Re’farmd is a wonderful new project. Rather than vegans having a go at dairy farmers, they are supporting dairy farmers who are making the leap. They are supporting farmers who are turning their farms into animal sanctuaries, then having them earn income by making and delivering oat milk, to keep family farms going. Get in touch if you’re an interested farmer, already delivering in the Midlands.
Oats are more local and sustainable than soy milk or Californian almond milk, if you live in Europe. Learn more on why oat milk is better than most milks! So teaching farmers how to switch over their farmland to grow oats (they get help with everything from seeds to farming advice to how to turn present land into sanctuaries for existing animals) is a win-win-win all around. What a fabulous idea! So we can drink local oat milk, the farmers’ animals get to live out their lives in peace – and the farmers also get more money for switching, and likely a better conscience at night. What’s not to love?
The Transfarmation Project is also helping farmers get out of debt by swapping the raising of chickens for growing industries like hemp (the demand for plant-based ingredients is estimated to grow by $5 trillion in 2025 in the US alone). You can also find information (and help if you’re an animal farmer) at Farm Transformers and Farmers for Stock-Free Farming.
The Benefits of Transfarmation
Marcia says ‘thank you’ for transfarming!
In England, there is a bit of a ‘them and us’ mentality between vegans/vegetarians and farmers. They often (understandably) get quite defensive when most of us have no idea of the ins and outs of animal farming – why do cows spend winter indoors, why are there 3 million lame sheep in our fields, and what happens to the male calves and chicks in the dairy and egg industry?
That discussion is elsewhere on this site. But for this post, we are focusing on the new act of ‘transfarmation’. Like it or not, millions of people are going plant-based, and not going back. So that means we are left with many family farmers (often who have ploughed the fields and raised animals for generations) left with animals they can’t sell, fields and farmhouses they can’t afford, and a country that buys up Tetra-packed plant milks and imports chemically-sprayed vegetables from abroad. The answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it?
Transfarmation is simply using the farmers’ skills and land to grow homegrown organic food for local people, then letting existing animals live out the rest of their lives in peace. The idea is that not only is this kinder to animals (not many farmers like sending the creatures off for slaughter anyway), the land is used for good purposes, we get affordable organic local food, and the farmers earn more income, and get to stay in their family farms. Without having to rely on supermarkets to earn peanuts (find farming charities to help pay for feed and other costs in the post on how to help our small farmers).
There is also the environmental issue, in that farmed animals and slaughterhouses are part of climate change. Transfarmation is the farming answer to ‘when in Rome’. If you can’t stop people going vegan by the masses, provide their food, and save your animals and farm! We also know that eating more plants and less meat, would go a long way to helping to prevent illnesses like heart disease, strokes, cancer, blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The problem with many ‘preachy vegans’ is that they forget that there are human stories behind the farms too. If you have grown up on a farm and that’s what you know, it’s very difficult to switch to any other kind of profession – most farmers will tell you that farming is their life. That’s why organisations can help, providing practical help and advice (and often financial help) to get the transitions growing.
Many farmers in England have suffered terribly (both in terms of heartbreak and finance) due to the outbreak of cattle TB (this is more from cow-to-cow transmission, the badger cull is bad science – see how to stop TB in badgers and cattle, to learn more). But often the farmers who have to sell out to supermarkets are as exploited as the animals that are killed. We all know that farmers get next-to-nothing for their dairy milk, and if we let the big companies continue to now market the plant milks that are replacing them, it will likely be the same (rainforests destroyed for soy, migratory beekeeping for almonds – this lets bees starve after the harvest). What is nearly always the answer is locally produced and locally sold. Most transfarmations sell the products grown (from vegetables to plant milks) to people within 100 miles.
Oat milk is particularly popular, as the ingredients can be locally grown. This creamy milk is particularly popular for baristas as it makes good cappuccino and hot chocolate. In 2021, the profits rocketed, with almost £150 million now spent on oat milk in Britain, overtaking almond milk as the country’s best-selling plant milk of choice. Yet most oat milk is sold by the big international companies, so just think how much profit that our farmers could make.
Farmers Who’ve Transfarmed!
- 73 Cows is a film about a former beef/dairy farmer who inherited the family business, but did not want to send animals to slaughter. With help from Vegan Organic Network, the entire herd went off to live in an animal sanctuary, and now he grows and sells vegetables – and has plants for a vegan cooking school!
- A couple of long-term chicken and cow farmers in Arkansas now grow mushrooms. The retired cows are now part of their loving family, and graze happily in a sanctuary setting.
- A couple of chicken farmers in the US (mired in debt and struggling to make improvements) turned the chickenhouses into greenhouses, and reused the reused the cool cells, chicken feeders and watering system, and repurposed the computer system to control lights and fans. Today they grow microgreens, flowers, specialty vegetables and herbs.
- A couple of hog farmers (who were losing $5 per pig leaving the farm) converted the barns to storage, and now sell 7 types of mushrooms to local markets and wholesalers.
- A third-generation cattle farmer now runs a successful organic vegetable farm, selling leafy greens, beans, peas and roots to local people, with farmers donating hay to his animals, who now live on a sanctuary.
- Award-winning goat cheese makers turned their skills to make vegan cheese. Their farm houses many rescued animals (including a blind little goat and a 36-year-old horse who is blind in one eye).
- Broken Shovels Farm is a former abandoned property near Denver that houses 250 animals including goats and rescued animals. 12 volunteers work 4 hours weekly, to help out.
- A beef farmer’s wife went vegan and said she would buy any cattle her husband sold! After a few ‘interesting conversations’ no doubt, he joined in, and they now teach others how to transfarm!
- One former ‘humane’ pig farmer in Sweden (who also ran a meat shop) now sells his own vegetables, and lectures on veganic agriculture.
- A Scottish farm swapped farming cattle and sheep to soft fruits (mostly raspberries and strawberries) and swede.
- Gina has created Scotland’s first plant-protein croft in the highlands. Volunteers and crowdfunding helped her to plant an orchard of over 300 hazelnut trees, and she has plans for 150 sweet chestnut trees and 100 blackcurrant bushes, and is trialling ‘alley cropping’ (growing vegetables between trees) and glamping (glamorous camping!) for extra income.
- Jennifer and Rodney from Arkansas raised cattle and chickens, but had a change of heart, becoming ‘heavy with grief’ on sending their animals to die. So they cancelled the contracts and got help from a transformation project to buy hay for their cows, and now run a mushroom farm.
- Michelle and Robert were not even farmers (he has an ‘extreme dislike of mud!’) But they decided to rent an acre of Scottish land and now supply dozens of local hotels with microgreens, edible flowers, fruit and vegetables. They also have continued a successful veg box scheme, which began during COVID when the hotels were temporarily closed. They keep soil healthy with alafalfa, rock dust and seaweed, and use polycrubs (mini polytunnels) to protect crops in gale force winds.
- Joost van Strien runs an organic vegetable 800-acre farm in Romania, using rotations to grow wheat, oats, barley, spelt and rye. 7% of the land is left alone to help wildlife and attract beneficial pest predator species. He also grows potatoes, pumpkins, onions, beets, carrots and parsnips.
Dorset Dairy to Locally-Milled Flours
Laurence was devastated when (after suffering personal tragedy), his family lost almost all their herd to bovine TB. Seeing life taken away in his own family, led him to not be able to send his beef cattle to market. He says ‘Farmers run businesses, but at the end of the day, we are human beings’. He transitioned to growing organic cereals with help from Farmers For Stock-Free Farming and plans to mill his own organic flour, with help from the Farming Investment Fund. His farm is now Biocyclic Vegan Standard.
Laurence says that if want better food, we should be prepared to pay for it (we spend less money on food in the UK than anywhere bar the US and Singapore). Oxfordshire’s Tollhurst Farm pays 5 full-time employees a living wage through its veg box and farm shop, farming on just 19 acres of land. This model could be upscaled nationally to create jobs, help animals, stop climate change and increase biodiversity and public health. Yet the UK imports 50% of its food and over 90% of its fruits and vegetables. A study by Harvard Law School found that if we used all current cropland to grow food for human consumption, we could provide all the calorie, protein and nutrient needs of every person.
We’ve got an agricultural system that is sustainable and it works; let’s run with this! It’s not a niche, hippy system. The more I look into it, the more I learn’ it does solve all the problems. Laurence Candy
Alternative Income Ideas for Farmers
You don’t always have to grow foodto create additional income. You may not have much money, but as a farmer, you likely have land:
- Hemp (it won’t get you high like cannabis) can be locally grown. As well as producing seeds for food and oil, it can also be used to make one of the only locally-grown sustainable fibres for clothing (it’s also good to make rope and an acid-free paper that doesn’t yellow with age).
- Other good ideas include green burial sites, outdoor weddings, music festivals and film shoots. Or you could consider portioning off land as secure dog walking fields (read how to keep dogs/livestock safe).
- Agritourism has ideas to diversify income by renting holiday lets through Farmstay. Some farmers make more money this way, and keep their animals alive instead, for children to get to know and learn about barnyard friends. Ensure your farm is free from toxic plants and other hazards (some may wish to not accept pets, if they have livestock).
More Help for Your Transfarmation!
- Natural Grower is a fantastic plant-based fertiliser that is eco-friendly and human, and also works out cheaper. It also does not attract other creatures, like bonemeal or fishmeal. Sold in bulk versions for farmers, these concentrated formulations are an effective alternative to chemical fertilisers and are rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other trace elements needed for plants to thrive. All products are certified organic. Wholesale customers get £300 off their first order, net 60 terms for stress-free payments and free shipping for a year.
- Grazers (Yorkshire) is a popular nontoxic calcium liquid that can be applied to lawns and farms (along with golf courses and bowling greens) to naturally deter unwanted visitors by making grass unpalatable. Effective to prevent damage to emerging ripe fruits and grains (rabbits, deer, mice, voles, squirrels, pigeons and small birds), you can also use it on wheat, barley, oil seed rape and more, plus there are versions to deter cabbage white butterfly, caterpillar and aphids, and another version to deter slugs and snails (Molluskit slug and snail barrier is also effective, a clip-together kit invented by an earthworm-loving garage tinkerer!)
- Wholesome Food Association is a wonderful little find, which offers natural farmers a way to simply and cheaply get organic certification. This outfit works on a honesty trust basis, with surprise audits. In return, for just £30 or so a year, you get to display your goods as organic and get free literature and logos for your market, farm shop etc. It’s basically a low-key, grassroots version of the Soil Association status.
- Community Supported Agriculture is a new idea to help small farmers that have been crippled by the big supermarkets. The way it normally works is that the farmer works all year (with risks of failed harvests) then sells their products at a pittance to the big supermarkets, who don’t pay in advance. CSA works the complete opposite: people in the community (happy to risk a failed harvest as it’s not that expensive to lose one or two each year) pay the farmers in advance. The farmers can then focus on growing their food (not needing the big supermarkets to survive) and then you come and collect your peaches, apples, cider or whatever at harvest time!
Books for Your Organic Farm
- The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm is a guide to growing profitable vegetables, with no need for a spade! Earthworm-friendly and better for your back (!), this method of growing crops without disturbing the soil has taken off big time. The methods mostly use human power, with minimal use of machinery. The books includes tips on planning, record-keeping and marketing. Ensure your farm is free from toxic plants and other hazards (like toxic mulch, slug pellets etc).
- Sustainable Market Farming is a book by an American farmer who makes money by raising organic crops on a few acres. She feeds 100 members of her community in Virginia, and this book inludes detail crop profiles (including harvest and storage) and tips on disease-resistant varieties, and farm-specific business skills.
- Compact Farms is a beautifully illustrated guide to 15 real plans for small-scale farmers on 5 acres or less. Designed to harness your area’s water supply, orientation and geography to maximise efficiency and productivity (while minimising effort), the plans include urban and rural settings, to provide enough income to turn a hobby into a business.