Read: a question by Emily Diamand
I grew up in a house surrounded by arable fields. What happened in those fields – the plough-dark stripes, green stitches of new wheat, trundle of combines and hellfire of stubble burning - was my calendar and playground. The gleam of chalk in tilled soil still feels tattooed onto my bones. At about the age of ten I developed an interest in wildflowers, and so my mum gave me an identification book she’d received as a school prize. “Just go out and look for them,” she said, but between her childhood in the 1950s and mine in the 1980s, a change had taken place - the fields now stretched unbroken to the horizon, the hedges reduced to a few hawthorn scraps. For all my searching, I only found pineapple weed and the odd poppy, and I can trace ripples throughout my life from this heartbreaking moment, when I realised that the landscape I loved so much was a wounded thing.
Perhaps you feel recognition, or perhaps you feel this story is unfair to the farmer who tilled those fields, but I'm telling it because Love + Soil places the language of emotion at the core of discussion. Beneath arguments about pesticides, payment schemes or rewilding, we all know there are undercurrents of love and hurt. Love for the notes and rhythms of the farm, for the wide or narrow landscapes that contain us, for animals domestic and wild, for a single plant or the pulse of an ecosystem. Hurt from harsh accusations against a way of living or harm to the natural world.
This is the conversation I am curious about. What do we mean when we talk about love, a word we stretch to fit around endless possibilities? What are the roots of the many kinds of love that we feel for farming, landscapes and nature in its diversity? Will understanding them lead to better ways of working together, or is this the source of the conflict we so often encounter?