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Course Director: Andy Wilson

Andy Wilson is the founder of Fruit and Nut Nurseries, a not-for-profit enterprise dedicated to research into food security and related issues. The nursery is also a vehicle for exploring alternative trading mechanisms (for example stable-state economic systems that are not predicated upon interest being levied on debt).

Andy’s background includes more than thirty years hands-on experience working with the land, the last eight years of which have been fully occupied in the development of Fruit and Nut Nurseries.

About five years ago Andy developed a serious heart condition (cardiomyopathy), the consequence of which was permanent damage to the heart muscle. Expert medical advice indicated that it would not be possible to resume any sort of active physical life.

“In our society, we are fortunate to have safety nets like welfare payments. But what if we didn’t? What if we had to remain productive in order to survive (as is the case for the majority of humanity)? The question I asked myself was what was still possible? It has been a fascinating journey. When your heart has an output of only one third or one half of what it could have if working properly, you tend to approach everything differently. You slow down, then slow down further still, and maybe even some more, till you find a pace that can be sustained without getting too tired, without causing that damaged heart any more stress. You discover how to sidestep obstacles, how to keep life simple.

And you learn how to use your body to best effect, how to use hand tools as efficiently as possible, learn how to work with natural forces (for example the weather) because that saves energy, how to listen, touch, and observe. How to tread lightly. Most of all, how to manage more with less. To my amazement I discovered a quality of life that I'd never experienced before.

Imagine then, what would be achievable if we reconfigured our food production systems along similar lines? Instead of market-driven industrial agriculture, imposing its will on the natural environment through chemicals and brute force, (and ultimately, with disastrous results), what if we took the view that we want to develop a system of production that is sustainable over time, with the minimum of external inputs but the maximum diversity of possibilities? Not only would this utter dependency on fossil fuels for our food supplies be eliminated, but a far more sustainable human civilisation would result”