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SOIL & SEED - A PHOTO SERIES FROM MARIA BELL

The infamous quote from Albert Howard reflects a simple truth: “The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.” Too often this has been forgotten by some. But it addresses the key solutions to the problems we face, particularly in food and farming. We need urgent action to address the climate crisis and how we eat is at the very core of the problem and solutions.


The issue is, what could these solutions look like? 'Soil & Seed' is an ongoing photographic exploration of the people who are working to restore our natural food systems from the soil up, right here in the U.K.




The UK is facing a unique combination of crises. As one of the most industrialised countries in the world we have seen a huge decline in biodiversity alongside the closure of many small farms. Now we face the economic outfall of Brexit trade deals & the uncertain future of ELMS. Alongside an uptick of English nationalism which has seen a longing to return to a pastoral idyll which bears limited connection to a large part of the population. However, against all of the odds the presence and solidarity of small-scale, nature-friendly farming is still strong. There is still hope.


Over the next year I'll be showcasing the human stories of people who have recognised something has gone fundamentally wrong with the conventional method of food production and through a reverence for the land and what lies beneath it - soil and seed - are cultivating the roots we need to solve some of what lies ahead.


Whether using regenerative, organic, biodynamic, agroforestry, silvopasture, permaculture or a combination of techniques these farmers and growers all share a common goal - a way of farming with nature for a common good.



I came to this project from a place of conflicting ideals - hope and despair.


When businesses closed, food vanished from the shelves there was a brief moment amidst the first pandemic chaos that out of the ashes we might rebuild a better system. One where MP’s weren’t being scolded into action on child hunger by football players or offering refugees seasonal workers visas to pick fruit then abandoned in debt. Where there weren’t more foodbanks than McDonalds in the UK, or farmers weren’t starved of income from Supermarket monopolies. Where communities and growers could work together for a cohesive ‘good’ instead of the focus on Individualism, Capitalism, all of the 'isms' that weave through life like bindweed and strangle any hope of clearing the ground for re-growth.


But re-growth is exactly what we need. Re-imagining should be the very basis of how we approach food. To build not just to survive but to thrive.


I’ve partnered with SSAW Collective to showcase some of these stories over the next 12 months. They share the core values of the land, heritage and ethics and are the perfect place to visualise this positive vision of the future we can build together.


A bit about the photographer:


"Maria Bell is a freelance photographer based between the Isle of Wight and London. Her career documenting food & farming has seen her work alongside the industry’s top chefs & restaurants, national newspapers & book publishers & in 2021 was shortlisted Food Photographer of the Year. Her work focuses on the themes of food, people & place, land, tradition & heritage and the environment."




 

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