Our Aims & Values
Aim: To grow a community mushroom farm
We believe that farms need to be community assets. Food is our common wealth and the foundation on which our community stands. So farms need to meet peoples' needs, but we also need to share a collective responsibility for how they run.
This is why we set the farm up as a co-operative - in order that none of us could take the farm and make it our own personal asset. Our rules state that the farm has to stay in co-operative control.
Currently we operate with decisions being made by worker-owners, but we want to move towards a model of shared governance. That basically just means that we include people who have a stake in the farm in the decision making of the farm.
More fundamentally, we want to deepen and expand what we're doing to ensure that the farm is doing what people need it to do. For example, it may be that the best way to get food to people is not just by growing it at our site, but by offering inoculated buckets for people to fruit at home as a buy or lend-and-return service. The farm could take on more of the features of a library, for example. We want to be responsive to needs in order that we can adapt and change in ways like these.
Aim: To build relationship with life, land and place
In the urgent political climate we find ourselves in, it rarely feels like we can afford the mental space and time to do anything other than fight. Equally the unrelenting stresses of economic pressures, dark news cycles and tech designed for addictive overstimulation can leave our bodies inflamed and too anxious to function. So why waste time looking for fungi when all this needs fixing?
We feel strongly that it is not a zero-sum-game. By giving ourselves the opportunity to slow down and cultivate a relationship with the land and life that is around us right now, we can foster energy and purpose that embolden us to fight for liveable tomorrows. Being uprooted from land and place is a historically new phenomenon, one wrapped up in colonialism and the dispossession of land and life that capitalism required to grow.
For us, cultivating these relationships is about resisting the 'thingification' of the world, the reduction of life to objects and resources to be disposed of or extracted. Not only are we deeply dependent on those other lives, on the ecosystems that support us, but we have been taught to not see and therefore value them. It that context we often don't even see what we're losing. Because we've not been taught these relationships we can look at an environment and still not see the life that's there. Having the tools and stories to look at a meadow and see Yellow Rattle, Mottlegills, Kestrels, and to feel the diversity of life that represents is essential in order to know what kind of social change we want to see. Being able to see and know and love other species, other life, is not just important as a monitoring exercise, but about building shared cultural values that helps move society towards functioning in a more ecological way. It is not the only thing that matters, by any stretch, but it is crucial.
Aim: To help people heal and feel energised through relationship with fungi
Things are dark, but we need to keep going, to build a better world and fight for justice, and people deserve access to experiences and medicines that can help them do that.
We are very careful about making any health claims about mushrooms, and we're very cautious about making money from medicines that have been held in common for thousands of years. Our goal is to increase access to the means to grow medicinal mushrooms, and the knowledge to make informed decisions.
When it comes to psychoactive fungi, i.e. magic mushrooms, we do not and can not sell or grow them due to their legal status. We do however believe strongly in decriminalisation, and are excited by the ongoing research and trials into therapeutic applications, and the possibilities for healing that represents.
Agroecology is really just farming in partnership with ecology. As a political movement, it was developed by the landless peasants movement and the international organisation La Via Campesina, to whom we are deeply indebted. Its a framework for developing more just and ecological food systems by understanding humans and farming as ecological roles, rather than separate, outside or above nature. Moreover, its a framework that recognises that we can rarely start from the ideal situation and implement the perfect system from the start. More often those of us who need society to change start from a position of vulnerability and our choices are therefore constrained. Moving towards justice therefore looks like taking the best next step in a direction towards justice.
What does that mean for a farm like ours? The dirtiest secret of mushroom growing (aside from big growers using peat) is single-use plastic waste. We've been able to swap out single use bags for reusable buckets but there's a cost, and it's still using plastic! Equally, if we were to move to glass bottles, there's a big cost in terms of effort and it makes the work riskier. We are also moving towards using local strains of oyster in order to limit the impact of potentially invasive strains on local ecosystems. These may have less yield than some commercial strains, but also require less energy input due to their adaptation to local climate.
So we try and move in the right direction, within the constraints we've been given.
Degrowth can seem like a scary word, but is ultimately just about having reasonable and just ambitions for us as a society. We know that the global north in particular has taken more than it has given, and the ecological and climactic impacts are making our future less certain and more brittle. In this context, it is likely that The Economy will stop growing whether we like it or not - the choice is how we do it. Does it happen in a haphazard, chaotic way, or do we make the collective choice to slow down in a just way?
While most of us don't hold the levers of economic power, it is nonetheless important to think about how we might embody those values in the organisations and assets we do have responsibility for.
It can be incredibly hard to not get bogged down in doom, so it's crucial that we have visions for how we would like a more ecologically just future to look. These visions help us orient ourselves and put our day-to-day actions in a wider context. Solarpunk is a movement trying to do that through stories, art, and active imagining.
Imagination is not a distraction from 'real' action - it's a compliment to it. When confronted with so much uncertainty it is vital to have a possible future to strive for. By adopting a sense of curiosity about how our food system could look, how a society that lives profoundly more ecologically could look, we're able to find purpose and meaning. The challenge of being alive now, of trying to meet the truth of crisis and catastrophe with integrity, is in being effective when there is an excess of information and a break-neck speed of news. Sometimes by placing a limit on what we do forces us to be creative. So we want to try and be a good farm with the lowest tech we can, and we can do that better by extending out and offering more to people in order to develop more reciprocity.
In conversations with some of the incredible people who we've met through Myco, we've shared stories of living buildings constructed with mycelium, of abundant sharing of edible mushrooms, of a rich and vibrant city teeming with all kingdoms of life in every nook and cranny. These stories inspire us to build a community lab that offers spores and cultures like a library, and it inspires us to think of a farm that can operate as a provider of food beyond the confines of the commodity.
Value: Low tech and low energy
In practical terms, we want the farm to be as low-impact as possible. That makes it sustainable in terms of cost (high energy bills are obviously a big problem) but also helps plot the way forward as we approach a more energy scarce future.
Being able to operate with the seasons, using fungi strains that are adapted to the climatic conditions of the time of year, is one way to reduce the need for heating and cooling.
There is a current in the mycology movement that wants to make things high-tech, with AI-controlled growing that ensures you have to do less work. Much like vertical farming, which is proving to be a flash in the pan due to its intensive water uses, high-tech farming loses more than it gains. We firmly believe that we need more integration with ecology, more observation, more time spent with the species we work with to deepen relationships and understand their needs and respect the abundance they're offering. The reduction of growing to a black box, if anything, deepens the cultural divide that separates us from the non-human life.
So the challenge for radical mycology, we believe, is to find more and more ways to grow ecologically, using less and more local inputs, and to share that knowledge as best we can. We absolutely don't believe we have The Solution. While it is true that we've come to this fantastic place with the culture where there is a massive growth of respect for fungi, and a huge flush of fungi farms as a result, we're not necessarily at The Answer. There are so many more questions, and the exciting thing to contemplate is all the questions we don't know yet - what questions and approaches will emerge from our communities after a few years of fungi-growing skills threading among us all?