Voices from the Floodplain: a poem

This free verse poem is composed from the words of many floodplain farmers who took part in interviews and questionnaires as part of my Hay Days PhD research project into the management of floodplain meadows for sustainable farming.

Arranged and read by me, Vicky Bowskill, and presented along with a montage of images from project fieldwork from the first two years of this pandemic PhD. With thanks to all those who have supported and contributed to this research.

** Prize winner: ‘Global Challenges: Hope and Local Action’ arts competition, funded by the FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) Centre for Scholarship and Innovation and The Global Challenges and Social Justice Teaching Lab, The Open University **  

Voices from the Floodplain: from moonscape to meadow

My anxiety for the future is around climate change.
These last five years have seen terrifying spring droughts,
or summer droughts.
I worry one year will have the two
rolled into one.
That some summer will come when I,
when I actually,
run out.

And, you know, farming has the highest suicide rate,
and the highest levels of depression in almost any industry.
And everyone is stressed,
and depressed,
and in debt.

But a nature-friendly farming system gives more.
Maybe your yield will be less, for sure.
But your costs and your workload will be less too.
Your profitability gets better,
but not just your financial profitability;
your whole-life profitability.

Last year there was very little grass.
Just cracked,
But then we had some rain
and it went from a moonscape to meadow!
We need to hold more water in our soils.
And everybody thinks trees are the answer.
But, actually, meadows are so important.
I’m so excited about that!

Since we’ve gone through our regenerative transition,
I recognise the importance of more diversity.
A more varied diet.
And we’re seeing a boom in flora and biodiversity.
It’s just absolutely unbelievable!
Before, I’d be like, there’s all this rubbishy stuff in there.
But all of that is so fantastically important.
Observing animals in a more regenerative system,
the stuff they eat, the way they select it; it’s just so interesting!
Everything I do in farming now is changed.
I’m changed.

All our decisions are based around ecosystem processes.
Making sure that each year we’re improving our farm,
our landscape.
Above and below the ground.
If what we do can promote as much biodiversity in the pasture as possible,
for me,
is much more important than getting a few extra bales of hay.

I am a nature conservationist who farms,
or a farmer who is also a nature conservationist.
They’re not mutually exclusive!

Forever Meadow: a poem

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