Tent Talk I: Food systems, farming and land use

20 July 2024

Although the village [St Martins] has changed considerably in my time, the farms have changed little. Small farms have been taken over. Systems have changed, some intensifying, some extensifying. Some still milking cows, some no longer milking cows. Some diversifying, some concentrating on their core business. Many letting part of the farmhouse to self-catering visitors. BUT

The Blee’s still farm Trenower.
The Bray’s still farm Tregevis.
The Bryant’s still farm Sworne.
The Hosken’s still farm Gear.
The Jenkin’s still farm Mudgeon.
The William’s still farm Tretharrup.
                                                                     –  Brindley Hosken, Up Long Meadow (2023)

The Lizard peninsula is a rural region with an ancient history of farming that is reflected in the large proportion of land that is still being worked today. Kestle Barton was a working farm until Boaden Lyne retired in 2005 and it took on our current multi-purpose identity.  As a venue we are committed to incorporating the question of land use into our programme, and to creating opportunities to discuss relevant concerns for those living in, and visiting, our surrounding area.

The Anthology of Rural Life project that Colin Robins & Oliver Udy have been collaborating on for over a decade has been one such opportunity. Their exhibition: Anthology of Rural Life – Farmers of The Lizard (15 June – 1 September, 2024) is a photographic survey of families and individuals involved with the land. They have made over twenty new portraits of farmers on The Lizard that are juxtaposed in the gallery with photographs that they have taken in Europe. This show offers a visual insight into the lives of many different people, in many different places, that are living in rural areas and have relationships to the land they live on.

To accompany this exhibition, we have organised a series of Tent Talks to take place in a large marquee in our meadow on the weekend of 20-21 July. These talks are free to the public and all are invited to come discuss the timely themes they will be focused on:

Tent Talk I: Food systems, farming and land use is on Saturday 20 July from 11am – 5pm.

Tent Talk II: Creative practice and the land is on Sunday 21 July from 11am – 5pm. Click here for more details of this day.


Tent Talk I: Food systems, farming and land use
Saturday 20 July from 11am – 5pm.

Land use at the moment is a very sensitive and complex subject with many, sometimes seemingly contradictory, agendas vying to be heard. Many people are desperate to be understood, and to understand what is really going on.  This situation affects everyone, especially in rural areas such as The Lizard, Cornwall; and there is a growing number of people dedicating their time and energy, and investing great resources, into asking what can be done in order for our current, and future, lives to be productive and nourishing in the face of many obstacles.

There appears to be no consensus on what the obstacles, or the solutions, are. However we believe it is an ongoing conversation that demands attention, time and listening.

We would like this day to be an acknowledgement of the the vital necessity of farming to our food system, as well as exploring some of the nuances and complexities around the relationship between farming and other uses of land. We have invited just a few speakers to shape the conversation. They offer a range of  perspectives and solutions that are forthcoming at this time. It is not a fully comprehensive line-up, nor will it reflect everybody’s position on these issues. We are inviting you, whoever you are reading this, to come to this free event and join in a dynamic, constructive conversation that can fill in some of the gaps and highlight others.

The morning will start with an overview of food systems in the UK with researchers Jane King and Vicki Hird. They will explain some of the mysteries of how food actually moves from plough to plate and give their own specific view of what problems we are facing and what solutions they are seeing emerge from their work.

We are also interested to hear from Dr. Harriet Bunning before lunch, talking about current trends in cattle breeding, as one example of how every sector of industry is thinking, and re-thinking, the way things need to change to improve our current situation and future-proof as best we can.

After lunch, we will have several local farmers sharing their experiences of farming on The Lizard, and raising the issues that they believe are most significant and transformative to the situations they are facing. We are asking individuals, organisations, businesses and any other interested parties of all ages to come join us in the tent this day, to listen and reflect upon what the speakers present, and to offer your own perspectives (questions and solutions) to the conversation.

We do not expect change to happen overnight, we do not expect to change any minds over these matters, but we hope by coming together and discussing we can all listen, learn and lean into the challenges ahead with a bit more information, fortitude and sense of shared human interest. Please join us in this endeavour.




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This event is in collaboration with Falmouth University, University of Plymouth, Falmouth Art Gallery and the Museum of Cornish Life, Helston.

Generous funding has been provided from the Cornwall Community Foundation with thanks.

Vicki Hird

Vicki Hird MSc FRES is Strategic Lead on Agriculture for The Wildlife Trusts UK and was until recently Head of the Sustainable Farming Campaign for Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming (over 100 non-profit organisations), is a published author and she also runs an independent consultancy.

Vicki is an experienced and award-winning environmental campaigner, researcher, writer and strategist working for the past 30 years mainly on food, farming and environmental issues and solutions. Vicki has worked on government policy for many years, authored ‘Perfectly Safe to Eat? The facts on food’ in 2000, and has led teams at FoE, War on Want, WSPA and SAFE Alliance. She has co-founded many organisations including Sustain, Hackney Food Partnership and the Eating Better Alliance – and has written and campaigned extensively at a global, EU and national level.

Jane King

Jane King is a Senior Researcher at Zero Hour, the campaign for the Climate and Nature Bill, working with scientists to present the latest evidence, for parliamentarians and the public, on the intertwined climate and nature crises. Jane has worked in farming in the UK and has been researching the UK food system, and its impacts on people and nature, for 25 years.

Harriet Bunning

Dr. Harriet Bunning is Genetics expert covering beef cattle for AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board): Promoting the use of genetics tools to help farmers breed the best beef animals, including working with breed societies.

Farmers of The Lizard panel

David Webb of Gear Farm, St. Martin

Chris Hosken of Lannarth Gate Farm, Manaccan

Rona Amiss of Tregullas Farm, The Lizard

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