A year of inspiration, learning and launching BI4FARMERS (Basic Income for Farmers)

Joanna Poulton shares insight into the launch of her campaign BI4FARMERS, what inspired her to create it, and the journey leading up to its creation.

Following my 40-week ‘FarmStart’ training program at The Plot in 2022, I embarked on a year of discovery working at regenerative farms and market gardens throughout Europe and Australia. I launched a campaign advocating for better foundational pay for farmworkers, farmers, and food producers in the UK, in the form of a Basic Income.

How it began

Through my training at The Plot North Lancashire and employment at the brilliant Vista Veg in the Eden Valley, I began to notice deep cracks in the financial support for food growers in the UK. I set up BI4FARMERS, as a way to stimulate the conversation around financial challenges those within the food system face. In the hope it offers ideas for solutions to bridge financial gaps and empower new entrants.

The spark was ignited during my immersive hands-on experiences with other new entrants and a series of conversations I hosted online, with established members of the food and farming community. These conversations with passionate individuals, keen on cultivating the land, revealed an unsettling truth. Many growers and farmers faced daunting financial barriers that impacted their mental and physical health and created barriers to contributing to local food systems. This revelation became a call to action.

The Campaign

The BI4FARMERS campaign proposes farmers, farmworkers and food producers receive a basic income alongside any current government financial incentives as an income floor, not a replacement benefit, to help mend the gaps and keep them afloat during these environmentally and economically volatile times.

Progress

Following these conversations, momentum gathered, and a voluntary working group quickly formed around the idea, with primarily food growers (urban and rural), food rights activists, and a few academics. We began writing a report based on our findings. Between stints of working on farms across Europe, including a permaculture market garden in Lefkada, Greece, a sweet chestnut farm in Tuscany, Italy, and an organic market garden in central France, the report started coming together. With the immense support of Cleo Goodman at The Basic Income Conversation, we managed to chisel the draft into something we were happy to share. We were thrilled when the progressive Think Tank Autonomy told us they wanted to co-publish the report with us, which is due to launch by the end of January 2024.

I am excited for 2024 and look forward to forging alliances with like-minded individuals, organisations, and stakeholders who share a common vision for a more accessible and equitable agricultural landscape.

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