Geography, Earth and environment at Brighton

Students and lecturers at the farm entrance

Social and Cultural Geography field trip

Students from all of our geography degrees have the opportunity to take our second year module, Social & Cultural Geography. This module teaches students how we can use geography to understand some of the big social issues of the day. Thanks to the easing of lockdown restrictions, our Social & Cultural Geography students were recently able to spend a field day at Tablehurst Community Farm, about 45 mins north of Brighton and next to the ancient Ashdown Forest.

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Our students were visiting the farm to learn about human-animal relations, and alternative farming systems. Tablehurst is jointly owned by a co-operative of around 600 people, mostly from the local area. As a farm, it tries to establish relationships of mutual support amongst farmers, local communities, and the land itself. This ethos also fits into the farm’s ‘biodynamic’ approach to agriculture. More than simply organic farming, the biodynamic approach treats the entire farm (the people, the land, and the animals) as a holistic organism within which each element is reliant on the others. So it’s the perfect place to for students to observe the real-life relevance of their studies!

Students were taught by guest lecturer Prof Neil Ravenscroft – formerly of the University of Brighton and now Pro-Vice Chancellor (International) at the Royal Agricultural University. Prof Ravenscroft is also an important member of the farm and has previously acted as farm Director. Our students were given an outdoors lecture on the farm’s history and ethos, and how alternative agricultural practices can challenge or resist modern industrialised food systems.

They were then taken on a guided tour of the farm’s key elements including cutting-edge farm machinery, biodynamic soil treatments, farm-built dams and beehives, and chicken and pig enclosures. Prof Ravenscroft highlighted how what may seem like simply ‘nature’ (for example an outdoors pond) is in fact closely linked to the needs of local communities as well as complex networks of national laws, institutional regulations, and economic management. Students also reflected on the lifecycles and movements of the farm’s pigs to begin re-thinking relationships between humans, animals, and our environments, and how they are all heavily influenced by each other.

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Laura Ruby • June 7, 2021

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