Grow Green
Food and Farming Systems for a Climate-Friendly Future

1–2 June 2021, Online Webinar

Latest News

14/4/21New research calls for more legumes

New research highlights the vital role of increased legume cultivation in Europe to meet the sustainability goals of the EU Farm to Fork strategy.

The research looked at the total nutritional output of crop rotations, using life cycle assessment to compare the environmental efficiency of ten rotations across three European climatic zones. It found that:

“The introduction of grain legumes into conventional cereal and oilseed rotations delivered human nutrition at lower environmental cost for most of the 16 impact categories studied. In Scotland, the introduction of a legume crop into the typical rotation reduced external nitrogen requirements by almost half to achieve the same human nutrition potential.”

The research also found that legume-modified rotations deliver maximum benefit when crops go direct to human nutrition rather than being used for animal feed.

29/7/19Farm tour: apply now!

Interested in changing up your farm? In partnership with Safe Food Advocacy Europe, we're helping to organise a free on-farm knowledge building workshop. Iain Tolhurst will lead a tour of his amazing vegan organic farm, followed by a lunch and discussion about the challenges in adopting similar practices on other farms and nationally. Friday 6th September, 10:30-15:30, near Reading. To apply for a free place, please contact Do get in touch!

24/7/19Working groups

Following on from the conference, we are organising working groups to continue to discuss the themes of the conference. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at:

11/4/19Press release: Harvard University research

UK could slow climate clock by converting animal farmland to forest and still grow enough protein, Harvard research shows

New research from Harvard University demonstrates that the UK would be able to sustain itself and help meet the Paris Agreement by returning a portion of land used for animal agriculture back to forest.

Converting land currently used for grazing and growing animal feed crops back to forest could soak up 12 years’ carbon emissions, found the report which has just been launched during a keynote speech at the conference.

Returning pasture land back to forest and converting the areas used for growing animal feed to grow health-promoting crops for human consumption could make a fair national contribution to tackling the global climate crisis and provide enough protein for the British population.

British lead author Dr Helen Harwatt from Harvard University said: “It’s essential for the UK to have a Paris-compliant food system and right now it’s far from that.

“Our research shows for the first time that it’s possible – and could deliver multiple benefits to the UK population, including more provisions of healthy food, and more forest areas for recreation.

“The new habitats would also create opportunities to tackle the wildlife crisis by reintroducing wildlife, such as beavers, turtle doves and lynx – which is also great news for a nation of animal lovers.” 

Dr Harwatt added that the fact the UK imports 90% of its fruit and vegetables puts it in an increasingly precarious position in light of climate change impacts and shifts in international trade, especially while Brexit looms large.

Almost half of all land in the UK is currently used for farming animals and repurposing it represents a good opportunity in meeting climate goals, as it provides very little nutrition compared to the resource inputs involved.

Beans and other pulses are very efficient crops to grow in Britain – as they have nutritional and environmental benefits – and could be grown in place of animal feed, in addition to a range of fruit and vegetables.

Co-author Dr Matthew Hayek from Harvard University said: “The UK is well suited to growing forest as a natural climate solution. Hundreds of years ago, forests covered the UK as its natural land cover.

“Most grazing occurs on pastures that would return to forests if left untouched by humans and farm animals.

“Forests not only pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but also provide a range of co-benefits such as water filtration, flood defense and greater soil carbon capture – which will all become even more important as the impacts of climate change increase.

“It’s important for any large-scale land use changes to address potential trade-offs – such as economic livelihoods, which must be protected.

“While there are huge opportunities to diversify farming and food production on croplands, many pasturelands in the UK are better suited for shifts to reforestation than they are for crop production. This needs to be supported by addressing the financial and social barriers.”

The UK is off track to meet its legally binding commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, and even further reductions would be required to align with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

If UK emissions do not decrease from current levels, they will be consistent with temperatures beyond 1.5°C of warming in just 12 years’ time. Radical action, far beyond that currently planned, is required to reduce emissions steeply and rapidly. 

Meeting the Paris Agreement also requires carbon dioxide (CO2) removal from the atmosphere, which the researchers found we can “eat our way to” by returning pasture and animal feed crop land back to forest.

The report details unique findings from two scenarios – the first maximises CO2 removal by returning pasture land and cropland used to grow animal feed back to forest. This removes the same amount of CO2 as 12 years of the UK’s current emissions.

The second scenario trades off some of the CO2 removal and keeps croplands in production, to allow for an increased and diversified supply of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and pulses to the UK population. This removes CO2 equal to 9 years of the UK’s current emissions.

We currently grow 50% of what we eat in the UK. Under both scenarios, we would be able to provide all our calorie and protein needs. Presently, 91% of all cropland is used to grow only seven crops, most of which are used for animal feed.

Scenario 2 maximises the opportunity to produce more fruits, vegetables and pulses, to help meet changing consumer demands for more plant-based foods, and help address the mass under consumption of the five-a-day fruit and vegetables recommendation.

In relation to the 1.5°C goal, this shift would double the UK’s carbon budget, extending the timeframe before the 1.5°C budget is exhausted.

Dr Harwatt and Dr Hayek emphasised that the urgent need to tackle temperature rise requires the implementation of policy measures that support reforestation of agricultural lands.

For more information

The full report is available here.

To arrange an interview with the lead author Dr Helen Harwatt, please email For urgent requests, please call conference co-organiser Dominika on 07593 129599.

We can also help to secure interviews with conference speakers. For a full list of speakers please see

Images from the conference will be available in week commencing 15th April – please get in touch if you require those.

10/4/19Conference sold out, but you can still get involved

We sold out last month, with over 200 delegates set to attend the conference.

But you can still get involved. Here are 4 ways.

  1. Follow live tweets on Thursday 11th from @GrowGreenTeam:
  2. Join the live conversation on 11th April using the hashtag #GrowGreen2019 
  3. Visit this website next week for audio of the whole conference, video clips, and photos
  4. Write to us for details of joining the Grow Green working group

28/3/19Conference sells out

The Grow Green conference has SOLD OUT 14 days before the event. We expect a limited number of tickets to become available, so if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email

27/3/19Chatham House representative joins policy panel

Chatham House's Laura Wellesley is joining the policy panel at the Grow Green conference. Laura is a research fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources Department (EER) at Chatham House. She works on issues related to sustainable diets, food security and climate change. She co-authored the report 'Changing Climate, Changing Diets'.

The panel will also feature Natalie Bennett, former Leader of the Green Party, The Editor of The Ecologist Brendan Montague, Changing Markets Foundation's Nusa Urbancic, and the Executive Director of Eating Better, Simon Billing. Chaired by Lucy Siegle, the panel will address the political barriers to plant-strong food production, how to overcome them, and the best policies to pursue.

15/3/19Conference team goes to Green Britain Partnership to talk about green agriculture

As the speaker tally hits 30, we went to the Green Britain Partnership to talk about the conference. We explained to other sustainability groups what we are doing with the conference, and it had a great reception. Held at Forest Green Rovers FC, this installation of the Partnership was in an extremely climate-friendly location, with electric cars picking up guests and lights powered by Ecotricity energy. The attention FGR has paid to sustainability is second to none in the sporting world, and it made for a great locale in which to discuss sustainable farming and its relation to broader environmental efforts.

19/2/19Renee King-Sonnen announced

We are pleased to announce that Renee King-Sonnen will be joining us from the US by Skype. A former Texan rancher, King-Sonnen is the founder of the Ranchers Advocacy Programme. The Ranchers Advocacy Program was developed as a way to help transform farms and ranches in Texas and beyond. She will join the panel on the practicalities of plant-strong farming.

11/2/19Press Release: Conference Launch


Farming conference to address growth of post-Brexit plant agriculture

A farming conference will address the implications of the rise in plant-based food for the environment, land use and Britain's farmers.

The Grow Green conference, held at the British Library in London on 11 April, will explore how a plant-strong future can help meet climate change targets and what policies might support a transition towards it.

It will see the launch of research findings from the Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School, modelling alternative agriculture production in the UK.

The research will show the impact of a shift to plant-strong farming on national food sovereignty, protected forest and heathland areas, and carbon sequestration.


GG conference image


Attendees will hear from former animal farmers who have moved on to plant-based agriculture, including Colm O'Dowde, organic farmer Iain Tolhurst, and Jay Wilde, whose story features in a Bafta-winning film, 73 Cows.

The trio will address the many questions surrounding why and how farmers can move away from animal agriculture and look for opportunities in the plant sector.

Several other topics will be covered in panel discussions, such as political barriers to plant-strong production; making the best use of land in the UK; and ensuring the demand for plant-based products is met by production.

Keynote speakers include Dr Helen Harwatt, Farmed Animal Law and Policy Fellow at Harvard University; Natalie Bennett, former Leader of the Green Party; and Marcela Villarreal, Director of South-South Cooperation at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Dr Helen Harwatt, who will launch the Harvard study at the conference, said: "The science is clear and consistent about the need to reconfigure food systems to fit within environmental limits, while also addressing a myriad of public health issues.

"The change needed to our current use of agricultural land in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5ºC and tackle the wildlife crisis is vast and unprecedented.

"The good news is that solutions exist to help address these issues simultaneously. Our forthcoming research demonstrates an opportunity for the UK agricultural sector to lead the way."

Partners for the conference include energy company Ecotricity, publication The Ecologist, Pulses UK, and the Processors and Growers Organisation.

Early bird tickets are available at £40 + VAT until Friday 15 February. Day delegate passes are £55 + VAT. Refreshments and lunch are included with both passes.

To read more about the conference, access the programme and speaker information or make a booking, visit