A photographic exhibition entitled ‘Feeding Body and Soul’ is currently on show at Halton Mill. The images are part of a wide-ranging project that Leeds based photographer – Walter Lewis- has been working on for three years. It explores the alternatives to large scale, factory farming. Walter Lewis tells us more about the exhibition and the motivations behind it…

Halton Mill26

Our need for food is a simple fact. However our ability to produce enough food without destroying the earth is another matter. Setting aside present issues, a recent report from the World Resources Institute forecast the need for 50% extra food over the next 30 years. Given industrial, factory-type farming currently fills supermarket shelves and destroys the earth, I find this prospect terrifying. In seeking suitable land to meet increasing food production needs (itself likely to spell a reduction in carbon sinks like forests, peatlands and wild areas), it can only result in greater reductions in biodiversity, more disease-susceptible monocultures, water pollution etc.

Must growing more food equal more intensive farming methods?

Well no, and one person who disagrees with the current industrial food model is Professor Hilal Elver, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

For several years Hilal has promoted the potential of small scale, low impact farming to feed to world. Bizarrely it already does feed 70%! It’s just us in the global north that are the problem!

But (and here is where the hope kicks in), I believe there are individuals opting out of mainstream thinking, that are producing food in the UK in ways that recognise the finite nature of the earth’s resources. For example, a Land Workers Alliance survey assessed the productivity of small agro-ecological farms in the UK. Its findings suggest that we could feed ourselves using resilient and ecological farming methods if we just set our minds to it.

It’s these young shoots of radical potential that I have been photographing. I use images and stories to inspire and stimulate people to think about food that doesn’t damage the earth. I don’t believe that government will provide a lead – the lobby from vested interests is too strong – so it’s down to us individually to create a collective momentum for change.

Sadly, the current economic system is such that this food is also undeservedly more expensive and not everyone can afford to live totally off local, small scale organic produce. But we can all make some changes to nurture these young manifestations of hope.

Please do come along to see ‘Feeding Body and Soul’. Together, change can be made.

Walter Lewis is a fine art documentary photographer and environmentalist. His work can also be seen at www.feedingbodyandsoul.com and www.spiritoftheland.co.uk.

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