#24: Simple soil health principles, dung beetles, dutch potato trials & european native dairy breeds

Welcome to our two year anniversary edition (YAY!) of Farmerama supported by the brilliant E5 Bakehouse, an East London bakery pushing the boundaries of baking: exploring and innovating from grain to oven to make the best bread. They work closely with farmers and have even started growing grains themselves, which they then mill on site.

At Farmerama we’re here to bring you stories from farmers and growers around the UK, we want to get stuck into uncovering the nitty gritty of producing –  things like soil experiments, choosing different seed varieties, and exploring sustainable or resilient food systems.

This month Soil health and tree expert Niels Corfield shares the 6 Soil Health Principles that can help anyone working on the land, at any scale, to make soil-friendly management decisions.

New contributor Marianne Landzettel sends dispatches from the Netherlands, where a biodynamic Dutch grower and breeder is working to establish blight-resistant potatoes that are yummy and also drought-resistant.

Dung sausages are up next, as we hear from Dr Sarah Beynon, a researcher and farmer at Dr Beynon’s Bug farm in Wales. She tells us about a rather intriguing creature, the Dung Beetle that is working hard beneath our feet.

Finally, Cheese-man and Daphne Zepos Award winner, Sam Frank, takes us on his journey across Europe, as he visits farmers and cheesemakers who work with native dairy breeds. Sam shares some of the highs and lows of the state of the industry.

This show was created by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose and Katie Revell. Thanks so much to Marianne for the additional reporting and to our supporters E5 Bakehouse.

 

Listen here:

#22 Beauty, land, rewilding, upland sheep farming, spiritual ecology – how farming fits into the future of a Britain built on beauty

This month’s episode is a little different to usual as we weave in and out of a conversation we had with Dame Fiona Reynolds, former Director-General of the National Trust.

Her recent book The Fight for Beauty is a call to arms for all of us to pay more attention to matters of the earth and oceans. Fiona charts the power of the people who have fought for their right to beauty over hundreds of years of land disputes in the UK. Of course farming and fishing communities feature heavily in this fight. We caught up with Fiona and she told us how she sees farming fits into the future of a Britain built on beauty.

We are well aware that beauty seems a little airy-fairy and disconnected from the realities of running a farming business. But please do hear us out to the end…this is about bringing power back to the people.

As Fiona discusses beauty and rewilding we hear from upland organic sheep farmer (with a passion for whole thinking), Martin Peck, asking his long-time neighbour and fellow upland sheep farmer, Rees Roberts, for some of his thoughts on these topics. It’s brilliant to hear the views of an upland sheep farmer, this voice is so often missing from the rewilding debate. Rees Roberts is from Dyffryn Tanat (The Tanat Valley), Powys. He still practices Hafod a Hendre known as transhumance in English – hafod meaning a farm on the higher pastures where he takes the sheep during the Summer (haf is Welsh  for summer) and hendre, the old settlement or farm where the sheep go for the Winter.

We also hear from spiritual ecologist and artist behind The Milking Parlour, Nessie Reid for a completely different perspective on beauty and being.

#20 Halal & Tayyib meat, Open Food Network UK, tips for growing veg in harsh conditions & crafting human-scale CSA tools

This month we celebrate the dawn of Spring as we bring you stories from many different communities across the UK: Muhsen Hassanin of Abraham Organics, a specialist Halal and Tayib Meat supplier, gives us the low-down on halal and the meat they supply to the Muslim community in London. We hear how the Open Food Network (OFN) works from OFN UK head Lynne Davis and Mark Harrison, farmer at Stroud Community Agriculture, tells us how they are using OFN to expand their business plus reduce waste from surplus crops. Next, we hear clever tips from Ed Hamer at Chagfood CSA in Devon, about growing great veg on the wild exposed moors (and more generally growing great veg in the face of unpredictable british weather). Finally Ben Raskin of the Soil Association/CSA Network UK hears from Plotgate CSA growers about the human-scale tools they are crafting to support people caring for the land. Thanks for listening and supporting the smaller scale farming community – it’s an exciting time for the future of farming!

Produced and edited by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose & Katie Revell.

#17 A zero-waste food system, pigness of pigs and sustainable woodlands

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In the depths of the long dark nights we wanted to do something a little different, so we headed to Silo in Brighton to record with special co-host, eco-chef Doug McMaster. He tells us all about his zero-waste philosophy and how this simple starting point has transformed what it means to prepare and serve food. We also hear what it means for a farmer to supply a zero waste restaurant, from Silo supplier Emile Webber and partner Miriam. They rear Large Black pigs at Hathor Farm, part of the Sacred Earth Community in Sussex.

Abby heads to the ancient woodlands of Norfolk to hear from Teddy Brun and son Freddie about the craft of managing these wonderful woodlands sustainably and profitably, now and for many generations to come using single tree selection.

Over in Gloucestershire, Abby and Nigel headed to a Sustainable Food Trust event discussing the future of livestock where they met Joel Salatin. Joel is a world-renowned alternative thinking mixed livestock farmer from Virginia, we will hear from him over the next few episodes but this month he tells us about his tips for respecting the pigness of the pig and what future technologies he would like to see.

Farmerama is produced by Jo and Abby and presented with Nigel.

#15 Dairy farming tips, transparent pricing, cheap soil testing, Wwoofing and a roundup from the first Scottish Farmhack

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After last month’s words from farmers around the world at the Slow Food Terra Madre, we are now back on British soil with stories from Perthshire to Devon.

We start on the west coast, with Patrick Holden from the Sustainable Food Trust. Patrick tells us about how he makes the most of the by-products from his dairy farm thanks to local producers Illtud & Leisel, and what a positive effect transparent pricing could have on all farmers.

We hear about a great little trick for soil testing on the cheap – the TBI – from systems thinker Dr Tom Powell. He used this technique to sample a Field of Wheat at many locations earlier this year to compare ‘underground’ activity in the soil.

And then we are in Shropshire to find out about some of the ups and downs of Wwoofing from Barbara at Babbinswood Farm. Wwoof UK celebrated its 45th birthday a few weeks ago and it’s great to hear about the contribution wwoofer’s have brought to Barbara’s farm, and how she has contributed to them.

Finally, we get a collection of dispatches from the first Scottish Farmhack organised by Common Good Food, an experience that had many people excited to share ideas and co-create tools – including new methods for crafting with the community minded MakLab.

You can listen online here or subscribe on iTunes here

We would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts about what’s good and bad in Farmerama! We are always looking for more contributors, ideas, anecdotes or stories from farmers and their friends all over – so please do get in touch if you have something you want to share!

Thanks to this month’s contributors Carolin Goethel at Food Assembly, Abi Glencross at Future Farm Lab, Keesje Crawford-Avis at The Burmieston Project , Abby Rose at vidacycle tech (and Farmerama) and of course our podcasting crafter Jo Barratt.

#14 Voices from around the world, storytelling fishers, an open-source tractor, holistic management, multiple suckling calves & eco-gastronomy

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We recorded Farmerama ‘live’ from Turin, Italy this month where thousands of small-scale farmers, shepherds, fishers, chefs and people committed to more resilient food systems from over 100 hundred countries around the world have come together to celebrate and share food and farming knowledge at the Slow Food Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, it’s like the UN for food systems.

In Turin eco-gastronomer David Szanto from the University of Gastronomic Sciences tells us about feeding all of our senses, fisherman Paul Molyneaux shares storytelling as an alternative to certification and we hear the united voices of farmers from around the globe coming together thanks to the Slow Food Network.

Back home the holistic management framework gives mob-grazer Rob Havard some clear goals at home and in the fields, Will Edwards has a super simple calf-feeding technique for his dairy herd and Alabama-based Locky shares about the Ogunn Tractor an open-source, easily fixable tractor.

If you want to find out more about Holistic Management, RegenAg UK are putting on a weekend introduction to financial and grazing planning 20-22 November, you can find out more here.

Reflections on Terra Madre compiled from different people’s voices:

The beauty of Terra Madre is saved in the smiles.

We walk differently, dress differently, communicate differently, yet we share soil moisture tips, ways of preparing foods, how to bring the hope back home.

The power lies in knowing, we now see the world with new eyes, we are not alone.

We may return to our villages or cities a single voice, but when we close our eyes we know the thousands of other people alone on hillsides, with small restaurants in distant towns, all caring for the land, bringing tasty, nourishing food to schools and hospitals, feeding 70% of the planet using only 30% of the resources.

We are all part of this web that is woven cross-continents and oceans.

They are giants, but we are millions.

#10 Giddy goats, a no-till, mob grazing & herbal ley winning combo plus young entrepreneurial growers & food poetry

Farmerama continues to share stories of experimentation – growers, farmers and food-makers doing things a little bit differently.

John and Joanna Cherry from Hertfordshire share what it takes to regenerate soils after many years of conventional farming, using a combo of no-till, mob-grazing and herbal leys. The tables are turned for Hannah as Alice Holden discovers Hannah’s work with kids in London and just what it takes to earn a living as a grower. Scottish kids also feature as Ruth from Harris Farm Meats gets giddy about her goats. And we have more poetry for you this month, as Dani Pandolfi and Sarah McCreadie rap their heads around roast dinners and what it means to eat meat. Lots to share and celebrate…

#8 The voice of small-holders, business tips for urban gardens, cellular agriculture and organics in Udaipur, India

And we’re off, as we happily hop into another Spring season. Beautiful flowers in bloom, lots of hard work planting veg for the year ahead and baby animals dotting the countryside.

This month we have a new contributor, small-holder Keesje Crawford-Avis heralding from the Scottish highlands. She shares her thoughts from the Scottish small-holder conference, in conversation with the Accidental Smallholder.

Hannah gets very excited about a few very simple business tips for budding urban gardeners that she gleaned from the team at Keats Community Organics in South London.

We have something a little unusual, a very open-minded cellular agriculturist, Abi Glencross, who wants to bring permaculture to the lab and find a way for her tissue cultures to be part of agroecological farming. See what you think…

and then we are brought back to the real world, Udaipur India, where Rohit Jain has helped setup a CSA-style membership model for Banyan Roots, connecting farmers to local people and producing grains with soul.

We also take a moment to acknowledge all those who help make food possible, we must never forget the producers are the linchpin of society. Thank you!! Thank you for caring for the people and our soils.

#7 Seeds on film, secret sauces, woodchip composts, Care Farming for health & finances, plus a few cheeky outdoor winter salads

From seeds on film to secret sauces, this month we journey over valley and vale to bring you interesting ideas and experiments in the smaller scale farming world.

Ben chats to Nick Bell, the co-creator of a ‘wonderful’ new seed saving resource, From Seed to Seed. Hannah returns this month as she digs into the health benefits and economics of care farming with Rachel Bragg, development coordinator at Care Farming UK. Ian ‘Tolly’ Tollhurst talks us through the highs and lows of wood chip composts, and throws in some experiments along the way. And Abby who’s still in sunnier climes working with Chilean farmers, reports from her family’s farm about a delicious, versatile and enterprising; but little known secret sauce.

#5 Low effort lettuce lawns, no-dig compost, blight-resistant potatoes, mobile polytunnels and special festive guests

We are in a festive mood this month…spirits are high with some special guests making a late appearance in the show. New reporter Hannah Shlotah chats lettuce lawns and cruush compost with grower Alice Holden at one of London’s best known urban farms Growing Communities in Dagenham.
UK CSA Network board member, Robert Simpson. makes a comeback with his tips on polytunnels for goats that play with planning regulations. Ben Raskin brings us up to date on the newest varieties of blight resistant potatoes through one of the Innovative Farmers trials and we hear from a farmer without a farm… Pete of Corsham Grazing is a clever farmer with 300-odd sheep and a thriving business that benefits all the farmers in the area.