Joanna Poulton shares insights into the launch of a new campaign – Basic Income for Farmers (BI4FARMERS), and the journey leading up to its creation.

Following my 40-week ‘FarmStart’ training program at The Plot in North Lancashire in 2022, I embarked on a year of discovery; visiting and working at regenerative farms and market gardens throughout Europe and Australia. This eventually led to the launch of a new 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 new entrant training at The Plot and a paid job 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 the Basic Income for Farmers campaign (BI4FARMERS), as a way to stimulate the conversation around financial challenges facing those within the food system in the hope it offers ideas for solutions to bridge financial gaps and empower new entrants.

The spark for the campaign 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 face daunting financial barriers that impact their mental and physical health and this creates barriers to contributing to healthy 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 report into something we are 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 now due to be launched at 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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