Feature - Issue #15
How Black people and people of colour are shifting the narrative around farming and land use in Britain.
It’s late afternoon and the grey cloud that blanketed the sky this morning is now undetectable. I’m sitting at the helm of a small fishing boat, on Loch Euport, North Uist, as it casts a reflection in the mirrored stillness. Sam Cooke sings “You Send Me”, booming through a speaker over the loch, as Alexander Thompson-Byer steers the motor, guiding us smoothly across the water.
The loch is a maze of islets, inlets and islands. We scour its surface for the heads of otters, and we watch the land for families of deer. Alexander points to the buzzard soaring over us. It is a magical ending to a hard day’s toil on the loch shore cutting seaweed.
Alexander has worked the land for decades as a gardener and permaculturalist, and now works the sea as well, hand-harvesting seaweed that is sold to be used as an addition to cattle feed, which reduces the levels of methane they are known to exude when digesting grass. I’ve come to talk to Alexander about his relationship to land and farming. In a country where land working and environmental professions are the least racially diverse occupations, Alexander, a Black British Londoner, has been long aware of how he sticks out. He tells me he was profiled by the police while running along a street, as young as fourteen, and these early experiences have stayed with him.
Alexander Thompson-Byer pulls in a net filled with freshly cut seaweed.
Of Love, Land and Labour