What Does A Healthy Rural Landscape Look Like?

My last blog ended with the question, “Are we just being romantics?” Is our desire to have our grandchildren inherit a healthy biodiverse landscape, and be a part of a diverse, fun, creative rural community just a romantic dream?

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

The second law of thermodynamics deals with entropy. In a nut shell, where it is applied to an ecosystem it says that the more diversity in a system, the more stable that system and the better able it is to withstand shocks to it (Galucci – 1973).

An example of where that diversity is not present is monoculture farming, whether animal or plant, a key practice of much of our industrial agricultural system. If a disease breaks out, and there is only one type and cultivar of plant or animal, then the result is often catastrophic. Hence the need to pour on insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. On the other hand if there is diversity, a variety of species, then it is unlikely that all the plants or animals will be effected in the same way at the same time.

Some of the species of plants (or animals) will survive and undoubtedly prosper in the changed circumstances.

A Healthy Landscape Requires Diversity

With the impacts of monoculture in mind, it is self evident that a healthy agricultural landscape requires diversity. This healthy landscape is a mosaic of life. It requires a broad range of pasture plants, a diversity of animals, forests and copses of trees, wildlife – birds, insects, lizards, frogs and so on. Water is retained in this healthy landscape in the form of ponds, wetlands and clear, clean running streams.

The landscape is managed to sequester carbon, not just for the benefits to climate change, but also because a soil rich in carbon (organic content) holds more water and does not leach nutrients to the extent that soil low in carbon does.

The people who work within this landscape recognise themselves as custodians of the land, working with nature, rather than dominating it with a humans know best mind set.

The Human Community

Our human community also requires diversity. It needs people of a variety of ages and occupations. With this diversity we get a vibrancy, we get fun and creativity.

With this diversity comes a recognition that there can be many forms of economic activity that are both possible and desirable within this community. Some of these new forms of economic activity have been made possible by the internet, (a whole range of possibilities in itself), and have little to do with traditional farming. We are not talking about  life style blocks here. What we are talking about is people who embrace, treasure and understand the rhythms and life of living in the countryside.

Examples of niche land based economic activities could be, food artisans producing high value food products, tree nurserymen growing trees well adapted for that particular area and climate zone (these will be needed for riparian planting), specialty furniture makers utilising sustainably grown rare timbers, small farms producing heritage organic produce, specialty butcheries, nut tree orchards, bees and so the list goes on.

If you look at these suggestions, and no doubt some brainstorming would reveal many more, you will note that all these would not affect the predominant farm use in any way.

They would instead provide another tier to existing land use.

Back to the Original Question – Is  River Valley a catalyst for regeneration in our rural community?

And our answer is, yes, we can be. This is a journey that we have embarked upon. We are passionate about being a catalyst for change. We are passionate about regeneration.

In fact we have recognised this as the purpose of River Valley.

In our small way, we will succeed because the alternative is too much to bear. The cost of failure is evident where ever you take the time to look. Degraded landscapes, loss of biodiversity, loss of people, loss of community. The pursuit of profit at the cost of all things.

In another blog, I will outline what we see as the path River Valley must take in order to truly be a regenerative business.

Thanks for reading.


Brian Megaw