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An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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27 Mar 2009

A Second Chance to Watch (and Record) ‘A Farm for the Future’

Many people got in touch with Transition Network to ask how they could get copies of Rebecca Hosking’s seminal ‘A Farm for the Future’ programme.  It can be viewed on Video Google now, but it is proving tricky for us to distribute copies of the film.  You may therefore be interested to know that due to popular demand, the programme is being screened for a second time on BBC2 Saturday 4th April at 5.20pm.  Set the recorder, and enjoy this wonderful programme a second time.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Finn Jackson
27 Mar 12:54pm

This was a lovely programme and it will be great to see it again.

Also HIGHLY recommended is this BBC programme on “How to survive a disaster”:

It describes how, after the planes flew into the Twin Towers, people carried on writing emails, making phone calls, and stood around discussing in groups whether to do anything… instead of just getting out!

To me this is the definitive explanation of our collective failure to react to Climate Change/Peak Oil. (Transition and some other initiatives excepted.)

And it shows why what we are doing in Transition is SO IMPORTANT to act as an example to others.

The programme will only be on the BBC i-player until around 20 April, so after that you’ll need to try YouTube at or maybe elsewhere.


Steve Atkins
27 Mar 2:21pm

Good to see this getting prime time again, well deserved.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have mentioned the program to me.

Ben Brangwyn
27 Mar 2:53pm

You can see from the picture of Rebecca that she’s emanating light – perhaps she’s actually an angel!

Cristiano Bottone
27 Mar 9:10pm

Can anyone record the program and send a DVD to Transition Italia?

Jill Robinson
27 Mar 10:59pm

Does anyone know if this copy on Google is a legal copy? And I did also get it through a torrent, which I don’t the faintest clue what that is. Would that be a legal copy that I could show to others? I can’t figure out how to contact the film maker to ask these questions, and she’s the last person I’d want to steal from. Thanks!

Rebecca hosking
28 Mar 1:25pm

Dear Jill,
thank you for raising your concern about the legality of the torrent and google video, – my answer is to these hhhmm!! no comment

Unfortunately the BBC are not going to make our film salable anytime soon.
However the BBC are at the moment posting out copies of the DVD to interested parties ( including folks wanting to show the film at local meetings) but this ends in a weeks time.

However we knew this would happen so to help extend this distribution process time , we sent many official copies to the permaculture mag.
If you contact them, they will be able to help you.

As for legality of showing others, yes you can show our film publicly, the copyright is owned by the BBC, however the audience must not be charged to watch the film.
As long as you don’t charge you are fine.

very best wishes


P.S Ben… An Angel?? ( my other-half has just roared with laughter )
Hardly my Dear, but thats very kind of you to suggest it 🙂 ..

Cristiano Bottone
28 Mar 1:25pm

I don’t think it is legal, but I suppose this is the only chance we have outside Uk at the moment.

Gerhard Ortner
28 Mar 11:19pm

Thank you so much for the information! This documentation is really worth watching.

Greetings from Innsbruck, Austria

29 Mar 1:09pm

Dear Cristiano,

I would be very happy to send you a DVD copy of the “Farm for the Future”, an excellent programme! I am a member of Transition Horsham in the UK and my Dad has made copies for our own use at home, following on from the previous discussion about making copies for home use on Transition Culture (Tim Green said: The BBC rule seems to be – go ahead and show it but don’t charge for entry. Doesn’t say anything about donations for another cause though! As far as we are concerned (maybe not official policy?), we made the film using license payers money so technically you own it. Certainly the last film we made for the Beeb, they were perfectly happy for community screenings so long as there was no direct profit from the showing.)

I will post it to your address in Italy,

Kind regards,


Cristiano Bottone
29 Mar 7:04pm

Dear Simon,

you are very kind. Here is our address:

Transition Italia
c/o Parco Regionale dell’Abbazia
via Abbazia, 28
40050 Monteveglio (Bo)

We will translate the video and we will make copies for our local initiatives but we will never charge for the screening.

We already have the one published on Google Video but it is a very smal flv file (good for working on the translation but not good for screening). A proper Dvd record would be much better.

Thank you for you precious help.

30 Mar 4:59pm


Who does one contact to get a DVD from the BBC?

31 Mar 10:43pm

At a recent introduction to permaculture course here in mid-Wales, around a third of the participants had come specifically because they had seen this film.

Thankyou so much Rebecca

Hope the BBC follows on with more.

I have also noticed radio 4 questioning the God of economic growth recently on the morning news programme. And on “Home Planet” this afternoon, also on radio 4, a debate about how Permaculture can contribute to food production and hence food security!

31 Mar 10:51pm

If you want to listen to the Home Planet clip it’s on the BBC iplayer at
minute 14 – 17.

John Mason
1 Apr 11:40am

Just been watching this on BBC iPlayer

Sure the link’s been posted already but couldn’t see it in this thread!

Sure given me plenty of food for thought!

Cheers – John

Wayne Weiseman
1 Apr 11:19pm

It is wonderful to fall unknowingly into this blog and to find you all here. I would also love to receive a copy of the video, if at all possible. Yours, Wayne Weiseman in Illinois, USA

2 Apr 11:57am

Hi Rebecca,

Firstly – congrats on making such an impact with your documentary! It was great to see this on prime-time TV.

If you are still reading this thread – I am wondering if you still check or have changed your gmail address that you posted on The Oil Drum last year..? I sent a couple of emails, but didn’t get a response – which may have been to do with you being busy or not interested I know!

I have a couple of things I would like to get your thoughts on if you have time/inclination…

I also wanted to offer some help (particularly regarding an on-line presence for your project).

Thanks in advance,

2 Apr 2:42pm

Hi Rebecca.

I downloaded a copy from the link in this post. I promise to purchase a DVD if BBC will sell it anytime in the future.

I need to say a word about BBC&iPlayer: during WWII the radio broadcast was the voice of freedom, the hope for a better future.
Now during WWIII the kingdom is betraying that spirit, I hope the british people will kick the mind (near the backs) of you leaders, starting from BBC ones.

Best regards from Italy – Europe.

PS: I belive they was surprised a lot of you success.

Paul Fountain
21 Apr 2:00pm


I am the senior consultant for biosolids at Thames Water.

In terms of sustainable eco-systems, fundimentally I believe that as a society we need to figure out a safe, reliable, and sustainable way of recycling biosolids back to farmland. Yes, it needs to be fully and safely treated – but as a society we can’t keep taking goodness out of the soil and not putting any of those nutrients back and expect it to be sustainable.

In terms of fertiliser value of recycling biosolids, historically this has typically been reduced to NPK furtiliser values. The assumption has been that all that matters is the nitrogen, phosphorous, potasium. That bio fertilisers – whether farm manuer or sewage treatment biosolids – are fully equivalent to chemical fertilisers and vis-versa.

There are a number of studies that have been done that have looked at biodiversity – that when continuous use of chemical fertilisers takes place over many years that number of microb species dramatically reduces. It is only by adding organic furtilisers: composte, manuer, biosolids, etc that this biodiversity can be maintained. What has been missing is an laymans guide to why that is important.

The film you guys put together was very helpful in that. Is there any possibility of getting a copy that I can use. Yes, I am aware that it is available on BBC iplayer – but not for downloading.


Wolfram Zucker
3 Jun 4:22pm

Hi Rebecca and the others,

I’m from Germany and first of all my question:

In order to help my family-members understand more of the film, I wrote subtitles for it in German language. They fit to the mp4-file downloaded from Google Video. If both files are in one directory, the film can easily be watched with the subtitles (for example with the VLC-Player).
Translating the film into subtitles took a “few” hours and – as I often benefit from the work of others, now especially from this wonderful film – I would like to let others benefit from my comparatively small work of translation this time. I would like to publish the subtitle-file for free download, for example on my website (on a special site about this film). Here and and elsewhere I could post a link to it, especially in the german peak oil forum, from where I know this film.

I don’t know if this is “legal enough” and I should do it. I did the translation, but it’s based on your work. So I wanted to ask you first, at least about yor personal opinion.

The next step might be to ask the BBC, if they would agree. (But I’m not sure if I should trouble them and whom to ask.)
Finally, in case the BBC would decide one day to make a salable DVD-edition of the film, it might be desirable to make it multilingual, with subtitles in different languages to choose from. Then my translation might be a contribution. (Yet it’s not perfect – there are still a few questionmarks of passages I did not completely understand – but perhaps I get feedback from users to improve it.) As I read above from Cristiano Bottone, they’re also translating the film – and perhaps some people in other countries do it as well …

Now some more comments (no need to be answered):

As the BBC are not going to make the film salable anytime soon, it seems to go a different way “between the lines”. Google Video might be an example.

I would really not mind to pay for it, and let you and the people who helped you produce and publish the film – that is also the BBC – profit financially of its success. I agree with Jill Robinson above.
On the other hand, if the film moves on the non-profit-path, I see a bit of good in it, in the sense that the best things in life you get as a gift, the air to breathe, good water from a spring, the sunlight, the stars, our planet, nature, flowers, music, a friendly smile, children, all the nice people that make life worth living, and life itself. I like to see your film among these things. Things one payed for are usually considered worth as much as they costed. Things that were free can somehow have an unlimited value.

But no matter if one pays for it or not, your film is worth more, than one could ever pay for it. There are many nice pictures, nice background music and interresting information – a well done job. But it’s not just entertainment or partial information – like so many other things we can see on TV. It’s about reality and wide interrelation. You make a big effort to help mankind do things better. And your heart is behind it – everyone can feel it.

Peak Oil is not an easy thing. People might react wrong, because they don’t understand what’s going on and what good ways there are to go.
With oil in decline, jobs in industry and services (administration, finance …) will decline as well. This gives us the chance to make other things better again. We can treat children and old people better again – not isolate them, but let them be part of everyday life. And we can treat animals, plants and the soil better again – your film is about it.

Not to plough is really quite a radical idea, like saying today’s agriculture is a mistake – but it is somehow.
(By the way: Be careful not to be mixed up with those who want to “solve the problem” of not ploughing by use of herbicides, instead of paying attention to details like soil covering plants.)

The story began quite early. After being hunter-gatherer, man learned to cultivate plants that he preferred – so far so good.
But he pulled all other plants out of the ground, considering them as useless or rivals. He did not understand, what is going on in the soil. He only thought of what he saw – like a child that draws a tree, but without roots. The life in the soil suffered and could not maintain the original fertility. For a long time man just left behind the used field and “cultivated” a new one (nomadic cropping). Quite late he discovered the three main nutrients and managed to brew a “magic potion” to put on the soil and have plants grow fast again. They did, but the three nutrients were not really the same what the “dwarfs” in the soil once had provided, and the plants tended to fall ill. So once again man brew other “magic potions” as medicine for the plants (insecticides, fungicides). The life in the soil, the “dwarfs” suffered more and more at each step.
That’s where we are today. We are perfect. We perfected the mistake we started with long time ago.

One consequence is still widely unnoticed. I read about it in an interresting article from Austria “Klimawandel durch Humusabbau” (climate change by reduction of humus). Because of the false treatment of the soil the proportion of humus in the soils has decreased more and more. In Austria the soils of fields have only 1-2% of the original humus-content so that they must be classified as half-deserts or deserts. The humus (organic =with carbon) remineralized, releasing the carbon as carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This has happened around the world and, according to the article it has released about the same amount of CO2 as all burning of coal, oil and natural gas together. So half of the human-made CO2 has come from the not well treated soils. (Also mentioned in the article: Intact soil contains about 30 tons of living creatures per hectare, however, if it is pasture, there can live about two cows on the grass (one ton). So to say 30 times more life is in the intact soil than we see on top.)

In addition, the humus gives the soil most of its ability to store water like a sponge. A lack of humus means that the water leaves the land quicker, what may result in floods along rivers or dry fields. Less water stored on the land (deforestation, less plant-cover and less water in the soil) is also responsible for extreme temperatures and winds (think of deserts) because water calms the weather (see Google: “Stable Climates”).

On the other hand, treating one’s own soil good, having it always covered with a variety of plants, can be a good way to cope with rough weather (droughts …), we might get as long as things are not yet better elsewhere.

I’ve often been telling and writing these things, how important the life in the soil is … but sometimes people can’t follow so good. Seeing it in your film is much more impressive. How once the birds had a feast behind the ploughing tractor … alone that you had this old footage makes me feel that this was all somehow meant to be.

Recently, as I showed the film to my family, I introduced it with the words, that if they watch it, they can learn a lot about how I think, what I see as my personal future and future in general (hopefully with not too many wrong paths before).
After they saw the film I will not have to explain so much any more. For example that I am proud of the foxes that visit our plot of land. Although tey sometimes steel ducks and chicken, I refuse to tell the hunter … instead I struggle to find an “agreement with the foxes”, to coexist. Or that in last winter I tried for the first time to grow sweet chestnuts from seeds (not yet with success). And so on … it’s amazing how much this film reflects of my personal point of view.

Somewhere I read suggestions of what was missing in the film. I think that the essential tings are in it and anything more (like some points I wrote here) would have made it too comlicated and draw the attention from the main issues. It’s just perfect. People around me know that I’m quite critical, but here I don’t find anything I would not agree with. It’s at least one of the best films I know and I guess it will remain it for a long time.
Thank you for this lovely and committed treasure.

Good luck for all of you from Bavaria/Germany, Wolfram

Hugh Osborn
19 Jul 12:38pm

Hi Rebecca (hopefully you will see this),

Many congratulations. Your film “A Farm for the Future” hits all the right buttons on climate change and peak oil issues.

I have been trying to get a legitimate DVD copy from the BBC for Sustainable Blewbury. BBC Active has eventually said I can have one off copy for educational purposes only for a “small fee”, which turns out to be £195+ delivery + VAT. This is an extortionate amount for small voluntary groups and raises the temptation to make unofficial copies by downloading from You Tube.

I have pointed out to the BBC that your film in DVD format should be made available to every school and public library in the UK. This would more than justify high volume production for general release in DVD format. Have you discussed this possibility with the BBC or relevant Government Departments?

Kind regards,