Forest Green Rovers Football Club trialled Carbon Gold last year and found that at the end of the season this year the treated part of the pitch had withstood the stress of weekly games and practice far better than the rest of the pitch. Last week they spread biochar over the entire pitch and their groundsman has helped initiate trialy by the groundsman at Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal. Those trials will open up new opportunities on sports grounds everywhere and help reduce the use of nitrates and other chemical treatments.

We make products for gardeners too. These are available from some garden centres, but most of our sales come from our own website, other online retailers, QVC and Amazon. This is because biochar still takes a bit of explaining and garden centre staff are not always available or able to tell a customer about it.

Last year we worked with Bartlett Tree Experts, the Queen’s tree surgeons, on trials with Carbon Gold biochar. They successfully cured honey fungus and saw accelerated growth in horse chestnut seedlings. The results of their research were published in April in the prestigious Arb Magazine, the journal for members of the Arboricultural Association. An ash dieback trial they initiated last year has so far shown no sign of infection, but they are waiting until this October before publishing any results. They have endorsed our tree growth enhancement and protection range and are now offering it to all their customers.

Biochar to CO2

We are not yet capturing the carbon offset value of using biochar, but it is now becoming available as a carbon offset of value. The conversion ratios vary – our own figure is based on making biochar in a Carbon Gold kiln and reflects the greater efficiency and lower carbon footprint of the Superchar range of kilns.

pic37

In 2011 I visited the Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas in Brussels. She invited me back to present the biochar story to the Green Group of MEPs. In attendance were representatives from DG Agri and DG Enviro. They had a meeting after our meeting and the outcome was Eurochar. This programme funds research into biochar as a strategy for long term carbon sequestration and funds research into greenhouse gas mitigation with biochar.

Lady Eve Balfour lost the post war argument about the future direction of agriculture, but the Soil Association continued to fight the good fight while the introduction of subsidized nitrate fertilizer forced farmers into the industrial fold. The same process happened in the rest of the world and led to the Green Revolution, which is now running out of steam. Ten years ago there was a major collaboration to map out the future of agriculture in a world with diminishing resources and increasing population. WHO, FAO, UNDP, UNESCO, Defra, USDA, Monsanto and Syngenta were just a few of the global stakeholders who selected a crack team of 400 of the world’s leading agronomists to look at how we could reduce hunger, improve livelihoods and ensure social and environmental sustainability. 2 weeks before their report was published in 2009 both Monsanto and Syngenta went public by rubbishing its contents. Why? Because it said that the Green Revolution hadn’t delivered sustainable results, that genetic engineering was a dead end and that we should listen to small farmers and adopt traditional farming systems.

All of the other benefits of their proposals are summed up in rewarding farmers who prevent climate change. Whether you call it organic farming or agroecological farming, the fact is that farming in support of the living soil and its wonderful microbiological population is the only sustainable way to go. It is lower in carbon emissions and hugely effective in carbon sequestration. If only Lady Eve had lived to see this outcome that so firmly vindicated her predictions in The Living Soil published in 1943.

carbon farming

We are eating oil – it takes vast amounts of fossil fuel energy to make food energy and this is plainly unsustainable.

Farming Systems Trial

The Farming Systems Trial at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania has been growing the same crops side by side using organic methods and conventional methods. Once the health of the soil was restored, the organic crops matched conventional yields, showing greater resilience in years of drought.   Every year the organic soil added 1 tonne of carbon to the soil, while the industrial crops gradually lost it. The organic crops used 45% less energy.

Professor Pimentel at Cornell University mapped it out: organic farming could reduce atmospheric CO2 by 1.1 trillion pounds a year. That’s half a billion tonnes of CO2 – about 1/10 of the annual increase in CO2 equivalent. Add in biochar and you would get at least another half a billion tonnes, bringing down CO2 levels by 20% a year.

pic41

If the cost of CO2 was factored into food production, then organic farming would deliver a € 350 per hectare cost benefit if carbon was priced at the real cost to future generations of €70 per tonne. Add in the benefit of €210 per hectare for every tonne of biochar added to the soil and agriculture could be part of the climate change solution instead of a major element of the problem. Lord Nicholas Stern quoted the figure of €70 per tonne in his book Blueprint for a Safer Future but a few months after it was published he said he was mistaken the real cost was €150 per tonne. Anyone who experience Hurricane Sandy in New York would probably agree. But even if CO2 was only priced at €35 per tonne it would deliver an economic imperative to farm organically and to use biochar universally. The Paris climate talks in 2015 will not exclude agriculture or transportation, the fatal mistake of the Kyoto protocols back in 1993. That will be when farming has to face reality and get a grip on its emissions.

pic42

And not a moment too soon. Every year 125 million hectares of land become so degraded they can no longer reliably produce crops. That’s nearly 2% of the world’s arable land. We have replaced that lost land by cutting down forests, but that is no longer an option. We have to live within the means of our natural capital of soil and that means not spending it but saving it and building on it.

Public health will benefit too. Antibiotics saved millions of lives – they were derived from soil bacteria. Now, due to overuse in agriculture they have created resilient disease pathogens that can no longer be treated effectively with antibiotics. 80% of all antibiotic use is in agriculture, to keep animals alive that could not survive in the filthy conditions in which they are raised, on beef feedlots where they wallow in their own excrement or in pig and chicken farms where antibiotics are the only thing that keeps the animals alive during their brief lifespan.

pic43

The sad thing is that industrial farming isn’t feeding the world. The world is feeding itself despite the waste and inefficiency of industrial farms.

70% of world’s food grown on farms smaller than 5 hectares

NO SUBSIDIES

30% of the world’s food grown on industrial farms

$350 Billion yearly SUBSIDIES

No wonder the IAASTD was so adamant that small farmers using agroecological and traditional methods were the only way to feed the world. They can produce up to six times as much per hectare as industrial farms, using fewer fossil fuel-based inputs and more human labour. Our taxes are being wasted on subsidising the destruction of our soils and dangerous increases in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Only a carbon tax can reverse this.

As this is a Slow Food Eire event it would be remiss of me not to touch on the similarities between the microbiological health of the soil and the microbiology of its counterpart in us, the gut flora, whose product is often referred to as ‘night soil.’ One third by weight of what we excrete is the offspring of the gut flora that have multiplied on our food in our digestive system and pass out along with the digested food. There are clear parallels in function between mycorrhizae and actinomycetes bacteria in the soil and the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria and associated microbial forms in the gut.

pic44pic45

We know that babies born by C section are likely to lack the microbial flora that are part of a healthy immune system. It’s now established that stool transplants in patients with clostridium difficile can save lives – 110,000 Americans a year die of this infection, which arises after antibiotic use.

In the soil, worms are a sign of good health. The emerging medical treatment of helminthic therapy reflects the finding that the absence of worms in the human gut is associated with diminished immune function. When an earthworm consumes soil containing actinomycetes bacteria, an important part of the soil’s immune system that produces antibiotic substances, it excretes six times as many as it ingests. Roundworms in the human gut consume food we eat and excrete cytokine, an immune booster.

pic48In Chinese tradition, Kwan Yin is the Goddess of Mercy and ‘mercy clay’ has saved millions from famine – it is rich in humus, minerals and microbial activity and can sustain a person when no other food is available.

pic49In Haiti the production of clay cakes is commonplace. Made with clay, salt and oil, they aren’t consumed to keep hunger at bay, they nourish and have special benefits for pregnant women as it prevents morning sickness. Clay helps eliminate toxins and infections.

pic50

When one’s tummy is upset, particularly if traveling in foreign lands where a combination of different prevalent bacteria and different hygiene standards can lead to digestive disorders, charcoal tablets have the same beneficial effect on our digestive night soil as it does in the soil in which we grow our food.

I began this talk by quoting three people who have deeply influenced my thinking about soil and about its fundamental importance to our lives.

pic51

I would like to close by quoting an even higher authority:

Genesis 3:19

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

The soil’s living community provides an example to our society of how a cooperative community of plants and microorganisms can maximise and efficiently share the production of food derived from the abundance of water, sunlight and carbon dioxide with which our planet is blessed. We come from the soil and we return to the soil, we owe all life on earth to the soil.

We should never treat it like dirt

The Future of Food, Wessanen

GOOD AFTERNOON.  AND MANY THANKS FOR INVITING ME TO SPEAK HERE THIS AFTERNOON.

AS THE FOUNDER OF WHOLE EARTH I’D LIKE TO DISCUSS HOW WE TOOK OUR VALUES, WHICH FOR MANY YEARS HAD BEEN A COMPETITIVE DISADVANTAGE, AND TRANSFORMED THEM INTO A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.

FORGIVE ME FOR DRAGGING YOU BACK INTO THE DIM AND DISTANT PAST, BUT TO OFFER ANY COMMENTS ON THE FUTURE FOR WESSANEN ORGANICS IT HELPS TO KNOW A BIT ABOUT ITS HERITAGE AND THE STORY OF THE WHOLE EARTH BRAND HAS BEEN WOVEN INTO IT FOR AT LEAST 34 YEARS. 

IN 1965 I TRAVELLED THE ‘HIPPIE TRAIL’ JUST A FEW YEARS BEFORE IT ACQUIRED THAT NAME, HITCHHIKING, WALKING AND TAKING TRAINS AND BUSES FROM LONDON TO INDIA VIA SYRIA, IRAQ, KUWAIT, IRAN AND PAKISTAN.

EVENTUALLY I WAS IN NEW DELHI, WHERE I SPEND A NIGHT IN THE GENERAL HOSPITAL WITH ADVANCED AMOEBIC DYSENTERY AND INFECTIOUS HEPATITIS.

REALISING I MIGHT DIE IF I STAYED IN THE HOSPITAL, I STRUGGLED ON TO KABUL, WHERE I RESORTED TO THE SIMPLE FOLK REMEDY OF UNLEAVENED WHOLEMEAL FLATBREAD AND UNSWEETENED STRONG TEA TO TREAT THE DYSENTERY.

THE LIVER PAINS SUBSIDED AND I WAS FIT ENOUGH TO TRAVEL BACK TO LONDON.  HOWEVER, I HAD LEARNED THAT DIET AND HEALTH WERE INEXTRICABLY INTERLINKED AND, BACK AT UNIVERSITY IN PHILADELPHIA LATER IN 1965, I ADOPTED THE MACROBIOTIC DIET.

ON GRADUATION IN 1966 I DECIDED TO OPEN A MACROBIOTIC RESTAURANT IN LONDON, SOON TO BE JOINED BY MY BROTHER GREGORY.

SETTING TRENDS:

- MACROBIOTICS

- Organic - Sustainable

- Wholegrain

- Local and Seasonal

-‘Justice’ (Fair)

- Balanced

- Zen/Japanese (Miso,Nori)

- No Additives, hormones

- Avoid sugar

- Eat only when hungry

- Exercise

SEED RESTAURANT WAS A SUCCESS,  IT WAS THE LEGENDARY HIP - AND HIPPIE - MACROBIOTIC WATERING HOLE OF THE LATE 60S, WHERE BROWN RICE AND ORGANIC VEGETABLES DOMINATED THE MENU. OUR RESTAURANT ROCKED, BOTH WITH PROGRESSIVE MUSIC AND A GROOVY CLIENTELE DRAWN FROM LONDON’S ALTERNATIVE SCENE OF MUSIC, THE ARTS AND FASHION.

JOHN LENNON WAS ONE OF OUR REGULARS AND HE GAVE MY BROTHER GREGORY A LITTLE CARTOON IN GRATITUDE FOR OUR FOOD AND FOR HARMONY, THE PIONEERING MAGAZINE GREGORY PUBLISHED.

lennon-copy.jpg

WE ESPOUSED A DIET THAT PRESCRIBED WHOLEGRAINS AND ORGANIC FOODS THAT WERE LOCAL AND SEASONAL – AND PROHIBITED ADDITIVES,  COFFEE, SUGAR, FACTORY FARMED MEAT AND YEAST.  WE THOUGHT MACROBIOTICS WAS THE ESSENTIAL FOUNDATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE IN A WORLD RUNNING OUT OF RESOURCES, WITH A GROWING POPULATION AND INCREASING DEGENERATIVE DISEASE.   I STILL DO.

untitled.jpg

THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION RATHER ALARMINGLY SAID THAT THE DIET WOULD ULTIMATELY LEAD TO DEATH.  THEY WERE OF COURSE, ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.  I HAVE FOLLOWED A MACROBIOTIC DIET FOR 49 YEARS NOW AND, MUCH AS I HATE TO ADMIT IT, IT’S A MATHEMATICAL CERTAINTY THAT I’M CLOSER TO DEATH THAN I WAS IN 1965

BUT I FEEL HEALTHIER THAN I DID THEN AND I’VE NEVER FELT BAD ENOUGH TO NEED TO SEEK MEDICAL HELP OF ANY KIND, FOR WHICH I AM GRATEFUL.

books.jpg

MY BOOK, ABOUT MACROBIOTICS, WAS PUBLISHED IN 1972 AND HAS BEEN TRANSLATED INTO 8 LANGUAGES, IS STILL IN PRINT IN PORTUGUESE AND HEBREW.

I WROTE A FEW OTHER BOOKS, THE LITTLE FOOD BOOK COVERED FOOD ISSUES FROM A 2002 PERSPECTIVE AND THE GREEN & BLACK’S STORY INCLUDED SOME OF THE STORY OF WHOLE EARTH FOODS

the-little-food-book.jpg
jpeg-1.jpg
imgres.jpg
ceres.jpg

WE SOON HAD CERES (LATIN FOR DEMETER) - EUROPE’S FIRST NATURAL FOODS STORE - GOING FULL TILT ON THE PORTOBELLO ROAD, IN THE ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY’S THEN HEARTLAND.  THEN OTHER BUDDING RETAILERS WHO WANTED TO DO WHAT WE DID CAME TO US FOR SUPPLIES, FORMING THE WHOLESALE CUSTOMER BASE FOR HARMONY FOODS.

ceres-interior.jpg
harmony-logo.jpg
harmony-rice.jpg

WE WERE KNOWN AS THE BROWN RICE BARONS, BECAUSE IF YOU BOUGHT BROWN RICE IN THE 1970S IN BRITAIN OR IRELAND IT CAME FROM US.

WITH OTHER RETAILERS, WE FORMED THE NATURAL FOODS UNION, PROMISING EACH OTHER NEVER TO SELL PRODUCTS CONTAINING SUGAR OR ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS, THUS DEFINING THE NATURAL FOODS MARKET.

WE ALSO MADE PEANUT BUTTER UNDER THE HARMONY BRAND.

IN 1977 I CREATED APPLE JUICE SWEETENED JAMS THAT WERE THE FIRST PRODUCTS IN THE ‘NO SUGAR ADDED’ CATEGORY.  THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WE ALSO STARTED TO SUPPLY SUPERMARKETS, BREAKING THE BRAND BARRIER THAT STILL INHIBITS RETAIL SALES OF ORGANIC PRODUCTS IN MANY EUROPEAN COUNTRIES AND MAKES THE DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL BRANDING MORE DIFFICULT.  WE HAD DEVELOPED THE WHOLE EARTH BRAND TO BE OUR SUPERMARKET BRAND BUT THEN DECIDED TO USE WHOLE EARTH TO BRAND ALL OUR PRODUCTS AND MIGRATED OUR HARMONY PEANUT BUTTER ACROSS TO WHOLE EARTH AND THE HARMONY BRAND WAS RETIRED.

WE WERE THE FIRST WITH ORGANIC BROWN RICE, SOURDOUGH BREAD, NORI SEAWEED, MISO, BREWED SOYA SAUCE, ADUKI BEANS, NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER, NO SUGAR ADDED JAMS, ORGANIC BAKED BEANS AND CARBONATED FRUIT JUICE DRINKS - BUT THERE WAS ALWAYS SOMEONE BIGGER AND STRONGER THAN US WHO WAITED UNTIL THE CATEGORY GOT BIG ENOUGH, THEN DID WHATEVER IT TOOK TO GET RID OF US. OFTEN THEY WERE OUR OWN DISTRIBUTORS AND IT WOULD BE UNREALISTIC NOT TO MENTION DISTRIBORG AND NATUFOOD, BOTH OF WHOM BUILT THEIR BUSINESSES ON EXCLUSIVE DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENTS OF WHOLE EARTH JAMS AND THEN LATER SWITCHED CUSTOMERS TO THEIR OWN LABEL VERSIONS, NATUFOOD AND BJORG, FRUSTRATING OUR HOPES OF BUILDING A EUROPEAN BRAND IN PARTNERSHIP WITH OUR IMPORTERS.

NONETHELESS, BY THE LATE 1980S WE MANAGED TO CREATE A VERY SUCCESSFUL AND MUCH-LOVED PRODUCT IN WHOLE EARTH PEANUT BUTTER.  IT HAD A RESPECTABLE 20% OF THE BRANDED PEANUT BUTTER MARKET. THEN NESTLE TOOK OVER SUN PAT.  THEY COULDN’T ACCEPT OUR EXISTENCE AND TOOK STEPS TO ELIMINATE US.

IN 1989 NESTLE SUN PAT LAUNCHED WHOLENUT – THE LABEL ARTWORK LOOKED LIKE OURS, THE NAME SOUNDED LIKE WHOLE EARTH EVEN THE RECIPE EMULATED OURS.   VISITING A SUPERMARKET BUYER WAS LIKE SEEING YOUR OWN FUNERAL REFLECTED IN THEIR EYES – THEY KNEW THAT THIS WOULD PROBABLY BE YOUR LAST VISIT – THEY’D SEEN THE STORYBOARDS FOR THE £5 MILLION TV ADVERTISING LAUNCH THAT NESTLE WERE PLANNING. WE MANAGED TO SEE THEM OFF, SHOWING THE POWER OF THE WHOLE EARTH BRAND. THEY COULD HAVE BOUGHT OUR BRAND AT THAT TIME FOR £2 MILLION AND SAVED £3 MILLION BUT EGOS DON’T WORK LIKE THAT.  NESTLE’S WHOLENUT LASTED JUST 4 YEARS.

Sugar vs Apple Juice
Sugar vs Apple Juice

WE ALSO LAUNCHED THE FIRST NO SUGAR ADDED SOFT DRINKS IN 1984 – SWEETENED WITH APPLE JUICE

THESE WERE THE FORERUNNERS OF THE WHOLE EARTH SOFT DRINKS RANGE

REPLACING SUGAR WITH APPLE JUICE WAS THE BACKBONE OF THE WHOLE EARTH RANGE IN THE 1980S BUT THE FUTURE FOR THIS CONCEPT OF NO ADDED SUGAR IS LIMITED – UNLESS THE CALORIE CONTENT IS LOWER THERE ISN’T REALLY MUCH DIFFERENCE.

AT WHOLE EARTH’S 20TH BIRTHDAY PARTY IN 1987 I MADE A HERBAL BREW BASED ON OUR WHOLE EARTH COLA BUT WITH ADDED GUARANA AND CHINESE HERBS.  IT REALLY PEPPED UP THE OCCASION.  WE COULDN’T LAUNCH IT AS A WHOLE EARTH PRODUCT AS IT WAS EDGIER THAN RED BULL – NOT RIGHT FOR THE BRAND. SO WE NAMED IT GUSTO.

Gusto poster
Gusto poster
Gusto poster 2
Gusto poster 2

MY SON AND DAUGHTER LAUNCHED GUSTO IN 1990 AND IT BECAME A £500,000 BRAND.

IN 1999 WE SOLD SHARES IN WHOLE EARTH FOODS TO A GROUP OF INVESTORS AND THEY MISTAKENLY REFORMULATED GUSTO AND LAUNCHED IT IN NEW PACKAGING, ON THE ADVICE OF A WAITROSE SUPERMARKET BUYER. IN 2002 WE SOLD WHOLE EARTH AND GUSTO TO WESSANEN AND I OFFERED £100,000 TO TAKE GUSTO OUT OF THE DEAL.  I WAS REFUSED. A YEAR OR SO LATER WAITROSE DELISTED GUSTO AND I BOUGHT THE BRAND BACK FOR £2000.  MY SON WENT BACK TO THE ORIGINAL FORMAT, MADE IT ORGANIC AND IT IS NOW A £300,000 BRAND AND GROWING

IN 1989 WE LAUNCHED THE FIRST ORGANIC PEANUT BUTTER. TESCO GAVE US A LISTING.

THEN A SHIPMENT OF PEANUTS FAILED OUR QUALITY CONTROL AND IT TOOK 7 WEEKS FOR ANOTHER CONTAINER FROM PARAGUAY TO REACH US. SO WE STARTED LOOKING FOR A SUPPLIER WE COULD RELY ON.  LISBETH DAMSGAARD OF URTEKRAM TOLD ME ABOUT AN ORGANIC PROJECT IN TOGO, WEST AFRICA AND I GOT IN TOUCH WITH ANDRE DEBERDT, A FRENCHMAN WHO WORKED WITH THE GROWERS. ANDRE SENT ME A PEANUT SAMPLE AND WE TESTED IT FOR AFLATOXIN.  IT FAILED. I RANG ANDRE TO GIVE HIM THE BAD NEWS. HE MENTIONED THAT THE SAME FARMERS ALSO GREW ORGANIC COCOA BEANS.  I GOT HIM TO ARRANGE FOR A SAMPLE OF 70% SOLIDS CHOCOLATE TO BE MADE FROM THOSE BEANS.  WHEN IT ARRIVED I MANAGED TO KEEP SOME BACK FOR JOJO FAIRLEY, MY GIRL FRIEND AND A JOURNALIST.

WHEN SHE TASTED IT SHE SAID “THIS IS THE BEST CHOCOLATE I’VE EVER TASTED! YOU’VE GOT TO DO IT!”

IT COULDN’T GO UNDER THE WHOLE EARTH BRAND AS WE WERE A NO SUGAR BRAND.  JOJO HAD JUST MOVED IN WITH ME AND HAD £20 GRAND IN THE BANK FROM THE SALE OF HER FLAT IN FULHAM, SO I DECIDED TO TAKE A RISK - WITH HER MONEY.

THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE THAT HAD EVEN 50% COCOA SOLIDS, NOTHING THAT WAS ORGANIC AND NOTHING THAT TASTED AS GOOD, SO WE CHARGED INTO THIS TRIPLE NICHE.

WE SAT IN BED ONE NIGHT THINKING UP A BRAND NAME – WHOLE EARTH WAS A NO SUGAR BRAND AND HAD TO STAY THAT WAY.

I’M GLAD WE DIDN’T CALL IT ECOCHOC, ORGANICHOC OR NATUCHOC

WE WANTED A BRAND THAT SOUNDED LIKE IT HAD A GLORIOUS CONFECTIONERY HERITAGE.  IT NEEDED TO SOUND LIKE WE’D BEEN CRAFTING ARTISAN CHOCOLATE SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL.

WE WERE ‘GREEN’ BECAUSE WE WERE ORGANIC AND ‘BLACK’ BECAUSE WE HAD THE DARKEST CHOCOLATE ON THE MARKET, SO GREEN & BLACK’S PUSHED ALL THE RIGHT BUTTONS.  AND YOU COULD PRONOUNCE IT IN ANY LANGUAGE.  SOME OF YOU HERE MAY HAVE HAD TO REPEAT THE WORDS ‘WHOLE EARTH’ SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE ANYONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT YOU’RE SAYING. AS SOON AS SHE SAID ‘GREEN & BLACK’S’ WE KNEW WE HAD OUR NAME.

THE WHOLE EARTH OFFICES WERE IN THE SHOP BELOW MY FLAT ON PORTOBELLO ROAD SO I LEAPED OUT OF BED AND MOCKED UP A DESIGN IN 10 MINUTES.

Green & Black's 1st design
Green & Black's 1st design

THE NATURAL FOOD TRADE WERE RESISTANT.  SUGAR WAS STILL A BIG NO-NO IN THE TRADE AND YOU CAN’T SWEETEN CHOCOLATE WITH APPLE JUICE..

Green & Black's 1st bar
Green & Black's 1st bar

COMMUNITY FOODS, THE BIGGEST NATURAL FOODS WHOLESALER, REFUSED TO STOCK GREEN & BLACK’S BECAUSE IT CONTAINED SUGAR.  HOWEVER, BECAUSE THEY WERE ALSO A MASTER DISTRIBUTOR FOR THE WHOLE EARTH RANGE. I URGED THEM TO RECONSIDER THEIR NO SUGAR POLICY AND THEY WERE RELUCTANTLY BLACKMAILED INTO STOCKING THE CHOCOLATE.  THAT WAS THE END OF THE NO SUGAR RULE IN THE UK NATURAL FOODS SECTOR.

WE ALSO GOT IN TO SAINSBURY’S AND SAFEWAY.

FROM THE OUTSET WE EDUCATED THE PRESS AND CONSUMERS ON THE ETHICAL ISSUES, EMPHASISING THE BENEFITS TO THE AFRICAN PRODUCERS.

IN 1992 WE WON THE FIRST ETHICAL CONSUMER AWARD AND GAINED THE IMPORTANT SUPPORT OF THE WOMEN’S ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK, WHO HAD JUST PUBLISHED CHOCOLATE UNWRAPPED, A BOOK WHICH HIGHLIGHTED THE DREADFUL PLIGHT OF WOMEN ON LARGE COCOA PLANTATIONS AND SUGGESTED WOMEN SHOULD REFUSE TO BUY CHOCOLATE

Chocolate Unwrapped
Chocolate Unwrapped

JOJO BONDED INSTANTLY WITH BERNADETTE VALLELY, WHO FOUNDED THE NETWORK AND WE MADE SURE THAT OUR CHOCOLATE WAS AVAILABLE AT ALL THEIR EVENTS.  IF YOU JOINED THEIR NETWORK, YOUR JOINING GIFT WAS A BAR OF GREEN & BLACK’S.

WE CALLED IT GUILT – FREE CHOCOLATE.  BUT FIRST WE HAD TO EXPLAIN TO PEOPLE WHAT THEY SHOULD FEEL GUILTY ABOUT.

WE ADDRESSED MORAL GUILT - WE PAID FAIR AND FIXED PRICES AND THE GROWERS WERE NOT EXPOSED TO DANGEROUS CHEMICALS.

WE ADDRESSED SUGAR GUILT - IT WAS LOWER IN SUGAR THAN ANY OTHER CHOCOLATE, ALL THE REST WERE 50-65% SUGAR, OURS WAS ONLY 29%.

WE ADDRESSED ENVIRONMENTAL GUILT - WE WERE SHADE-GROWN ORGANIC, SO WE HELPED THE RAIN FOREST.

ABOLISHING GUILT ON CHOCOLATE-RELATED ISSUES HELPS TAKE THE EDGE OFF THIS PURITANICAL GUILT OF SELF INDULGENCE AS WELL.

A HEADLINE IN THE INDEPENDENT SUMMED IT UP: “RIGHT ON – AND IT TASTES GOOD, TOO.”

Independent on Green & Black's
Independent on Green & Black's

IN 1993 I CONTACTED SOME OLD FRIENDS AMONG THE MAYA IN BELIZE, WHOSE COCOA PLANTATIONS I HAD VISITED 5 YEARS EARLIER AND WHO WERE MEMBERS OF THE TOLEDO CACAO GROWERS ASSOCIATION.

Toledo Cacao Growers Assoc
Toledo Cacao Growers Assoc

I FOUND THAT THERE WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LAUNCH A PRODUCT AND A PROJECT THAT FROM THE OUTSET COULD BE DESIGNED TO BE A PERFECT EMBODIMENT OF ORGANIC AND FAIR TRADE PRINCIPLES.

WE WORKED OUT A NEW DEAL FOR A NEW PRODUCT CONCEPT - MAYA GOLD - AND MADE AN OFFER TO THE TCGA.

1. A FIVE YEAR ROLLING CONTRACT, PAYING $1.75 PER POUND

2. HELP TO OBTAIN ORGANIC CERTIFICATION.

3. A  $20000  CASH ADVANCE SO THAT THE FARMER MEMBERS WERE GUARANTEED ‘SPOT CASH’.

4. WE TRAINED KEY COOP MEMBERS IN MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTING, CORRECT FERMENTATION AND QUALITY CONTROL TO ENSURE THAT OUR ORGANIC COCOA BEANS TASTED BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE’S.

A FEW WEEKS LATER I MET MIKE DRURY OF THE FAIRTRADE FOUNDATION, WHO URGED US TO CONSIDER THE FAIRTRADE MARK.  IT HADN’T YET BEEN SEEN ON ANYTHING AT THAT TIME AND WHAT WE WERE DOING MATCHED OR EXCEEDED ALL THEIR CRITERIA, SO WE AGREED.

Maya Gold 1st packaging
Maya Gold 1st packaging

MAYA GOLD WAS LAUNCHED ON MARCH 7 1994 ON THE OXFAM STAND AT THE BBC GOOD FOOD SHOW IN LONDON.   WE DIDN’T ADVERTISE – WE DIDN’T NEED TO.  BBC NEWSROUND SENT A CAMERA CREW TO BELIZE AND CAME BACK WITH FOOTAGE OF MAYA KIDS EATING MAYA GOLD, THE FIRST TIME MANY OF THEM HAD EVER TASTED CHOCOLATE AND PROBABLY THE FIRST TIME THAT PRODUCERS OF CACAO HAD SEEN THE FINISHED PRODUCT OF THEIR EFFORTS.

THAT DATE MARKED THE BIRTH OF THE FAIRTRADE MARK AND TOOK IT FROM A WORTHY IDEA TO A SUPERMARKET SHELF REALITY, STARTING WITH SAINSBURY’S AND SOON IN ALL THE MAJORS.  CLIPPER TEAS AND SOON FOLLOWED

Fairtrade
Fairtrade

BEING FIRST WITH THE FAIRTRADE MARK GENERATED A HUGE WAVE OF PUBLICITY -

.

THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF MARKET SECURITY TO THE GROWERS ARE OBVIOUS.  A BONUS HAS BEEN A CASCADE OF UNFORESEEN ADDITIONAL BENEFITS – A VERITABLE FAIR TRADE VIRTUOUS CIRCLE.

Maya village
Maya village

EVERY MAYA VILLAGE IS SITED ON A RIVER, WHICH SERVES AS BATH AND LAUNDRY AND DRINKING WATER SUPPLY. SKIN DISEASES, RASHES AND BLISTERS ARE A THING OF THE PAST NOW THAT CHEMICAL USE HAS BEEN ABANDONED.

Maya bird
Maya bird

MIGRATORY BIRD POPULATIONS HAVE INCREASED DRAMATICALLY, REFLECTING INCREASED FOREST SHADE COVER AND REDUCED PESTICIDE RESIDUES.

MAYA RESERVATION LAND HAS BEEN KEPT INTACT AND THE BANK HAS NOT FORECLOSED ON THE OLD LOANS.

parrot
parrot

THE AMERICAN AUDUBON SOCIETY OWN A SCARLET MACAW BREEDING RESERVE IN BELIZE.  THE FARMERS THERE HAVE STARTED GROWING CACAO IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE HABITAT OF THIS AREA WHERE MACAWS FROM ALL OVER CENTRAL AMERICA COME TO BREED

fish
fish

THE MANGROVE AND CORAL REEF WERE BECOMING SILTED UP FROM AGRICULTURAL RUNOFF AND DAMAGED BY PESTICIDES.  NOW TARPON ARE RUNNING UP THE RIVERS, ATTRACTING AMERICAN FLY FISHERMEN, ANOTHER GOOD SOURCE OF TOURIST INCOME.

OUR ENLIGHTENED SELF INTEREST PAID OFF.  MOST ENTREPRENEURS BENEFIT FROM KEEPING THEIR SUPPLIERS AND CUSTOMERS IGNORANT OF EACH OTHER.  OUR SUCCESS AROSE FROM BEING ACTIVELY TRANSPARENT.

THE SOCIAL BENEFITS WERE THERE, TOO

UNTIL WE BEGAN TRADING WITH THE MAYA, THERE WAS VIRTUALLY NO SECONDARY EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN FROM THE COCOA-GROWING VILLAGES.  TODAY, 80% OF MAYA PRIMARY SCHOOLCHILDREN GO ON TO ATTEND SECONDARY SCHOOL, AND QUITE A FEW HAVE MOVED ON TO UNIVERSITY.

Craig with Maya women
Craig with Maya women

WOMEN CONTROL THE FINAL STAGES OF CACAO PRODUCTION AS THEY DO THE FERMENTING AND DRYING.  THEY TAKE IT INTO TOWN ON MARKET DAYS AND CONVERT IT INTO CASH. THIS STRENGTHENS THE ECONOMIC POSITION OF WOMEN AND WOMEN SPEND MONEY ON HEALTH AND EDUCATION.

AN ENTREPRENEURIAL CULTURE IS EMERGING, TOO.  CYRILLA CHO, FOR EXAMPLES, RUNS A NURSERY THAT SELLS LOCAL VARIETIES OF CACAO TREES TO FARMERS, REPLACING THE UNRELIABLE HYBRIDS INTRODUCED IN THE 1980S.  SHE ALSO MAKES CHOCOLATES FROM HER OWN COCOA BEANS, WHICH ARE SOLD IN LOCAL HOTELS AND SHOPS.

Cyrilla Cho & Craig
Cyrilla Cho & Craig

ANDREW PURVIS

WE WOULD NEVER HAVE DARED TO MAKE THE CLAIMS THAT THE ARTICLE MADE ABOUT US - SOMETIMES PR IS THE ONLY WAY TO TELL A REALLY GOOD STORY.

Observer Food Monthly
Observer Food Monthly

ALL THIS HAPPENED WITHOUT US EVER ACTUALLY MAKING A BAR OF CHOCOLATE.  IN FACT I STOPPED MAKING PEANUT BUTTER AND JAM WHEN I SOLD MY EQUIPMENT TO DUERR’S IN 1988.   A FACTORY THAT MAKES THINGS IS NO MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE ROAD OR THE TRUCK THAT DELIVERS THINGS.  THE ORIGIN OF INGREDIENTS, WHEN THEY ARE ORGANIC, CLIMATE FRIENDLY, FAIRLY SOURCED AND SUSTAINABLE ARE THE ISSUES THAT CUSTOMERS AND STAKEHOLDERS CARE ABOUT.

SCALE OR RESILIENCE?

WHAT WE ACHIEVED IN BELIZE HAD MUCH WIDER RAMIFICATIONS.  INSTEAD OF BEING SEEN AS A MARGINAL AND QUIRKY APPROACH TO CACAO PRODUCTION, THE ORGANIC AND SUSTAINABLE APPROACH IS COMING TO REPLACE THE CHEMICAL DEPENDENT PLANTATION MODEL IN COFFEE, OIL PALM AND RUBBER TO NAME A FEW EXAMPLES.  THE SMALLHOLDER FARMER IS NO LONGER SEEN AS A BACKWARD PEASANT TO BE REPLACED BUT IS BENEFITING FROM A REAL SHIFT IN THE BALANCE OF POWER IN THE FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN.

UNTIL THE 1960S ALMOST ALL THE WORLD'S CACAO WAS GROWN BY SMALLHOLDER FARMERS ON HOLDINGS OF A COUPLE OF HECTARES. IN THE EARLY 1970S A MAJOR PROGRAMME OF DEVELOPING INDUSTRIAL SCALE COCOA PLANTATIONS EMERGED, WITH THE MAIN NEW LOCATIONS BEING THE MALAYSIAN PROVINCE OF SABAH AND THE REGION OF BAHIA IN NORTHEAST BRAZIL

HISTORICALLY CACAO TREES WERE PLANTED 15 FEET APART, WITH SHADE TREES IN BETWEEN.  THE SHADE TREES CAPTURE SUNLIGHT FROM THE CANOPY AND RAISE MINERALS AND WATER FROM DEEP WITHIN THE SOIL.  THE LEAF FALL FROM THESE TREES FEEDS THE CACAO TREES AND THE SHADE ALSO INHIBITS THE SPREAD OF INSECT AND FUNGAL DISEASES.  IT'S A FUNCTIONAL ECOSYSTEM.  THE NEW INDUSTRIALISED SYSTEM PLANTED TREES 8 FEET APART. THERE WERE NO SHADE TREES.  CHEMICAL FERTILISERS WERE APPLIED TO SUPPLY NUTRIENTS AND ENCOURAGE HIGHER PRODUCTION. LACK OF SHADE MADE THE TREES PRONE TO FUNGAL DISEASE.   THE HOPE WAS THAT FUNGAL DISEASES AND PESTS COULD BE CONTROLLED WITH FUNGICIDES AND INSECTICIDES. THEY COULDN’T

THE PLANTATION MODEL IS FLAWED BECAUSE ITS COSTS AND RISKS ARE EXCESSIVE

FERTILIZER AND PESTICIDES COST MONEY

CLOSE PLANTING AND REDUCED SHADE ENCOURAGES FUNGAL DISEASE

WITHIN 20 YEARS BIG PLANTATIONS FAILED ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

IN 1989 85% OF BRAZIL’S COCOA PRODUCTION WAS IN THE PROVINCE OF BAHIA.  AN OUTBREAK OF THE FUNGAL DISEASE WITCHES BROOM WIPED OUT MOST OF THE PREVAILING MONOCULTURE CACAO PRODUCTION. COCOA PRODUCTION FELL 90% FROM PREVIOUS LEVELS

IN MALAYSIA THE COCOA PRODUCTION AREA FELL FROM 414000 HECTARES IN THE LATE 1980S TO A CURRENT LEVEL OF 20,000 HECTARES, A 95% REDUCTION.

SO WHERE ARE WE NOW?  LEADING CHOCOLATE PROCESSORS HAVE INTRODUCED INITIATIVES TO BUILD RESILIENCE BACK INTO THEIR SUPPLY CHAIN.   THESE PROGRAMMES ARE WELL FUNDED

MONDELEZ, OWNERS OF CÔTE D'OR, GREEN & BLACK'S AND CADBURY, HAVE INITIATED THE COCOA LIFE PARTNERSHIP, WITH $400 MILLION FUNDING AND A 10 YEAR DEVELOPMENT PLAN TO ACHIEVE THE FOLLOWING GOALS, IMPLEMENTED IN COLLABORATION WITH WWF AND ANTI-SLAVERY INTERNATIONAL.

INCREASE SMALLHOLDER INCOMES BY IMPROVING CACAO YIELDS AND QUALITY.

INTRODUCE CACAO VARIETIES THAT THRIVE WITHOUT AGRICHEMICALS

TRAIN FARMERS IN TRADITIONAL SKILLS SUCH AS SHADE MANAGEMENT, PRUNING, NATURAL FERTILITY BUILDING AND DISEASE CONTROL

ENCOURAGE DEMOCRATIC FARMER COOPERATIVES, CUT OUT MIDDLEMEN AND ESTABLISH LONG TERM SECURE CONTRACTS WITH FARMER COOPS

THIS IS ENLIGHTENED SELF INTEREST – BUT ALSO SATISFIES INVESTORS WHO CARE ABOUT SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND SATISFIES CONSUMERS WHO NOW EXPECT ALL BRANDS TO OPERATE AT A HIGHER MORAL LEVEL THAN HITHERTO.  BARRY CALLEBAUT HAVE A SIMILAR SCHEME

Cacao
Cacao

MARS HAVE ALSO DONE A WONDERFUL THING

THE MARS COCOA GENOME PROJECT HAS MAPPED THE ENTIRE GENOME OF DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF CACAO AND HAS PUT THIS INFORMATION FIRMLY IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. RESILIENT CACAO VARIETIES ARE BEING DEVELOPED AND NO OPPORTUNISTIC COMPANY LIKE MONSANTO WILL BE ABLE TO CAPTURE THIS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY FOR THEIR PRIVATE GAIN.

SMALLHOLDERS ARE THE BACKBONE OF ANY DEMOCRACY. PEOPLE WHO OWN THEIR OWN BUSINESS OR THEIR OWN LAND CHERISH FREEDOM, INDEPENDENCE AND HUMAN RIGHTS. INDUSTRY WILL NO LONGER NEED LARGE ARMIES OF WORKERS AS AUTOMATION TAKES OVER MOST MANUFACTURING AND ASSEMBLY OPERATIONS.  BUT THEY WILL STILL NEED CUSTOMERS FOR THEIR PRODUCTS.  SMALLHOLDERS, WITH DECENT INCOMES BASED ON FAIR PRICES, REPRESENT THAT FUTURE MARKET. THE ERA OF CHEAP FOOD BASED ON EXTERNALISING ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS SUCH AS CLIMATE CHANGE AND SOIL DEGRADATION IS COMING TO AN END.  RESILIENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY WILL BE ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS OF FUTURE FOOD PRODUCTION.  THE CACAO EXAMPLE IS AN EARLY INDICATOR OF THE FUTURE OF MOST FORMS OF AGRICULTURE.

CLIMATE AND FOOD SECURITY

MANY PEOPLE THINK THAT IT’S FACTORIES AND AIRPLANES THAT ARE CAUSING GLOBAL WARMING. IN FACT LAND CLEARANCE AND AGRICULTURE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR NEARLY HALF OF ALL THE GREENHOUSE GAS INCREASE SINCE 1850.

Original Louisiana
Original Louisiana

MY PLATTDEUTSCH FARMING ANCESTORS BEGAN TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS PROCESS IN THE 19TH CENTURY, PLOUGHING VIRGIN PRAIRIE IN WISCONSIN – THE BLUE ON THE MAP AND THEN DOING THE SAME IN NEBRASKA, IN THE GREEN PART, WHERE I WAS BORN.

trees cut down
trees cut down

BY THE 1930S 80% OF THE TREES IN THIS TERRITORY HAD BEEN REMOVED.

REGULAR PLOUGHING AND CHEMICAL FERTILIZER USE ALONG WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF TRACTORS EXHAUSTED THE SOIL CARBON CONTENT.  IT FELL FROM 100 TONNES PER HECTARE TO 5 TONNES PER HECTARE. THE CARBON RICH HUMUS OF THE BLACK SOIL DISAPPEARED AS CARBON DIOXIDE.  THE SOIL LOST ITS WATER HOLDING CAPACITY, WHICH WAS IN ITS ORGANIC MATTER

THE RESULT WAS INEVITABLE

Floods
Floods

IN 1927 A PERIOD OF PROLONGED RAIN LED TO THE GREAT FLOOD OF THE MISSISSIPPI.  WATER CRESTED AS MUCH AS 9 METRES ABOVE THE FLOOD STAGE AND A MILLION AMERICANS BECAME REFUGEES.  INSTEAD OF REPLANTING TREES, THE GOVERNMENT BUILT LEVEES AND DAMS TO CONTAIN FUTURE FLOODING.

THEN IN THE 1930S CAME DROUGHT.

Dust bowl
Dust bowl

AN AREA LARGER THAN ALL OF THE BRITISH ISLES TURNED TO DUST, EVERY SUMMER, YEAR AFTER YEAR.  A MILLION REFUGEES MOVED OUT – THE ‘OKIES’ OF JOHN STEINBECK’S BOOK THE GRAPES OF WRATH.

THIS ALARMED PEOPLE IN EUROPE AND IN BRITAIN, WHO FEARED THE SAME THING WOULD HAPPEN IF FARMING WAS INDUSTRIALISED ALONG AMERICAN LINES. IT WAS A MAJOR FACTOR IN THE FOUNDING AND NAMING OF THE SOIL ASSOCIATION

Soil Association founder
Soil Association founder

THE SAME PROCESS HAS SINCE HAPPENED IN THE CHINA, INDIA, BRAZIL, UKRAINE, KAZAKHSTAN AND AUSTRALIA.  THE RATE OF CARBON EMISSION HAS DECREASED ONLY BECAUSE OUR SOIL CARBON STOCKS ARE SO DEPLETED THERE IS LITTLE LEFT TO WASTE.  BUT WE CAN RESTORE CARBON TO THE SOIL.  IT IS A BANK THAT WE'VE ALMOST EXHAUSTED OF CAPITAL, BUT WE CAN REBUILD ITS.  AS A CARBON STORE IT IS UNRIVALLED AND ALSO SECURE - CARBON IN THE OCEANS CAN RETURN TO THE AIR AS OCEANS HEAT UP. CARBON IN FORESTS CAN BE CHOPPED DOWN AND BURNED.  CARBON IN SOIL STAYS THERE.

IN 1995 THE PRINCE OF WALES DELIVERED A LADY EVE BALFOUR MEMORIAL LECTURE CALLED ‘COUNTING THE COST OF INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE.’  I REALISED THAT IF THE CARBON EMISSIONS SAVINGS OF FARMING ORGANICALLY WERE PRICED INTO THE COST OF FOOD AT THE REAL COST OF EMITTED CARBON THEN ORGANIC FOOD WOULD BE CHEAPER THAN INDUSTRIALLY PRODUCED FOOD.

400 OF THE WORLD'S LEADING AGRONOMISTS CAME TO THE SAME CONCLUSION 4 YEARS AGO.

IAASTD
IAASTD

-

  • Stop subsidies
  • Put human health first
  • Green Revolution had unintended consequences
  • Genetic Engineering a problem, not a solution
  • Little time left
  • Protect our agricultural capital (soil)
  • Support small farmers and diverse ecosystems
  • Study and learn from traditional farming
  • Reward farmers who prevent climate change

THIS REPORT IS NOW THE MAIN DETERMINANT OF UN POLICY ON AGRICULTURE.

I’VE HIGHLIGHTED THE LAST POINT – TO REWARD FARMERS WHO PREVENT CLIMATE CHANGE

Industrial Farm – 12 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food
Industrial Farm – 12 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food
Organic Farm
Organic Farm
Farmer
Farmer

Farmer with a hoe:    120 times more energy-efficient than an organic farmer

                                   240 times more energy-efficient than an industrial farmer

AN INDUSTRIAL FARM USES 12 CALORIES OF FOSSIL FUEL TO PRODUCE ONE CALORIE OF FOOD – WE ARE EATING OIL

AN ORGANIC FARMER USES HALF AS MUCH ENERGY TO PRODUCE THE SAME AMOUNT OF FOOD ENERGY

A FARMER WITH A HOE USES ONE CALORIE OF THEIR OWN ENERGY TO PRODUCE 20 CALORIES OF FOOD ENERGY, SO IS 120 TIMES MORE EFFICIENT IN ENERGY TERMS THAN AN ORGANIC FARMER AND 240 TIMES MORE EFFICIENT THAN AN INDUSTRIAL FARM

ORGANIC ISN'T PERFECT - IT STILL DEPENDS TOO MUCH ON FOSSIL FUELS, BUT AT LEAST IT PUTS SOMETHING BACK IN EXCHANGE FOR WHAT IT TAKES OUT.

OBVIOUSLY WE CAN’T ALL GO BACK TO HOEING THE SOIL, BUT WHAT IF THE WHOLE WORLD JUST WENT ORGANIC?

Farming Systems Trial
Farming Systems Trial

Rodale Institute 30 year trial results

  1. Organic uses 45% less energy
  2. Average yields match conventional (soybeans/corn)
  3. C sequestration 1 MT/ha (3.7 T CO2/ha) per annu

A 30-YEAR TRIAL IN PENNSYLVANIA SHOWS THAT ORGANIC FARMING CONTINUOUSLY SEQUESTERS 1 TONNE OF CARBON PER HECTARE PER ANNUM.

WHAT WOULD THIS MEAN GLOBALLY?

- USA arable: 172 Million Ha

Global arable: 1.4 Bn Ha

US is 1/8 of Global farmland

Organicc
Organicc

- USA in Metric:         Per Annum

- Conventional:  .45 Gt Co2 emitted

- If Organic:       .50 Gt CO2 sequestered

- Worldwide  Per Annum

- Conventional:  3.6 Gt CO2 emitted

- If Organic:       4    Gt CO2 sequestered

- Net improvement 7.2 Gigatonnes

- Net annual CO2 growth 2013: 5.5 Gt CO2

- Good  - but can we do better?

IF EVERY ONE OF OUR 1.4 BILLION HECTARES OF ARABLE LAND WAS ORGANIC THERE WOULD BE A NET REDUCTION OF 7 BILLION TONNES OF CARBON DIOXIDE TAKEN OUT OF THE ATMOSPHERE ANNUALLY – ENOUGH TO STABILISE AND REVERSE GREENHOUSE GAS LEVELS.

THE CLIMATE COST OF INDUSTRIAL FARMING

  • 7,000,000,000 tonnes CO2 p.a. difference
  • 1,400,000,000 ha arable land
  • = 5 tonnes CO2 per Ha per annum
  • The real cost of CO2 emitted is €70 tonne
  • €350 per ha cost benefit from organic farming

IF WE TAX CARBON EMISSIONS AND REWARD CARBON SEQUESTRATION ORGANIC FOOD IS CHEAPER

HOW MUCH CHEAPER?

WHAT WOULD THE IMPACT BE ON THE COST OF FOOD?

THE COST OF A TONNE OF CO2 EMITTED IS ESTIMATED AT BEING AT LEAST €70 PER TONNE TO FUTURE GENERATIONS.  CARBON MARKETS CURRENTLY PRICE IT AT BETWEEN ONLY €3 and €20 PER TONNE.

CARBON TAXES FACE FIERCE RESISTANCE FROM OIL, AGRIBUSINESS, MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL AND TRANSPORTATION LOBBIES WHO UNDERSTAND WHAT CARBON PRICING WILL DO THE MARKET FOR PETROLEUM, AGRICHEMICALS, INDUSTRIAL FOOD, WAR AND TRANSPORT.

BUT THE PARIS CLIMATE TALKS IN 2015 WILL BE A TURNING POINT.

THE 1994 KYOTO PROTOCOLS EXCLUDED CHINA AND INDIA AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND EXCLUDED AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND TRANSPORTATION.  THE USA REFUSED TO SIGN, SO EUROPE ATTEMPTED TO COMPLY ALL ON ITS OWN.  IT WAS HARD FOR EUROPEAN MANUFACTURERS TO COMPETE WITH COUNTRIES THAT EMITTED UNLIMITED CARBON, LIKE CHINA.  THE VOLUNTARY MARKET HAS GROWN ANNUALLY, SUPPORTED BY COMPANIES LIKE WESSANEN WHO OPERATE SOME OF THEIR BRANDS, INCLUDING WHOLE EARTH, AS CARBON NEUTRAL.  THE COOL FARM INSTITUTE HAS LAUNCHED A WEB APP SUPPORTED BY PEPSICO, UNILEVER, HEINEKEN AND MARKS AND SPENCER THAT WILL ENABLE FARMERS TO MEASURE THEIR CARBON FOOTPRINT.  SO IS THERE HOPE, OR DO WE FACE ANOTHER 20 YEARS OF INACTION?

WHAT’S DIFFERENT TODAY?

EUROPE STILL HAS AN EMISSIONS TRADING SCHEME.  CALIFORNIA INTRODUCED ONE A YEAR AGO. QUEBEC INTRODUCED A SCHEME THAT NOW FREELY EXCHANGES AT PARITY WITH CALIFORNIA. CHINA NOW HAS 8 ACTIVE CARBON EXCHANGES IN ALL ITS MAIN REGIONS AND IS NEGOTIATING TO HAVE PRICE PARITY WITH CALIFORNIA.  THE NEW ENGLAND STATES ARE JOINING AND THE MIDWESTERN STATES SEE A HIGH CARBON PRICE AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR WIND ENERGY.

SO AT PARIS 2015 THERE WILL BE CHINA, MOST OF THE US, CANADA AND THE EU ALREADY PRACTICING A CARBON TRADING REGIME AND PUSHING FOR A GLOBAL AGREEMENT.

AFTER PARIS THERE WILL BE A MORE ROBUST CARBON PRICING REGIME AND IT IS REALISTIC TO EXPECT IT TO CHANGE THE WAY WE FARM

pic42
pic42

WE HAVE TO MOVE SOON.  125 MILLION HECTARES A YEAR OF FARMLAND GO OUT OF PRODUCTION EACH YEAR.  AT THAT RATE TODAY’S FARM LAND WILL BE GONE IN 110 YEARS.

pic43
pic43

THE DEMAND FOR CHEAP MEAT HAS SEVERAL DANGEROUS EFFECTS AS INTENSIVE MEAT PRODUCTION RELIES ON ANTIBIOTICS TO KEEP ANIMALS ALIVE IN SHITTY CONDITIONS WHERE THEY WOULD NORMALLY DIE OF DISEASE.

  1. THE LOSS OF FOREST WHICH TURNS CARBON SINKS INTO CARBON EMISSIONS
  2. OBESITY, BOWEL CANCER AND OTHER DISEASES OF EXCESS MEAT CONSUMPTION
  3. THE EMERGENCE OF E.COLI H7/O157, A VIRULENT MUTATION OF E.COLI THAT KILLS 100 AMERICANS A YEAR AND SICKENS 265,000
  4. FAILURE OF ANTIBIOTICS – 80% OF ANTIBIOTIC USE IS ON FARMS AND EMERGING SUPERBUGS THAT ARE ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT RAISE THE SPECTRE OF A MUTATION OF BUBONIC PLAGUE THAT COULD BE FATAL TO BILLIONS. BACTERIA LEARN FROM EACH OTHER AND TRANSFER RESISTANCE TO ANTIBIOTICS. ALL FOR A CHEAP HOT DOG

Who’s Feeding the World?

- 70% of world’s food grown on farms smaller than 5 hectares

                         NO SUBSIDIES

- 30% of the world’s food grown on industrial farms

$350 Billion yearly SUBSIDIES

THE PRICE WE PAY IN CLIMATE DISRUPTION SOIL EROSION AND DISEASE RISK FOR CHEAP MEAT AND OTHER FOOD IS DISPROPORTIONATE.  MORE THAN 2/3 OF THE WORLD’S FOODS IS GROWN ON SMALL FARMS OF LESS THAN 5 HECTARES, YET ALL THE AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES GO TO INDUSTRIAL FARMS THAT CAUSE THE MOST HARM AND ONLY PRODUCE 1/3 OF THE WORLD’S FOOD

Modern Farmer
Modern Farmer

A YEAR AGO IN THE UNITED STATES A MAGAZINE CALLED MODERN FARMER APPEARED.  IT IS REACHING OUT TO THE NEW ‘RURBANISTAS’ – PEOPLE WHO MAKE A LIFESTYLE CHOICE TO OWN AND WORK SMALL FARMS – THE GROW-YOUR-OWN MOVEMENT HAS MOVED FROM PEOPLE’S GARDENS TO LARGER FIELDS AND REFLECTS THE FAILURE OF INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE, WHICH CANNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT SUBSIDIES.  CAN IT ALSO REPRESENT THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE?

DROP SHOP

-How will Wholesalers operate when customers shop online and then collect delivery from a Drop Shop?

Drop Shop
Drop Shop

ANOTHER AREA WHERE THE FOOD INDUSTRY CAN SAVE MONEY AND CARBON IS IN DISTRIBUTION.  ONLINE SHOPPING IN THE UK REACHED 20% LAST YEAR.  THE DAY OF THE SUPPLY CHAIN RUNNING FROM MANUFACTURER TO DISTRIBUTOR TO RETAILER TO CONSUMER IS COMING TO AN END.  WHAT WILL REPLACE IT?

THE ‘DROP SHOP’ CONCEPT IS EMERGING, WHERE A CUSTOMER ORDERS THEIR FOOD ONLINE AND HAS IT DELIVERED TO A LOCAL OUTLET.  THE CUSTOMER PICKS UP THE ORDER WHEN READY. THE RETAILER HAS LOW STOCKHOLDING COST, LOW STAFFING COSTS AND NO SHOPLIFTING.  THIS EMERGING MODEL, CALLED DISINTERMEDIATION OR, IN PLAIN ENGLISH ‘CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLEMEN’ HAS IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WESSANEN OWNERSHIP OF DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES AND ITS PARTNERSHIPS WITH RETAILERS. IT WILL ALSO BUST OPEN THE DIFFERENTIATION IN BRANDING BETWEEN SUPERMARKET ORGANIC BRANDS AND NATURAL FOOD ORGANIC BRANDS – THE NATURAL FOODS CUSTOMER WANTS TO AVOID SUPERMARKETS BUT IS HAPPY TO ORDER ONLINE.

WHEN CARBON PRICING COMES IN THIS MODEL WILL BECOME EVEN MORE COST EFFECTIVE AND DISRUPTIVE.

SO WHAT AM I DOING ABOUT CARBON AND SOIL?

Corn Flakes Future Forests
Corn Flakes Future Forests

Future Forests became The Carbon Neutral Company

Carbon Neutral Company
Carbon Neutral Company

IN 1996 WHOLE EARTH CORN FLAKES BECAME THE FIRST CARBON NEUTRAL FOOD PRODUCT.  WE DISCOVERED THAT, BECAUSE IT WAS ORGANIC AND WHOLEGRAIN THAT WE DIDN’T HAVE TO PLANT MANY TREES TO BALANCE OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT.  THAT GOT ME GOING ON THE LOW CARBON FARMING WARPATH.

MY NEW BUSINESS VENTURE IS AIMED AT ACCELERATING THE REMOVAL OF CARBON FROM THE ATMOSPHERE AND REBUILDING SOIL CARBON.

THERE IS AN FAST AND EFFECTIVE WAY TO REBUILD SOIL CARBON.  THIS IS TO MAKE CHARCOAL OUT OF ORGANIC MATTER SUCH AS WOOD CHIPS AND AGRICULTURAL WASTES LIKE RICE HUSKS, COFFEE HUSKS AND SHREDDED PALM LEAVES. THEN YOU PLOUGH THIS CHARCOAL INTO THE GROUND, WHERE IT IS STABLE FOR A HUNDRED YEARS OR SO. THE PRODUCT IS CALLED BIOCHAR, TO DIFFERENTIATE IT FROM THE BARBEQUE CHARCOAL

BIOCHAR DELIVERS SAVINGS IN WATER COSTS AND INPUT COSTS AND PROVIDES HEALTHIER PLANTS WITH HIGHER YIELDS.

RAR IN PORTUGAL WILL HAVE 105,000 OF THEIR 250,000 SQUARE METRES OF GREENHOUSE CROPS RAISED WITH BIOCHAR THIS YEAR. THEY DO THIS FOR ECONOMIC REASONS, BUT THE CARBON CREDITS ARE MEASURABLE .

WHEN THE CARBON BENEFITS CAN BE MONETISED, IT WILL BE EVEN MORE PROFITABLE . THIS IS ALREADY HAPPENING ON THE VOLUNTARY MARKET.  WE HAVE BEEN IN DISCUSSIONS WITH THE CARBON NEUTRAL COMPANY ABOUT THIS

Biochar
Biochar

Biochar

What is it?

• Charcoal made to be used as a soil improver

What does it do?

•Increases microbiological populations

•High surface area adsorbs mineral nutrients

•Reduces plant disease

•Improves soil fertility

•Reduces fertiliser use

•Help soils retain moisture

•Increases crop yields

•Improves soil structure

•Reduces soil greenhouse gas emissions N2O

•Long term carbon sequestration

IN A NUTSHELL, BIOCHAR SAVES MONEY ON INPUT COSTS, INCREASES YIELDS, MAKES PLANTS HEALTHIER AND SEQUESTERS CARBON

NOW WE’RE MAKING IT REAL

Making it Real

Production

Projects

Products

WE DEVISED A SERIES OF MODIFICATIONS TO A TRADITIONAL CHARCOAL KILN THAT MORE THAN DOUBLES YIELDS TO 25-30% AND REDUCES EMISSIONS BY 80%.

Carbon Gold logo
Carbon Gold logo
biochar kiln
biochar kiln

THERE ARE TEN OF THESE KILNS IN BELIZE, WHERE CACAO GROWERS WHO SUPPLY GREEN & BLACK'S USE THEM TO GENERATE BIOCHAR THAT IMPROVES YIELDS AND REDUCES DISEASE.

cacau
cacau

AS WELL AS SALES TO UK GROWERS AND PRODUCERS, WE OFFER BIOCHAR TO HOME GARDENERS.

biochar3
biochar3

SO WE’VE LAUNCHED GROCHAR, A BLEND OF BIOCHAR WITH MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI, WORMCASTS AND SEAWEED. THE PRODUCTS ARE APPROVED FOR USE IN ORGANIC FARMING.

TRIALS WITH BARTLETT TREE EXPERTS THIS YEAR SHOW EXCITING RESULTS IN CONTROLLING HONEY FUNGUS IN BUCKINGHAM PALACE GARDENS, ASH DIEBACK, PHYTOPHTHORA AND IN ESTABLISHING BEECH HEDGING.  TREE DISEASES ARE AN EXPANDING PROBLEM – BIOCHAR OFFERS A SOLUTION.

The Gulf
The Gulf

LAST WEEK I MET IN ABU DHABI WITH THE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTORS FOR THE NEW PRESIDENTIAL PALACE. THEY WANT 1700 TONNES OF BIOCHAR FOR THE PALACE GARDENS.  THIS PROJECT WILL BE A MODEL FOR REGREENING THE DESERTS OF THE ARABIAN REGION AND A MODEL FOR LAND REHABILITATION

The Climate Trust
The Climate Trust

Biochar : Carbon Dioxide

1 tonne : 2.35 tonnes

VCS
VCS

Biochar : Carbon Dioxide

1 tonne : 3 tonnes

Carbon Gold logo
Carbon Gold logo

Biochar : Carbon Dioxide

1 tonne : 6 tonnes

(Biochar made in Carbon Gold Kiln)

ONE DAY THERE WILL BE CREDITS FOR CARBON.  EVERY TONNE OF BIOCHAR WILL GENERATE FROM 3 TO 6 TONNES CO2 OFFSETS.

BUILDING TRUST IN A BRAND

ONE WAY TO BUILD TRUST IS THROUGH THIRD PARTY CERTIFICATION.  NOBODY TRUSTS BRAND OWNERS ANY MORE – THAT’S WHY INDEPENDENT CERTIFICATION OF ORGANIC, FAIR TRADE, CARBON NEUTRAL OR GMO FREE IS THE WAY FORWARD.   SOME COMPANIES TRY TO SELF-CERTIFY, BUT IT DOESN’T GENERATE THE SAME LEVEL OF TRUST. THE HORSEMEAT SCANDAL, COLLAPSING FACTORIES IN BANGLA DESH AND GMOS IN BABY FOOD ALL POINT TO THE NEED FOR THIRD PARTY CERTIFICATION

UNFORTUNATELY IN THE ORGANIC WORLD WE HAVE A PROBLEM – FAR TOO MANY CERTIFIERS.

EMPOWERING CUSTOMERS: Operation Raleigh and Community Development in Dominican Republic

Operation Raleigh and Community Development in Dominican Republic
Operation Raleigh and Community Development in Dominican Republic
Volunteers
Volunteers

THERE ARE 430 DIFFERENT CERTIFIERS OF ORGANIC FOOD IN THE WORLD.  THERE IS ONLY ONE FAIRTRADE, ONE SLOW FOOD, ONE MARINE STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL AND ONE FORESTRY STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL.

THE ORGANIC MOVEMENT HAS ITS ROOTS IN ALL THESE INDEPENDENT CERTIFIERS BUT THE TIME HAS COME TO BRING THEM TOGETHER UNDER ONE BANNER IN ORDER TO ENSURE THE INTEGRITY OF THE ORGANIC ‘BRAND’.  JUST ONE ROTTEN APPLE IN THIS BARREL OF 430 CERTIFIERS CAN DAMAGE THE CREDIBILITY OF ALL ORGANIC FOOD BECAUSE EACH CERTIFIER RELIES ON THE DOCUMENTATION OF THE OTHER ONES.  WE HAVE ALL HAD CLOSE SHAVES WITH ORGANIC PRODUCTS OF DUBIOUS AUTHENTICITY.

THE MANY DIFFERENT CERTIFIERS NEED TO HARMONISE THEIR STANDARDS, CREATE A HARMONISED DATA BASE OF ALL THEIR INSPECTION AND CERTIFICATION DATA AND CLOSE THE LOOPHOLES THAT ALLOW FRAUD.  AT THE SOIL ASSOCIATION WE HOPE TO FORM CLOSER ALLIANCES WITH OTHER CERTIFIERS – WHAT WE SHARE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR COMPETITION FOR BUSINESS.  ORGANIC COMPANIES SHOULD ACTIVELY SUPPORT AN INITIATIVE LIKE THIS AS THE VALUE OF YOUR BRANDS RELIES HEAVILY ON TRUST.

LET ME CLOSE WHERE I BEGAN, WITH A PROPOSED SYMBOL THAT COULD HARMONISE ALL THE DIFFERENT ORGANIC CERTIFICATION BRANDS.

Harmony Logo
Harmony Logo

WITH CARBON PRICING, INCREASINGLY STRINGENT CONTROLS ON HEAVY METALS IN FOODS, THE NEED TO CONTROL THE MEAT INDUSTRY AND ITS DRUG DEPENDENCY, SOIL DEGRADATION AND THE TREND TOWARDS VEGETARIANISM AND VEGANISM THE WESSANEN COMPANIES ARE WELL POSITIONED TO CAPITALISE ON THE FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES THAT ARE TAKING PLACE GLOBALLY.  BUT THIS WILL ALSO HERALD AN INVASION OF YOUR TERRITORY BY COMPANIES THAT HITHERTO HAVE

THANKS

CRAIG

Taking Biochar to Market

IBI Sonoma

Biochar – Farming Carbon

Craig Sams Founder and Executive Chairman

May 8 2012

Louisiana Territory - Virgin Prairie

DUST BOWL 1935 Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska

Eve Balfour Founded Soil Association 1946

Johannesburg April 2008 400 experts Report:

Stop subsidies Put human health first Green Revolution had unintended consequences Genetic Engineering a problem, not a solution Little time left Protect our agricultural capital (soil) Support small farmers and diverse ecosystems Study and learn from traditional farming

Reward farmers who prevent climate change

Carbon Farming Efficiency Energy needed to produce 1 calorie of food:

Industrial Farmer: 12 calories fossil fuel Organic Farmer: 6 calories fossil fuel

(Man with a hoe: 1 calorie of energy produces 20 calories of food)

Rodale Institute 30 year trial results

  1. Organic uses 45% less energy
  2. Average yields match conventional (soybeans/corn)
  3. C sequestration 1 MT/ha (3.7 T CO2/ha) per annum

WE DECIDED TO FOCUS ON ORGANIC GROWERS

USA arable: 172 Million Ha Global arable: 1.4 Bn Ha US is 1/8 of Global farmland

Source: Pimentel Cornell

USA in Metric:

Conventional: If Organic:

If Worldwide

Per Annum

.45 Gt Co2 emitted .75 Gt CO2 sequestered

Per Annum

Conventional: 3.6 Gt Co2 emitted If Organic: 6Gt CO2 sequestered

Good - but can we do better? Biochar could double the figure – if all farming was organic

Making it Real and Creating Routes to Market

Production Projects Products

Carbon Gold

Biochar Kiln (Near Fairlight)

66% yield increase

Up to 90% emissions reduction

Farm-scale 10 sold overseas 5 sold in UK Order pipeline

Carbon Gold Biochar Kilns

CG Tilting Ring Kiln 10m3

CG Tilting Ring Kiln Array

• Skid mounted and semi-automatic • Production capacity 1 tonne/day

• Permanent site •Production capacity of 3.5 tonnes/day

Confidential and Proprietary Information of Carbon Gold Limited.

First UK Commercial production E.Sussex September 2010

Trials: Little Gem lettuces Trial by: Stephanie Donaldson – Gardening Editor Country Living

25th August 2011 23rd September 2011

Replacing Peat

“Delfland Plants ran trials on Carbon Gold’s biochar-based seed compost on 5,000 plants – a mixture of brassicas, lettuce, rainbow chard and red mustard.

The trials ran alongside a control batch of each of these plants using Klassman, our peat-based seed compost of choice.

Carbon Gold’s seed compost produced the same excellent results as our normal seed compost choice and it performed as well in terms of germination and growth rate

We would be happy to use biochar-based compost products for a specific range of vegetable plugs for growers, using Carbon Gold’s excellent product range”

John Overoorde, CEO Delfland Plants

Trial results starting to appear:l

6 July 2012

Trials Oversight

GroChar + Cacao = fruit within 3 years Normal maturation time: 7 years

Slash and burn farming replaced with Slash and char

Rolling it out: UNDP Supporting crop trials and biochar production with $50,000 grant, followed by $500,000 when trials complete

Pipeline Dominican Republic – Cacao –

Honduras - Coffee Ghana – Cacao – Kuapa Kokoo

Partnering for Biochar PRO NATURA PARTNERSHIP

Strong Brand Values

Corporate Brand: Commercial, track record, market leader, global

Product Brand: Tested, trusted, competitive

- Soil Association Certified for organic use - Peat-free - Organic ingredients or from FSC certified woodland

Positioning

Not competing with subsidies CGW or externalised cost peat

Reposition as long term Investment

Branded Products

Design and Packaging: Iconic, Challenger, Disruptive, Engaging

On Sale in Garden Centres, Waitrose, Amazon and other Online suppliers

Replacing Peat

250g Tube GroChar Soil Improver

GroChar Merchandiser

Stock Holding : 60 x 1kg GroChar Tubes

Mechandiser Supplied FOC with 100 Tubes

Stock Value - £290.00

1kg Tube GroChar Soil Improver

8ltr Peat Free Seed Compost

Mixed Merchandiser

Stock Holding :

77 x 1kg GroChar Tubes 80 x 8ltr Seed Compost 42 x 20ltr All Purpose

Merchandiser Supplied FOC

Stock Value - £547.20

All prices quoted are exclusive of VAT

20ltr Peat Free All Purpose Compost

Sales Contact : Nigel Clarke Tel : 01476-530374 Mob : 07798-815832 E : sales@donum.biz

J

J

oi

Advertising

GroChar is packed with all the good stuff your soil needs to give you happier, healthier plants. Its unique biochar complex supercharges your soil – bringing it to life, delivering more nutrients to speed up plant growth. And it reduces your carbon footprint.

GroChar is packed with all the good stuff your soil needs to give you happier, healthier plants. Its unique biochar complex supercharges your soil – bringing it to life, delivering more nutrients to speed up plant growth. And it reduces your carbon footprint.

oin the movement for better soil at carbongold.com

n the movement for better soil at carbongold.com

Closeup of Leaflet

PR Activity Cuttings

Catastrophic market conditions

Lucky we didn’t have good sales – stock overhang crisis and default risk But now we know what sells, key price points Rate of sale in 30 typical garden centres

Extrapolate to brand value and net sales value

2013 Sales forecast

 

Subsidised Theft

In 2005, the US government paid $180 billion in direct and indirect subsidies to American farmers.

MY GREAT-GREAT-grandfather Lars Dugstad emigrated to America from Norway in 1842. He lived in a dug-out cave for fifteen years while he cleared eighty acres of virgin Koshkonong Prairie land in Wisconsin. His was the typical pioneer experience.

His son Ole, my great-grandfather, went to Nebraska in 1887 and broke the prairie sod on 160 acres of land in Dakota County. Ole’s son Lewis, my grandfather, farmed it until I was born there in 1944. Lewis’ only son, my Uncle Floyd, sold it and went on to become one of the first beef feedlot operators on the farm he bought across the Missouri River in Iowa.

Floyd offered me 625 acres in 1966, but I didn’t like the idea of sticking diethylstilbestrol hormones behind the ears of cattle, and I made the fateful decision to come to London instead and open a macrobiotic restaurant. That led on to a career in the retail, manufacturing and marketing of organic foods that included Whole Earth Foods and Green & Black’s chocolate, and also my work with the Soil Association.

Uncle Floyd’s son now farms those 625 acres as part of an expanded total of 1,600 acres – all farmed with just one assistant. Last year he lost $40,000 on sales of $300,000 but ended up with a net farm income of $110,000, thanks to a hefty $150,000 subsidy from the US government.

So from Thomas Jefferson’s dream of a rural democracy, where every self- sufficient and prosperous family had a small farm or business, we have reached – in three generations – a corporate state where a viable family farmer needs 1,600 acres, a lot of machinery and GM crops and still operates at a huge annual loss that has to be made up by subsidies.

In 1944 Charles Erwin Wilson, President of General Motors and Director of the War Production Board, called for a Permanent War Economy to prevent a post-war return to the Great Depression. The Permanent War Economy, in giving birth to the military-industrial complex, also gave birth to the military-agricultural complex. Both operated on the same principle – if the free market wouldn’t take everything that was produced, the government would take up the slack, keeping the economy humming. The same companies that made tanks for the war could make tractors and pick-up trucks; the same companies that made nitroglycerine explosives could make nitrogen fertilisers.

The problem was that farmers weren’t up for it. Either a command economy or false economic signals were needed to force them to industrialise and adopt chemical inputs.

In the UK, the Soil Association was lobbying hard for a sustainable post-war agriculture based around rural communities and the avoidance of chemical fertilisers. ICI lobbied hard for increased nitrate use and eventually, with the Agriculture Act of 1947, ICI won the argument and the British government fell in line with the policy of its European and US counterparts by introducing a direct cash subsidy of ten shillings on every bag of nitrate fertiliser.

This subsidy made all the difference to farm economics: once nitrates were in use weeds thrived on the extra nutrients and created a market for herbicides, fungal infections proliferated on the densely packed plants and created a market for fungicides, and the elimination of fertility-building rotations created a market for insecticides to deal with the inevitable build-up of pest populations. CO2 emissions from the soil escalated, as soil structure and carbon-rich humus collapsed under the onslaught of chemical fertilisers.

Subsidies set land prices and farm incomes from then on. Agriculture had, in effect, been nationalised and was part of the Permanent War Economy that has been the economic model of the West and of Russia ever since. From the start, US farmers saw what was coming and formed leagues in which they all faithfully promised each other never to accept subsidies. But once some farmers took the subsidy, they could sell their crops more cheaply; the rest had to follow suit if they were to be competitive. The inherent bias of government policy towards larger producers led to the steady extinction of small farms.

The same thing happened in industry. The US Government pays out $167 billion a year to support the US’s largest corporations. In 1950, 25% of US tax income came from corporations. That figure is now 10%.

In 2005 the US government paid out more than $30 billion in direct payments to US farmers and an estimated further $150 billion in indirect subsidies including tax breaks on fuel and equipment, tariffs, protective pricing, drought loss payments and purchasing surpluses.

The biggest recipients of this support are the largest corporate farmers and commodity giants like Cargill and ADM (Archer Daniels Midland), agrichemical and seed suppliers like Monsanto and Dupont, and huge corporations such as the Fanjul family’s Florida Crystals sugar empire and meat producers Tyson and Smithfield.

The real damage from this subsidy policy is not just the financial cost to the US economy, though the numbers are significant. The real cost is to the health of the global economy, to the stability of our climate and to human health.

THE COST TO THE health of the American people has been spelt out by such authorities as the Harvard School of Public Health. The fast-food industry has contributed directly to the epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. These degenerative diseases threaten the future capacity of Western economies to finance health care. If subsidies on corn and soybeans alone were removed, the cost of a cheap hamburger would be forced up from $1 to $3. This would directly affect rates of junk food consumption. If the subsidised rangeland that supports the production of cheap calves were charged at a market price and if the externalised costs of the beef industry such as unsustainable levels of water pollution, environmental degradation and greenhouse-gas production were taken into account, the same hamburger would cost closer to $5 or $6. At this level hamburger consumption would be reduced to the healthier levels that public health authorities urgently recommend. The cost of obesity to the US is estimated at $117 billion just in lost work days and in additional health-care costs, a high price to pay for unfeasibly cheap burgers.

But the real harm of the subsidy system is to the global economy. So, the question is: How do US subsidies cause world poverty?

US farmers grow maize at a cost of 6¢ per pound. A Mexican farmer can grow maize at a cost of 4¢ per pound. So you would think that Mexico would export corn to the US – and at the very least would dominate the US domestic market. But the world market price is set at 3¢ per pound on the Chicago Board of Trade on the basis of subsidised US farmers. If the Mexican farmers seek to make a profit over their cost of 4¢ per pound, grain traders around the world will import or, more importantly, threaten to import US corn in order to continue to purchase at a price of 3¢ per pound. In the cruel world of subsidised agriculture, the so-called inefficient Mexican farmers go out of business trying to compete with truly inefficient US farmers whose cost of production is really 6¢ per pound, but who have the mighty US taxpayer prepared to subsidise their farm-gate price down to 3¢ per pound. In recent years 100,000 Mexican farmers have been driven off the land, denied access to their domestic market by US imports. Real trade justice would be to either abolish the subsidies or allow farmers all around the world to get the same subsidies from Uncle Sam.

Subsidies in the US determine the commodity prices quoted on the Chicago Board of Trade, which are the benchmark for commodity prices worldwide. It is not the actual exports as much as the fact that a phoney price is the global standard that causes the damage.

Majority world farmers, if they were allowed to benefit from their greater efficiency, would prosper from both increased income and land values, their countries would prosper, and problems of disease, overpopulation and poverty would be greatly alleviated by the increased domestic and foreign income. We also know that, as family income increases, family size decreases: it’s the paradox of wealth but another good reason to liberate food prices in order to non-coercively stabilise global population growth.

So can we quantify the actual cost of subsidies to the world economy?

A simple calculation can be made on the basis of the US and EU current subsidy levels. James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, sets the total annual subsidy spend at $350 billion – nearly $1 billion a day. Subsidies now represent 50% of net farm income in the US and the EU.

This means that, if subsidies were not in place, US farmers would need to double their prices to make a living.

On the basis that the US and the EU represent one-sixth of the world’s food production, we can assume that, if commodity prices doubled worldwide, the increased income for the majority world would be $2.4 trillion per annum. Total foreign aid amounts to $50 billion, or just 2%, which is paid back to the victims of what amounts to global theft from farmers outside the industrial countries that benefit from the rigging of market prices.

However, because the producers of the majority world operate on lower cost bases, are more efficient and have a higher real productivity level, the price of agricultural commodities would probably not double, as market forces would come into play at this stage. US and EU production of cereals and oilseeds would fall dramatically if faced with global competition and a level playing field.

THERE IS ANOTHER factor. The price of oil is going up. It was $12 a barrel in 1998, George Bush came to power in 2000, and it has now touched $70 a barrel and shows little sign of falling. The increase in the price of natural gas has already led to the closure of half of North America’s fertiliser manufacturing capacity in the past four years.

Demand for our diminishing reserves of natural gas for domestic heating and cooking or as motor fuel will ensure that natural gas, which generates tax income, will always be, as a priority, used in those applications where it can bear the extra cost of being taxed. This does not include fertiliser manufacture, where it is already too expensive. People are prepared to pay a 300% tax on petrol and diesel for their cars, because consumers put a high value on personal transportation. When similar taxes are imposed on bunker oil, aviation fuel, heating oil, natural gas and power generation, people’s subsequent choices will reflect the real cost of fossil fuels.

Growing food needs energy. To produce a calorie of food using fossil-fuel-dependent industrial farming takes fifteen calories of energy input. To produce a calorie of food organically still uses five calories of energy input. A gardener with a hoe uses one calorie to produce twenty calories of food. Organic farmers are closest to optimising energy use with productivity, and since their only fossil-fuel use is in running tractors and equipment, they will have the economic advantage as energy prices increase. When the oil price reaches $100 per barrel farmers will no longer be able to justify the use of inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides. On a global scale, the farmer who is ‘carbon-frugal’ is due for big rewards.

Carbon isn’t the only greenhouse gas we get from agriculture. Intensive cattle-rearing also leads to increased methane emissions. Feeding a cow on corn and soybeans leads to an acid rumen, incomplete digestion, and methane emissions several times more than from a cow fed on grass and hay. When you consider that the combined weight of cattle on this planet exceeds that of human beings, that’s a lot of gas. The widespread use of nitrogen fertilisers is the main source of atmospheric nitrous oxide, a gas that is nearly 300 times more warming in its effects than CO2.

As the price of oil-based inputs rises, farming on a small scale will become more attractive. Hobby farming, where farmers have other sources of income but use their farmland to augment that income, will expand. We will see more diversity in the countryside, and more vibrant local economies.

This article is based on the Martin

Radcliffe Lecture 2006. www.brookes.ac.uk/public_lectures