Black and white square film photograph of a man leaning towards the camera and holding a stick (belonging to a rake) with a farm and summer sky behind him.

Cris (Crispin) Ricketts raking soil ready for planting at Farnham Community Farm in Runfold, Surrey. 

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Pure Soil

2020-ongoing


'Pure Soil' is an ongoing project photographing farmers and farms who are committed to reducing the environmental impact of food production while at the same time producing food of high quality by using regenerative farming methods. My project looks at our relationship to the land and the precious resource that supports our food supply: soil.

I began the project in 2020 as the impact of the COVID pandemic showed how reliant we are on large-scale intensive farming, big box supermarket chains and long supply chains. The population sought other ways to secure healthy food for their families – companies in the UK that offer weekly organic vegetable box delivery saw their sales increase by 111% during the first six weeks of lockdown. I wanted to see how local, small farms were operating during the pandemic, maintaining their supply and connection to their communities.

The drastic reduction in pollution during pandemic lockdown, coupled with seeing devastating wildfires and other climate-related events, highlighted the need for more environmentally sustainable practices in all aspects of human life, including farming.

The farms I have been photographing use chemical- and pesticide-free farming methods. As the lockdown restrictions ease, I would like to photograph at more farms, including those that use regenerative farming methods.

Regenerative farming is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems that utilizes philosophies from permaculture and agroecology. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, cultivating soils that are more resilient in extreme weather and harbor fewer pests or diseases. This in turn increases biodiversity, absorbs more water so preventing run off and potential down-land flooding, and helps pull carbon from the atmosphere into the ground.

As the UK plans for post-pandemic life, as well as the effects of climate change, smaller-scale regenerative farming may increasingly be seen as a more resilient, environmentally sustainable, and healthy alternative.

Black and white square film photograph of a pile of dark soil with a triangle formation of two shovels and a garden fork at the top sticking out of it.

Soil pile, shovels and a garden fork at Farnham Community Farm, Runfold, Surrey.

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Black and white vertical film photograph of a woman in a sun hat bending over to dig out potatoes in a field ploughed and partially covered with white fabric.

Katie Forman digging up potatoes for harvest and sitribution to monthly veg bag subscribers at Farnham Community Farm in Runfold, Surrey.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a woman in the foreground pulling white fabric out over a crop field with a man out of focus in the distance behind her holding the other end.

Ellen Bridges pulls a cover down over a vegetable bed to protect the crop at Farnham Community Farm, Runfold, Surrey. 

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a man standing in a crop field just after dawn holding a container of lettuce heads. The field recedes into the distance with a forest out of focus behind.

Edwin Brookes out early picking lettuce just after dawn on his farm at Ed's Veg in Liphook, Hampshire.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of two partial polytunnels and a wooden sign in the foreground between them that says "Devil's Lane Market Garden."

Ed's Veg is a chemical and pesticide-free vegetable farm at Devil's Lane Market Garden in Liphook, Hampshire.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a white bag of organic crop feed and a small, white bottle labelled in pen 'chicken manure' standing in the foreground of a crop field with two farm workers out of focus behind.

Farnham Community Farm uses organic plant food, approved by the Soil Association, and chicken manure to feed vegetable crops.

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Black and white panoramic landscape film photograph of cows in pasture in the middle distance near the end of the day. There are a couple of large trees in the left third of the photograph and a wood in the distance behind.

Some of the Hampton Estate Sussex cows at dusk in one of the pasture fields near Puttenham, Surrey.

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Black and white square film photograph of a woman standing under a tree, her arms folded and looking at the camera, with a herd of cows.

Bridget Biddell, whose family have owned Hampton Estate since 1929, stands in the shade of a tree in pasture with some of the Sussex cows the estate rears for beef. 

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a three cows eating from a feed trough in the foreground while a woman holds open the gate to a field in partial focus behind them.

Three Sussex cows eat some feed while being moved from one pasture to another as Bridget Biddell holds the gate. Hampton Estate rotates the cows through their pasture fields in Puttenham, Surrey, to maintain soil and grass quality rather.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a dry, stony soil with six dark black water hose irrigation lines running into the distance down the field.

Irrigation water lines laid out at Farnham Community Farm in Runfold, Surrey.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a woman with her two legs planted wide bending over to plant young lettuces in a polytunnel with another male farm worker out of focus in the back.

April Coffey planting lettuce in the polytunnel at Ed's Veg, Liphook, Hampshire.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a pair of man's hands cleaning the soil from a turnip, which is falling away from it.

Matt Whyton cleans the soil from a turnip at Farnham Community Farm in Runfold, Surrey.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of the back of a man and a woman in the middle distance both sorting out vegetables into containers under cover of an outbuilding.

Edwin Brookes and a volunteer pack vegetables at Ed's Veg in Liphook, Hampshire for delivery to a greengrocer.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a man's hands cradling a bunch of freshly harvested spring onions. On his left hand the forefinger and middle finger have plasters on the knuckles, on the wrist is a metal watch.

Edwin Brookes holds freshly harvested onions from his farm at Ed's Veg, Liphook, Hampshire.

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Black and white landscape film photograph of a polytunnel, wooden pallets and a white banner that has hand drawn writing on it saying "Boris, don't sell us out to Trump. Save British Farming"

A banner at Ed's Veg in Liphook, Hampshire flown in response to the lack of provisions for UK farmers and agriculture in the Trade Bill being passed through the House of Commons.

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