Natural World: A Farm for the Future

Natural World: A Farm for the Future

2009, Environment  -   84 Comments
Ratings: 8.61/10 from 336 users.

Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family's farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key.

With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family's wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year's high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is.

Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future. (Excerpt from

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 months ago

This is one of my favourite documentaries. I always come back to it to remind me that there is progress happening in some farming families.

Yajnesh Shetty
1 year ago

This film inspired me to take up farming in 2011. Watching it again in 2021 😊

Roger Harrison
4 years ago

What has happened in the 10 years since this documentary was made? ...and, what can we as individuals do to avert disaster?

Tianhao Wu
5 years ago

no marriage, no children, no starvation!

5 years ago

@Brian - "increased supply" of oil is fallacy. We've been using it faster than it's formed for decades. We'll likely run out let's update the farmer's numbers to maybe another 10 or 100 years and it still holds true. No sense in splitting hairs when the root issue remains.

Fuel prices are still insanely high in many parts of the world; it doesn't just affect agriculture, either. It's reflected in just about everything you buy and the paycheck you take home.

5 years ago

Brian's comment has me concerned.
I learned to map ground water tables in college. I've learned a very small amount about fracking, but enough to know that the chemicals that are pumped into the ground have a very good probability of making it into the ground water. To my knowledge, if we destroy our ground water, there is no fix for it. Maybe that's why T. Boone Pickens (oil billionaire) said in his autobiography, that water was going to be the next big commodity.
The law of unintended consequences is going to come back to bite us.

Brian Kurtz
5 years ago

So crazy watching this in 2018. Fuel prices crazy high nine years ago. Lady in the video is like " doesn't matter if it's 2 years or 10 years away...the decline in the supply of oil....blah blah blah". Fast forward less than a decade and fracking technology has us with well over 200 years worth of oil on hand, prices low, and demand predicted to fall significantly in the future as more and more electric cars come online.

Increased supply of oil with falling demand. She was worried about nothing.

5 years ago

What is wrong? The elephant in the room is the SCALE UP OF FARMING! Back in the horse drawn days, farms fed locals mainly and there were farms across the land to do so. They did it organically as well! When we mechanized and profitized the process, we ruined our "Earth Friendly" lifestyles and culture. It was far healthier food back then and COULD be done again if we allow it. We must go back in time to survive!

5 years ago

What a fantastic documentary, that i can honestly say. Saw the documentary for the first time ever and it gave me so much to think about. I grew up on a farm in Denmark and all the time i can remember it has always been about getting more milk from the cows and producing more and more in the fields. And the farmers are working many hours every day with out making much pay from it. And i dont see a bright and shiny future for farming. But this film made me realize there is still hope. Maybe farmers could begin to rent out land to people from the cities and they can rent some land where they can grow fruit, vegetables, keep animals or other things. So over time it can look like the permaculture. It would helped the wildlife and the environment a lot

5 years ago

lol they mentioned it yay!!!

5 years ago

i suggest low intensity permiculture

6 years ago

Long live Fendt 1050.

7 years ago

Patrick Whitefield is my kind of guy- "In the natural ecosystem there's no work... and yet its thriving."

7 years ago

Great doc. I recently purchased just less than two acres in rural Ontario, Canada. Once plowed fields and a railway land, it was almost all a manicured lawn when purchased. One half of that is now an overgrown meadow full of bees, songbirds and worms and a variety of plants. It is awesome to watch the life return to the 1/2+ acre or so which we have let go wild. The garden has improved in unison. That is telling on its own. There is alternatives to the way it is done now. But there is a huge investment in the existing system. It is a huge endeavor to make the shift away from fossil fuels. the good news is, that the shift in mindset and thus action (this doc is a perfect example of this) is happening.

7 years ago

Great! I liked it very much. And wish I would be able to create this

Vidhyat GS
8 years ago

Lots of information in it.

8 years ago

There's not ONE answer but will require MANY in a constantly adapting and evolving system of interrelated technologies, cultural shifts, and population changes of both size and locations. As such, I'm really surprised that neither the documentary nor anyone here mentioned the use of ALCOHOL production. In conjunction with increased permacultural practices, it can be a HUGE advantage in NUMEROUS categories. The growth of the plants reduces existing pollution, creates marketable non-monoculture crops for direct use as food and other applications, ferment the crops for further products such as clean non-petroleum renewable fuel (extract the sunlight eneragy from it to run one's own and community machinery/transportation/cooking/heating/etc), then the remaining Dried Distillers Grains (the original food crop that post-fermentation has had the starch removed but still contains all the protein/fats/nutrients so that it can be used as both:
1) significantly MORE effective feed for animals, and
2) highly effective herbicide/fertilizer (patent = #7183237) thus reducing money spent on agrochemicals.

This all improves the local economy, creates new jobs, new infrastructure, and more widely and personally distributes resources instead of bleeding them out to the giant chemical tyrants. This also increases self-sufficiency for local properties, communities, towns/cities, states, etc...

David Blume has a ton of info on his site "Alcohol Can Be A Gas" and on youtube ("David Blume - Permaculture Distillation, producing alcohol biofuel - 02 Nov 2013"), although he's not the only one doing this work.

Oh and @Alyx: Other than in actual water-splitting, generally speaking: water is NOT consumed and GONE, but just travels recycled through the various mediums/locations (drinking, elimination, plumbing, treatment, plumbing, drinking again, etc...or plant-absorption, processing/extraction, plumbing, treatment, plumbing, plants again, etc).
These systems can simply be more closed using MUCH better conservation/recycling practices than the completely wasteful nonsense we do now:
* Permaculture (grey-water separation, closed-loop systems, capturing systems),
* as well as and other products:
- NASA has long used real-time urine recycling for astronauts (Youtube "How NASA is recycling urine into drinking water"),
and long future trips (YouTube "Technology Providing Water for Astronauts Could Help Tackle Droughts")
- and commercial filtration products ("Puritii Water Bottle", "Lifestraw", etc)

I had lots of valuable links, but had to remove them. Whatever. Just search for the quoted titles.

Alyx Vance
8 years ago

Everyone here has their heart in the right place in terms of intentions, but not in the right place in terms of actual practicality and foresight.

Let's say you get rid of all fossil fuels, nuclear power, electricity and everyone goes primitive. Let's pretend everyone is cool with this and unanimously works together at it. Well first of all in some countries like India they would start dying by the thousands, but let's pretend somehow we have a magic wand to fix that and all the other problems that come from just immediately dropping those energy sources right off the bat.

Okay, in that fantasy scenario we have a few decades of everyone farming and the greenhouse gas scenario should be alright as long as the methane leaking from the earth doesn't make things worse. If that turned out to be the case which isn't guaranteed, then we'd have a few more decades of mostly positive living. Humanity's population would be in a slow decline but nothing major.

But, at some point after those decades we're gonna hit sudden change and humans start dying by the billions. Not millions, not thousands, billions. Everywhere on earth that was remotely populated would start to descend into a literal Mad Max scenario with everyone murdering each other for the only resource that matters at all anymore, fresh water. The only places that would be safe from this would be areas with one of the few fresh water suppliers left on earth either man made or otherwise. And assuming they still exist by this point. While these areas might be able to avoid such a fate, it would only be a matter before outsiders to their community discovered it and began to war against them for this resource. And when I say war, I mean just came in at night and murdered everyone in their sleep or tried to. We're talking about people that are on the brink of death and have survived this long only because they others before they had a chance to do it to them. Not people that have lived in casual safety with no threat to have to defend themselves against until now. In movies these people might be taken down by the gentle hero but in real life it usually doesn't work that way, and even if you survive this is the point when your life changes when you realize any day might bring more of these outsiders to your community for that water.

The alternative to that scenario is that it the outsiders are smaller in number so there's no immediate need for violence. Instead they are given fresh water and integrate with their new community. All goes well in this scenario assuming no raiders appear. And instead small bands might continue to integrate peacefully for years. At some point though, the community's numbers would outgrow the fresh water supply's ability to give them water or simply cease to function be it a river drying up or a solar powered desalination machine breaking. Does anyone know how to fix it? Highly doubtful by this point in time since no one has had any need for education in this area in years. While the community probably wouldn't descend into violence, they would still begin to die of dehydration and be forced to leave in separate directions in search of fresh water, or maybe as a group if they feel that safe. Though that option always leaves the threat of violence over the scarce water supply. And by these points most people will start to get extremely sick from fresh water sources they do find in puddles and such. One of their few hopes will be to have a steady supply of buckets and such for catching rainfall. I sure hope they live in an area that experiences rain regularly and that climate change hasn't changed the circumstances surrounding rain at this point in time. And as people are traveling and getting sick they're going to have an increasingly hard time protecting themselves from the wild animals that by this point are probably beginning to boom in population as they find a steady water supply in the blood of Humans. You see by this point Humans are often losing access to guns or the skills to survive in the wilderness that they did not think necessary before now, so they become increasingly easy prey in most situations with a few exceptions that thrive in this time but those are very few in number, dangerously so. So even without the threat of human attackers, you will see a steady rise in predator and a steady decline in the new return to prey status of Humans.

And it goes on and so on, from there. Would all humans die? Probably not? But who knows for sure and what happens after that. It might not play out exactly as I've said but this is a very likely scenario, and I may have missed a few points, but again, that's my initial point. You think you got a problem perfectly solved when you are forgetting a world of factors that may not seem directly related to the problem but very much are. And if you haven't sat down with a room full of analysts, physicists, etc. and actually plugged the numbers on what would happen if you did X, then maybe you shouldn't proclaim it the silver bullet to solve our problems.

8 years ago

Just excellent.....Nature knows best, we should work with her and not against her..

John Vincent Gomez-Iglesias
9 years ago

An electric tractor can work an entire farm with no problems. And the batteries are charged via solar panels on the actual farm, which also power the farm, as well as anything else. Seriously... hand tools? Darling, you don't have to scare people so much with half truths. We would use battery operated power tools like the ones we use today. Powered by electricity manufactured by the sun.

They're are manufacturers building electric tractors, combines, and any other machine device that today runs on fossil fuels. So... back at ya...

Dank Raven
9 years ago

Wonderful doc. Makes me want to try this permaculture thing and have my own farm!

Jeff Sadowski
9 years ago

With all of the debating going on in this forum as is usually the case - instead of building a positive co-op of knowledge so we can actually build upon it - which is what humans also need to do to survive with each other, I'd just like to say that this has been the best short film that I have ever seen - and it has changed my life for the better - regardless of what we still have to learn. What a fantastic job everyone.

Jane Halsall
9 years ago

This doco made me wonder about the Fema camps in America and the vast amounts of plastic coffins being stored, the ending of fossil fuel is a given, the availability of energy that is equal to that of fossil is questionable, or should I say the fossil fuel needed to make this energy available will possibly disappear before we make enough solar panels or wind turbines etc, therefore those that say 'she'll be right mate' are just burying their heads in the sand! Permaculture seems like the only sustainable way to go to maintain the planet and survive as a species, I like the idea of working with nature rather than against it!

Gesila Endashaw
10 years ago

it is very amazing farm i ever seen

Tronald dump
10 years ago

For all the people trying to detract frm what this woman is trying to do, at least she is trying... Like they say, there is no "silverbullet" no single solution to our energy, climate, and population problems, she is simply offering some knowledge so other people can apply these methods along with many others to try and stimulate positive change. For society and the biosphere on he whole.

10 years ago

These farms are nice and all, but harvesting a forest will take a lot more manual work than harvesting a field of cereal with a machine.
I would say probably 50 to 100 times slower thus making food many times more expensive even if there would be enough for all people to eat. I don't think people will go back to this kind of less productive ( in terms of manual labor ) farming. People will always find a solution to a problem especially when it is there and starts to bother people in everyday life. When it comes to it every body will spend 10.000 euro to put solar panels on his house to power all electrics in the house and another 10.000 of solar panels to power the car. There is already a massive change in electric car use ( opel ampera / chevrolet volt ) which are about the most popular cars to buy of the moment. No the world is not going to end or turn into something worse than it is. Mankind is a advancing species the world will just keep on getting better and better.

Mark Mills
10 years ago

How about smaller farmers, producing less food, causing higher food prices, which will result in, lower populations of skinny people. The obesity epidemic, overpopulation and energy crisis - averted.

11 years ago

This documentary is conducted within a narrowed scope of possible solutions. Outside these preordained limits lie the earth's massive coal reserves, traditional nuclear power, and thorium fusion. Pry off those limits and flush the liberal technological pessimism and one can see that farming in the future is best done indoors within cities themselves thus eliminating the fuel costs of transportation, reducing the reliance on pesticides and fertilizers, and allowing huge swathes of land to truly return to a wild state, not the pitiful 'wilderness' of badgers and robins we see alongside the farm in this doc. Unfortunately, people have a sentimental attachment to traditional farming (unsurprising since we've been at it for thousands of years) and they argue from this sentimental basis not the rational one of what we are capable of doing and what would be most efficient.

john Sowerby
11 years ago

A wonderful documentary.On the subject of food production for the billions,the most practical solution I came across is the cultivation of algae in in huge vats which would give a 500% greater yield of highly nutritional per acre compared current farming practices.

11 years ago

touching and inspiring documentary. gives me hope for the future :)

11 years ago

I'm sure that this is good for nature, but not too good at feeding the huge urban populations which now inhabit our globe! Just how are you going to harvest and transport all those berries, nuts, and other odd items, let alone give people sufficient filling carbohydrate and protein. I use a variation of this method for gardening, but we are extremely fortunate in having a couple of acres albeit on very poor soil. But on some of our land, we can't even get any trees to grow! I think deep mulch gardening and farming, if a method for creating sufficient mulch or green manure crops can be devised, is a more practical alternative. But certainly we need many more trees of the right kind in our farming and gardening environments, as well as many more perennial crops from shrubs and bushes.

11 years ago

A very interesting film! Living in Canada, in the heart of Mennonite country, where they still use a team of 4 horses to tend to the fields, it makes you wonder if even they would survive the change that is coming, without the biodiversity that we so desperately require. When things get to the point of being on the edge, we won't have the twenty years needed to develop this type of farming. How do we get people to start now? How do we break through big agricultural corporations that lobby the government to keep farming the way it is? This film needs to be seen around the world!!

11 years ago

Wow!!! Right now I'm thinking about gardening/farming the soil my grandparents left years ago. The bad thing is I don't dare to do it.

Great doc. It really changes the way you see crops, cattle, and that kind of things

11 years ago

Great doc. Do we get to see those fields all covered once more in trees and all the oxygen they breathe out? Here's to that. I'm pretty happy with the way my work's going as a private teacher but if you've got a permaculture farm and could use a hand i could well be up for a change of life ---- or maybe even just odd months --- get in touch.

Pavlovafowl really
11 years ago

Something that was implied but perhaps not driven home was also the improvement in health that the permaculture and food forest systems bring with them. This is not only because a grain-based (never mind the pesticide-laden) diet is bad for both humans and animals but also because of the gentle physical activity and outside exposure to Vitamin D, that gardening brings with it, are of immeasurable value. However, this is going to be an uphill and therefore individual led battle. It's about us versus the Petrochemical/Pharmaceutical Industry and they will fight to the last pesticide/antibiotic/petrol derived acre/hectare of farmland even though they are committing suicide by doing it. This is how crazy farming has become since WWII, it was doomed from inception because it was about accounting and profit and not about food production and sustainability. I know I was there but unlike the film producer my father's generation believed they couldn't survive and left farming though my sister and I returned to the land through permaculture. Good Luck to all of us who care about the land and its populations, animal, plant and human and cherish it for them, wherever on this beautiful planet.

Matty Kearns
11 years ago

what about hemp the most yielding crop of all yet its still being denied to the planet. 25,000+ uses

12 years ago

For more info on Permaculture, google Bill Mollison, the 'father' of permculture and the man who invented the term.

Lisa Bashert
12 years ago

We plan to show this documentary in July for our Sustainability Film Series. We have an informal group working on the transition to a lower energy future which includes our Permaculture Folk School, and community gardening group. All of us together (plus the local natural foods coop) sponsor this Film Series. Thanks for this wonderful film.

12 years ago

Permaculture. That's THE answer for ALL industrial problems (that is, all modern problems).

Read Wendell Berry (Agrarian Essays). Study permaculture. The history of humankind depends on it. :)

12 years ago

Now it's all clear to me. I've watched many conspiracy docs, big pharma, GMO stuff, economy cheatings, you name it... this is it. It's clear what I'll do with my life, what can I do to make things better. Go acquire a farmland I can call my own and settle there. And translate this doc to my language and with the remaining money hire my unemployed mate to translate it to his language.

Pure food is the obvious solution to reducing man-made diseases and sympthoms that are awfully common these days. No more resources spent on transportation and packing of the food either. You can make the unemployed people statistics more beautiful by giving them this kind of farming work, it's just a statistic anyways. More importantly people don't really have to worry about getting their food from a single source, which means not needing to worry whether the company I trust my food with actually provides me safe-to-eat food, and not needing to do job that isn't good for you for that food. Big part of crimes is also a result of people who saw no other choise to make a living. I know this isn't an instant salvation, since in order for any of it to work, we need to do it. But I can't help noticing the whole potential of it for man alone. This doc talked enough about how good it is to nature, and I wholeheartedly agree with all of it.

12 years ago

Watch out, Monsanto - your days are numbered! Forests forever...the only way forward to mitigate climate change, restore balance and the natural biodiversity of the ecosystem, feed the world and create a sustainable planet a place where we can all enjoy living.

12 years ago

excellent documentary! i invite the Canadian oil hungry government to watch this at once.also, all the schools show see this.

12 years ago

My partner and I are in our 50's and have 6 acres of land in Canada. Our dream is to be homesteaders and we are taking the necessary steps to make it our reality for us and our children.We realize the easy comforts of our lives is about to shift and I am not afraid of the hard, physical labor to achieve our goals...a cleaner, healthier earth for all living creatures.I applaud Rebecca's courage and forsight to make this film. The idea of working with nature to farm will certainly be applied to our little piece of eden!!

12 years ago

I really enjoyed this film it will help me contuine my gargen ideas to the fullest, I wish the schools would show this types of films to the childern to teach them young. Thank you.

12 years ago

My sincere compliments. Without knowing the theory behind it, this is exactly how we run our 5 acre hobby farm, South of Rome, Italy. Thanks for the confirmation.

Michael Kirkby
12 years ago

I don't know if any of you read about that village in Kenya. They have started using small solar power units to provide sustainable and natural energy. These units are produced in China and cost about $80.00. They are able to run their internet services off them. Imagine what else they can do with them. Why I bet you could run several things that normally would require electricity generated through water wastage such as hydro? Yep Mr. Yukon you can run your hydroponics off energy generated through solar and waste conversion. You can grow your own food and be self sufficient, and fore go those expensive freight costs.
There is so much we could be doing with solar, waste conversion and waste reclamation technologies. It's getting the big unions, the financiers and the politicians on board. If it's not 61% manufactured in Canada we don't have to support it let alone give you a tax break or a rebate. We will however expect you to outlay the cost of the solar units and then sell us the excess solar energy generated from your units. Gee, and how do you expect manufacturers to compete in this economic quagmire you have allowed to be created over the years through high union wages and benefit packages plus the high trade tariffs and other taxes levied by the government. Sheesh is it any wonder that the IMF global macro economic rape of the world has been so successful?
There are a couple of farms down in South Western, Ontario that should be looked at as a role model. They use wind and solar, natural tree breaks among other natural means of farming.

susan walton
12 years ago

Thanks for this. The sharing of knowledge is always productive. It seems to me that permaculture makes sense from so many angles.
The concerns I have are not about having the knowledge and/or technology, I believe we are capable of working and thinking our way out of the oil dependent mess of a bed we've made for ourselves - but do we have the drive and courage to change our daily choices and ways of being - to markedly shift how we do things?
Allowing manicured lawns to revert back to 'weeds' and grasses. Sharing/renting/trading the spaces we have for food production for those who would not normally have access. Assessing what grows locally and revolving our diets around these choices.
Our addiction to consumption and waste (in so many aspects of our lives) remains my biggest concern. In relation to food, how much of the worlds food produced is being wasted? In the Western world my guess is that the amount is staggering.
I would welcome shift in what we value - and for that (sad to say) we need to see a shift in what we advertise as valuing.
Living within our means, being mindful of what we need vs what we want. Giving back either voluntary or monetarily. Being aware. Using our voices for thoughtful criticism and ideas. Voting.
I live in the Yukon, Canada's North, I feel lucky because our land is not industrialized/compartmentalized and we have a very small population (35,000 in the whole territory) - but we are hugely dependent on 'outside' food needing to be trucked in. I'm glad to say that as a community we are starting to be proactive and we are assessing where we are now, where we need to go and how to get there.

12 years ago

Great film! With all the doom and gloom going on these days this just shows us we as the human race still have a shot! Once we eradicate the scum leaders that are raping and pillaging us for their profits everything will work out. This kind of farming and the machines that make drinking water our of air shows us there is an abundance for us all.

12 years ago

Great documentary. I'm sure that this won't solve all our food problems but it be a much better alternative than what we are doing now. Just a simple start is the victory garden. I live in Canada. When I go for a walk in suburbia all I see are large, carefully manicured lawns. All that is grown is grass,which contributes nothing in the way of a family commodity. If only 10 or 15 percent of these lawns are used to grow food instead, we would all benefit. Unfortunately, these residential areas are legislated to certain standards. Any deviation will bring out the busy bodies and the bureaucrats. Just a few miles from where I live, in a rural sub-division, a family is fighting the local bureaucracy to keep 4 hens in their back yard. Its a small battle but its a small beginning. The way we live must change. There is nothing we can do about it. This documentary is just a start: and I hope they get to keep their chickens.

12 years ago

the twelve minute mark of this film...industry must die, the profit factor needs to transcend...lets just feed our families....the greed needs to be transcended in order for we to survive this challenging time really is simple to me....consequences yes, but simply let go of our collective mentality and we will be just fine.