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‘This is a film whose time has come’: Bringing regenerative farming to the big screen

Director Colin Ramsay and producer Claire Mackenzie discuss Six Inches of Soil, a new film that will tell the story of the UK’s broken food system

Award-winning production company DragonLight Film is producing Six Inches of Soil, the first independent regenerative farming documentary feature film, which will tell the untold story of Britain’s agroecological movement.

The film, which will be followed by an impact campaign, was inspired by Six Inches of Soil director, Colin Ramsay and producer Claire Mackenzie’s short-commissioned film, From the Ground Up (2020), which told the stories of five Cambridgeshire, UK farmers at different stages of their regenerative farming journey. 

“We believe that Six Inches of Soil is a film whose time has come,” says Ramsay. “The success of films like Kiss the Ground (2019) and Seaspiracy (2021) shows that the public have an appetite for hard-hitting and inspiring films about how and where their food is produced. And 95 per cent of our food comes from the soil.”

Executive producer Mark Aldridge, who has a range of TV and film credits including The 51st State and Utopia as well as exec producing The Academy Awards and The Golden Globes for British television, has recently joined the Six Inches of Soil team. Aldridge has held several key media industry positions including, commissioning editor at Sky One, head of programmes at Sky Cinema and EP at Princess Productions. He also helped launch BT Sport, working there as a creative consultant for the first three years.

Six Inches of Soil director Colin Ramsay (left) and director of photography Jeremy Dawson

Aldridge will help to guide the film’s agroecological narrative, telling the story of remarkable farmers, communities, small businesses, chefs and entrepreneurs who are leading the way to transform how our food is produced and consumed. The film centres on new entrant farmers Anna Jackson and Adrienne Gordon, as well as established farming pioneers who are leaving behind conventional agriculture to build a future that focuses on the health of the soil and increases biodiversity. It will follow their often-challenging journeys and will examine the whole ecosystem of food and farming including how they access land and create robust business models.

With a compelling narrative, engaging animations and interviews with leading figures, the film will tell the story of the UK’s broken food system. It will offer a provocative ‘focusing moment’ for wider public debate giving farmers confidence to adopt nature-friendly practices, consumers the impetus to rethink food choices, and aims to create a groundswell of opinion resulting in policy change and funding for a British agroecological transition. 

The lead characters will meet with both conventional and regenerative farmers across the country, including Jake Fiennes, head of conservation, Holkham Estate, Norfolk and Stephen Briggs, who is a first-generation farmer and has been farming organically for 18 years at his 576-acre farm in Cambridgeshire. They’ll also have discussions with experts in the food and farming sector including Vicki Hird, Sustainable Farming Campaign coordinator and author of Rebugging the Planet and Henry Dimbleby, author of government commissioned National Food Strategy. 

Six Inches of Soil sound recordist Daria Hupov, director Colin Ramsay and head of conservation, Holkham Estate, Norfolk Jake Fiennes

Ramsay adds, “This project is a labour of love for the whole team. Farmers in the UK are becoming increasingly aware of how industrial scale tillage, monocultures and chemical input practices have depleted our soils. As the saying goes, despite all our accomplishments, we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains. We want to highlight these issues and look at agroecology through a British lens, showing the unique challenges but also the huge rewards this method of farming presents. We hope that by communicating clearly and accessibly why our food system is broken and how agroecology can help to fix it, we can help to be part of a transformation to the UK’s food-buying choices.”

Claire Mackenzie, producer, Six Inches of Soil adds, “After a year of pre-production research, visiting farms, talking to agroecology experts and inspirational organisations throughout the UK, as well as creating partnerships with industry organisations we’re excited to begin production. Personally, I want more people to hear from the farmers that I’ve met over the last year, many of whom are happier in their work because of their reconnection with the soil and their land and the formation of strong and close communities of like-minded people who are all supporting each other on this intrepid journey.”

Anna Jackson, Six Inches of Soil new entrant farmer

The Six Inches of Soil team has formed partnerships with the major UK charitable organisations and interest groups working on agroecology who plan to use the film as a campaigning tool, with screenings up and down the country and accompanying campaigning materials. Partners include: The Soil Association, Farm-Ed, Sustain, Groundswell, Sustainable Soils Alliance, Nature Friendly Farming Network, Organic Farmers and Growers Association and the Pasture for Life Association. The team also recently announced a Corporate Partnership with David Gordon, founder of sustainable clothing brand, BAM Clothing

Six Inches of Soil is Crowdfunding until 28th March. To help bring this film to the big screen please donate to the Crowdfunder here.