Until about eight years ago, I didn’t care about farming at all. I’m embarrassed to say that I thought it was boring and backward and felt that it had nothing to do with my life whatsoever. It was only when my parents left the UK and decided to start a small farm in Chile that I began to realise how much farming affects us all.
Farmers are the planet’s key decision-makers, the people who interact most with the earth. Many of the landscapes we see in our day-to-day lives are determined by the people who farm them, and, most importantly, pretty much everything we eat and much of what we wear is sourced from a farm at some point in its lifecycle. And since food is a daily necessity, each and every one of us is intimately connected to our farmers, though nowadays our relationship to them is rarely direct.
Regenerative farming is now my career and passion; my work revolves around building ecology, profitability and beauty on farms around the world. I spend a few months each year on my parents’ farm in Chile, Vidacycle Farm, where I help experiment with different farming techniques, like mob-grazing sheep to build soil health and finding the best regenerative system for our farm. My parents started the farm because they began to understand that human health begins with a healthy farm and they wanted to work with nature’s systems to produce nourishing food and wine for people.
In the early years, we continued to tend the grape vines that were already there and planted thousands of olive trees. It was mind-boggling to me why some thrived while others died after two years of healthy growth. Everything on the farm was a complex puzzle made up of multiple interconnected ecosystems, which changed each year depending on the climate.
With farming, we learned over the course of decades, not days. Then, in 2017, a super fire engulfed the farm and killed 7,000 of our 8,000 trees. It was completely devastating both emotionally and agriculturally. Three years later, we are still about four years away from being able to make olive oil again. Our vineyard still only yields about half of what it used to.