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Brighton and Hove's Downland Estate - potentials to contribute to more sustainable food systems?

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Brighton and Hove's Downland Estate - potentials to contribute to more sustainable food systems?

  1. 1. BRIGHTON & HOVE’S DOWNLAND ESTATE Potentials to contribute to more sustainable food systems? Elise Wach
  2. 2. Trajectory of this research initiative
  3. 3. The context
  4. 4. The context, cont. 21,870 people in food poverty in Brighton & Hove2 Demand for local and ecological food exceeds supply Veg and fruit consumption is less than half of what’s recommended1
  5. 5. The context, cont. Agricultural subsidies due to change6 Water, soil and biodiversity require more protection3 1/3 of farms under 50ha closed between 2005 and 20155 26% of ecological footprint in B&H relates to food4
  6. 6. The Downland Estate 10,153 acres (4,109 ha) of farmland Purchased via 1913 and 1931 Brighton Corporation Acts to protect the water supply
  7. 7. The Downland Initiative - Developed in 2005 - 4 themes - Agriculture and Land Use - Access - Wildlife - Landscape and Education - Agriculture and Land Use aim: - “Establish a sustainable agricultural system on the Downs, with a greater emphasis on local, healthy food production, diversification and farming practices that are sympathetic to wider downland objectives”7
  8. 8. Estate management - Overall estate managed by Savills, based on Downland Initiative, in coordination with the BHCC - 29 tenancies, including AHAs and FBTs: 3,384 6,769 BHCC Downland Estate by Tenancy Acres of farmland under FBTs Acres of farmland under AHAs 15 Agricultural Holding Act (AHA) Tenancies AHA tenancies (1948 act) Can be passed on for up to 3 generations 14 Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) FBT lengths range from 3- 15 years
  9. 9. Typical practices on farmland around B&H Majority is: • Arable • Livestock Some is: • Agroecological • Agroecology ‘on farms’ refers to reducing external inputs (especially synthetics), increasing biodiversity, building soil, producing healthy food
  10. 10. Crops: • Spring Barley • Winter Wheat • Oilseed Rape Practices: • Stewardship schemes  conserving monuments, monitoring birds8 • Lack of cover cropping  loss of fertility + contamination of water supplies • Significant pesticide use  decreased biodiversity and resilience9 • Wildflower margins  food for pollinators, but compromised by pesticides10 • Fertiliser usage  Large amount of nitrates (45% leach into groundwater) 11 Consumption: • Primarily for national or export markets • Some barley used for local brewing (?)12 Arable farming around B&H
  11. 11. Livestock farming around B&H Animals: - Sheep - Suckling cows Practices: - Stewardship  conserving monuments, monitoring birds8 - Conservation grazing  protects chalk grasslands; healthy diet for ruminants - Deworming / Sheep dip Consumption: - Some lamb sold locally (CSA and butchers)12 - Suckling cows sold to other parts of country for fattening13
  12. 12. Agroecological Farming around B&H Products: • Veg and fruit • Meat, Eggs • Dairy Practices: • Intercropping / companion planting • Green manures and soil covers • Integration of crops and livestock • Natural pest management • Integration of trees (windbreaks, food forest, orchards, etc.) Consumption: • Most are extremely local • Some sell to Brighton & Hove 25 agroecological farms identified within a 50km radius of Brighton & Hove14
  13. 13. Agroecological farming in the UK • Yields15 • Comparable to conventional field scale for veg • Higher than average in some crops (beetroot, kale, cabbage, carrots, broad beans, calabrese, French beans and spinach) • Livelihoods15 • 3.2 full time equivalent farm workers per hectare (annual work units, AWUs) • UK farming average is 0.028 AWUs • Access and Education • CSA schemes • School groups • High biodiversity / vibrant ecosystems
  14. 14. Case study: Fork & Dig It • Cultivating 0.2ha (on a 1ha site) in Stanmer • Producing parsnips, celeriac, kales, cabbages, garden cress, chard, rocket, cos, lettuce, coriander, garlic, spinach, oriental gooseberry, carrots, potatoes, rhubarb, aubergine, tomatoes, beetroot, courgette, redcurrants, raspberries, etc.16 • Distributing 108 kg of own veg and fruit per week17 • ‘7 a day’ for 36 people • Average 179 people per ha18
  15. 15. Who wants to farm? • 20% drop in farmers between 2000 and 201019 • 1/3 of existing farmers over 65 • Yet enrolment in agricultural training up 20% in last 10 years20 • Access to land is one of top barriers to new entrants21 • Availability • Affordability • Appropriateness • 125 individuals and families registered interest in small-scale farmland for agroecology in East Sussex22
  16. 16. Other councils… Suffolk County Council County Farm Estate23 Norfolk County Council County Farms Estate24 Brighton & Hove City Council Downland Estate Size of farmland estate 12,947 acres 16,061 acres 10,153 acres No. of farmer tenants 94 tenants 145 tenants 29 tenants Uses of farmland estate  Farm-related businesses  Community woodlands  Allotments  Footpaths  Farm-related businesses  Community woodlands  Allotments  Footpaths  Farm-related businesses  Community woodlands  Allotments  Footpaths  Supports new entrants  Affordable housing for farmers  Supports new entrants  Affordable housing for farmers X Supports existing farmers X No housing aims Average return on investment for council farmland estates in England is 0.83%; Some councils generate up to £2.5M surplus per year25
  17. 17. Possibilities for the Downland Estate to contribute to more sustainable food systems • Dedicate a portion of the estate to agroecological production • 122ha (3%) managed like F&DI  7 a day for people in food poverty25 • Even 1% could make a difference • Next new tenancy? • Portion of existing tenancy? • Incentives to existing famers? • Learn from other councils • Collaborate with land trusts • E.g. Ecological Land Cooperative26
  18. 18. Time to discuss!

Editor's Notes

  • Photo: The Garden House website
  • Image credits (left to right):
    Jim Barker, Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
    Jeremy Keith, Flickr CC BY 2.0

    1. Food Foundation, 2016 ‘Veg Facts’
    2. Brighton & Hove Connected, 2017 City Tracker Survey
  • Image credits (Left to Right):
    Argus (
    Graham and Dairne
    CPRE -
    Elionas2 / Pixabay / Creative Commons

    3 Davies, G. 2013 ‘Nitrates in water twice the legal level on South Downs.’ The Argus. Available from:
    4 Brighton & Hove Food Partnership (2012) ‘Spade to Spoon: Digging Deeper’
    5 CPRE, Uncertain harvest, does the loss of farms matter?, August 2017 p. 8, Table 2. Available from (Accessed August 2018)
    6 Defra 2018 Health and harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit
  • Image and statistics: Savills
  • 7. Beedell, J. (2006) Downland Initiative Feasibility Study, Prepared by the University of Reading and Smiths Gore for The Brighton & Hove City Council and The Countryside Agency
  • Data source: Savills Estate Terrier, interview November 2017 and correspondence November 2017 – July 2018
  • Photo - N Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

    8 Natural England, Forestry Commission and EU Agricultural Fund for Rural Development 2016. Countryside Stewardship Manual.
    9 Goulson, D., Thompson, J. and Croombs, A. (2018) ‘Rapid rise in toxic load for bees revealed by analysis of pesticide use in Great Britain.’ PeerJ, Volume 6, doi 10.7717/peerj.5255
    10 Botias, C., David, A., Horwood, J., Abdul-Sada, A., Nicholls, E., Hill, E., Goulson, D. 2015 ‘Neonicotinoid Residues in Wildflowers, a Potential Route of Chronic Exposure for Bees’ Environmental Science & Technology, doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b03459
    11 Gilad, S. (2018) ‘Brighton ChaMP for Water: Rural Issues and Interventions’, (Accessed 16 February 2018)
    12 Food Matters (2011) ‘Brighton and Hove CSA: Feasibility Study: Interim Report’ , also backed up by interviews conducted between November 2017 and June 2018
  • Photo - ast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

    13. Interviews conducted between November 2017 and June 2018
  • Photo: Elise Wach

    14. Practices, products and consumption ascertained via interviews conducted with producers between October 2016 to May 2017 confirming practices noted by Pretty et al 2006, Altieri and Toledo 2010; Gliessman 1998
  • Photo: From Andy of Fork & Dig It, ‘Tim with Beans’

    15 Laughton, R. (2017) ‘A Matter of Scale’ A study of the productivity, financial viability and multifunctional benefits of small farms (20 ha and less). Land Workers’ Alliance and Centre for Agroecology, Coventry University
  • Photo - Andy Redfearn Fork & Dig It

    16. Interview conducted October 2016
    17. Figures received from Fork & Dig It in July 2017
    18. Based on 80g per portion for adults and 50g per portion for children, and government guidelines that we should eat 7 portions of vegetables and fruit per day. These assumptions are an over-simplification as different crops differ in weight and nutritional value. They also average production over the year, without taking seasonal differences into account. Further consideration may be needed for less productive times of the year (the so-called ‘hungry gap’).

  • Photo - Andy Redfearn Fork & Dig It

    19 European Union (EU) Farm structure survey (FSS) 2010
    20 Universities UK & Higher Education Statistics Agency (2017) Patterns and Trends in UK Higher Education
    21 Wach, E., Ferguson, C. and Smaje, C. (2017) ‘Why access to land is vital for sustainable, healthy and fair food systems: strategies for increasing access to land for agroecological farming.’ Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems Briefing, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton
    22 Ecological Land Cooperative (2017) ‘Addressing the Crisis for New Entrants to Farming in East Sussex’
  • 23 Chambers, S. (2014) ‘Farming feature: Suffolk farms reform to fit county-owned farmland to wider council aims’, East Anglian Daily Times, 01 October 2014. See also (Accessed August 2018)

    24 Norfolk County Council (2018) ‘County Farms’ (Accessed August 2018)

    25 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair (2015) Sixty-fifth annual report to Parliament on smallholdings in England April 2014 – March 2015
  • Photo: Helen, Whitehawk Community Food Project

    25 Based on calculations noted on slide 14. Note that not all land is the same on the Downland Estate, and a mapping of suitable areas is recommended.

    26 The Ecological Land Cooperative has experience with managing and supporting new entrants and young farmers practicing agroecology on small to medium sized farms. See for more details.
  • Photo: Elise Wach