35th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures

Cattle & Kelp: Agriculture in a New Economy

At the 35th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures, Bren Smith and Allan Savory advocated for managing the commons, rather than “letting nature just take its own course.” They spoke on behalf of climate-change abatement, food security, job creation, and the health of both land and sea.

Savory and Smith shared stories of ecological redemption through a new approach to agriculture. Both have developed agricultural models based on natural systems. And both offer methods for farming that can fix carbon, clean our waters, and produce food more abundantly. Savory has developed a “holistic management” model to reverse desertification throughout the world’s vital grasslands, while Bren Smith cultivates kelp and shellfish using a model that he has dubbed “3-D ocean farming.”

In describing how he transitioned from a position of excluding grazing animals from grasslands to a position of inclusion in a rotational grazing system for which he is now famous, Allan Savory said:

“Looking at the erratic results I realized the fault was mine… what I hadn’t looked at was the social side of it, the cultural side of it. I hadn’t looked at the economic side of it. You cannot in any management do anything that avoids social, environmental, and economic complexity and I hadn’t brought them all together.” 

Echoing this perspective, Bren Smith called for fisherman to transition from the mindset of hunters to that of farmers of the oceans.

“This is our first chance in generations to grow the right way, to provide good middle class jobs, restore ecosystems, and feed the planet. This is the new face of environmentalism. This is our chance as our food system gets pushed out to sea to block privatization, to protect our commons, to spread the seeds of justice. We can invent new occupations, and shift entire workforces out of the old economy and into the restorative economy. This is our chance to recruit an army of ocean farmers growing a new-climate cuisine that is both beautiful and hopeful so that all of us can make a living on a living planet.”

From ocean farms to rotationally grazed grasslands, a managed commons requires active citizen oversight. It will mean hard work through an open democratic process, relying on local knowledge and imaginative philanthropy. Such citizen-initiated and citizen-managed commons are the cornerstones of a new economy that makes possible climate-change abatement, regional food security, sustainable job creation, and the health of both land and sea.

Savory and Smith spoke on Saturday, October 24th, in Churchtown, NY, in the extraordinary round barn of the Churchtown Dairy. The lecture program began at 10:00 am and concluded by 3:00 pm. Tours of the buildings, conducted by architect Rick Anderson, began at 9:00 am.


Churchtown Dairy inside

The Churchtown Dairy is a farm in Churchtown, a hamlet outside of Hudson, NY. The Dairy includes a stunning round timber-frame loafing barn, a milking barn built from reclaimed beams, as well as cheese-making facilities and a cheese cave. The small herd of dairy cows enjoy the rotational grazing life for which Mr. Savory advocates.


Churchtown Dairy

The 35th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures was one of the first public events at the Churchtown Dairy, which had only recently been completed.


Related Lectures

Greening the Desert: Holistic Management in the Era of Climate Change
Ecological Redemption: Ocean Farming in the Era of Climate Change

Event Speakers

Allan Savory

Allan Savory, born in Zimbabwe and educated in South Africa (University of Natal, BS in Zoology and Botany), pursued an early career as a research biologist and game ranger in the British Colonial Service of what was then Northern Rhodesia (today Zambia) and later as a farmer and game rancher in Zimbabwe. In the 1960s … Continued

Bren Smith

Bren Smith is the owner of Thimble Island Ocean Farm and founder/executive director of GreenWave. A commercial fisherman since the age of 14, Smith pioneered the development of restorative 3D ocean farming. His work has been profiled by CNN, Google Food, The New Yorker, and Bon Appetit. His writing has appeared in The New York … Continued


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