#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:

NOCC 17: growing, milling & baking wheat populations plus relay cropping, compost teas & companion planting.

On July 6th we headed to Fullerton Farms Partnership near Andover with a couple hundred farmers for the tenth National Organic Combinable Crops (NOCC) event. The day was alive with farmers, traders, researchers, millers, processors and bakers exchanging ideas of how to work together to support ecological farming methods and grow and make healthy food.

This is a special episode commissioned by Organic Farmers and Growers who organised NOCC. OF&G is the largest certifier of organic land in the UK working with producers and processors to ensure their products meet the highest organic standards. Their commitment to be open, innovative and support a better farming future for all echoed throughout every corner of the barn. We hear discussions of new varieties: growing, milling and baking wheat populations and then organic and non-organic farmers experiment with relay cropping, compost teas and companion planting.

OH and just so you know, it was soooo hot, the sweltering heat kept everyone sweaty but undeterred to gather every grain of knowledge they could.

We hear from Ed Dickin about his work on breeding, then Kimberly Bell of the Small Food Bakery and Josiah Meldrum of Hodmedods link up the whole supply chain and show how diversity in the field can be reflected in the food we eat.

We also hear from 3 farming greats, John Pawsey details his relay cropping experiments, Sophie Alexander gives us the lowdown on her compost tea trials and Andy Howard shares his investigations into companion cropping both home and away.

This episode was produced by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt and Katie Revell.

Listen here:

#23 Indigenous Soils, regenerative farming in Malawi, Essex Sea Buckthorn & no-till Meet the Farmers

This month we begin with our first report from the SoilHack gathering, a wise lady, Mama D explores how our cultural roots are entwined with the soil. We visit the Tiyeni project in Malawi, started by local farmers to regenerate soils and bring food security back to local people. We hear from Tiyeni Senior manager, Isaac Monjo Chavula, about the Tiyeni deep bed method and why it’s so important for food security and Albert Msuku speaks about the posiive impact it’s having for farmers. Then we are back in the garden of England talking to Essex farmer David Eagle about his Sea Buckthorn setup and how he and his son, Ben, are dealing with the ever encroaching sea chipping away at their farmland – being so exposed to the changing climate and seas has changed their long-term plans for the farm. Plus we get a short snippet from Ben’s podcast, Meet the Farmers, where he is talking no-till with a neighbour, David Lord.

Thank you to all who contributed to this episode – and to all those who listen. Farmerama is here for you! This episode was crafted and produced by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt and Katie Revell. Special thanks to Bex Kelley for sorting the recordings from Malawi.

#21 Care farming around the world, cover crop porridge, small farmers activism, purple corn and Pasture for Life Poetry

This month we hear from Robin Asquith, Yorkshire-based Care Farm Manager at Camphill Village Trust, about an amazing variety of Care Farming projects he visited around the world as part of his Nuffield Farming Scholarship. From a farm in the Netherlands employing many homeless people picking tomatoes to help them gain confidence in working life, to Norwegian care farms where people suffering from dementia get to enjoy the outdoors and be part of an active community regardless of their memory loss. We would like to say a special thank you to Robin for sending in that recording, he contacted us on twitter and we helped him to make that recording with someone from his community. It’s really important to us to help farmers get their voice heard and if you would like to feature on the programme, please do get in touch. We’ll work with you to support you in getting a recording together.

Next up Darla Eno catches up with Paula Gioia, a member of La Via Campesina, the global peasants’ movement. Paula talks about the importance of international solidarity between small-scale farmers and the challenge of balancing activism with farm work. Paula also digs into this word ‘peasant’ in German, drawing out important distinctions about the type of farming it is linked to. In English it seems we have one word for all land-workers, ‘farmers’, as peasant often means many other things. What do you think and what landworker ‘label’ do you feel comfortable with? Please do let us know on twitter, instagram or facebook!

We speak to sustainable chef, Tom Hunt, about the unusual dish he put together for the recent Dan Barber food-waste restaurant in London, wastED. This is where farming methods meet food – as crop rotations begin to craft the plate. Clover anyone?

Abi Glencross hears from Shelley Spruit of Against the Grain Farms in Canada, about what it has taken to put purple corn on the map and why it is such an important move.

We also have a special treat – some poetry written at this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference by Adam Horovitz who is the poet-in-residence at The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association. We think this is a brilliant idea – showing that culture and agri-culture are so entwined.

Thanks as ever to the wonderful farmers out there working with and caring for the land and seas, ensuring everything in the ecological web thrives. We are here to support you!

This month we have had reporting from Robin Asquith & Abby Rose, Abi Glencross, Darla Eno and the show was produced and edited by Abby Rose, Katie Revell and Jo Barratt.

#16 Agroforestry, small data, food sovereignty and people’s food policies

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Farmerama have learnt that farming’s best economic models mimic nature’s clever ways and make many things from the same piece of land.

Farmer Stephen Briggs tells us about one of these clever models. He fills us in on his  agroforestry setup or ‘3D farming’, where he grows organic apples and cereals on his 150 acres in Cambridgeshire. We also hear a few thoughts from Ben Raskin, head of horticulture at the Soil Association, who is just starting a new agroforestry project in Wiltshire at Helen Browning’s Organic Farm.

Our co-host Abby shares a tool she initially created for her family’s farm to help them build a more resilient business using ‘small data’. Now other farmers are using it in the UK and Chile, in particular we hear from Davenport Vineyards about how they have used it to help their vineyard prosper.

We finish with a bit of a food sovereignty focus – two reports from different ends of Britain both building people’s food policies: in Scotland we hear about the ‘Good Food Nation Bill’ and Dee Butterly, talks us through ‘The People’s Food Policy’ supported by The Landworker’s Alliance. In our divided world we wonder if food and farming could be a web that will connect us all.

Farmerama is produced by Jo and Abby and presented with Nigel. Reporting this week was from Nigel, Abby, Katie and Phil. This week we have additional sound design by Eight Fold Way, music by Michael and we have much appreciated social media support from Madeline and Richard.

#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.

#13 Post-brexit perspectives, soil tests uncovered, practical farm advice & seed journeys

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We are at a crossroads in British food and farming history, so this month we begin to probe the post-Brexit discussion. We hear a few candid kitchen-table chats with different farm families, including Ed Hamer, grower at Chagfood and policy person at Land Workers Alliance.

Soil tests are untangled, the hidden truths behind the tests is revealed after National Trust Farmer Richard Morris raises some questions, which Innovation for Agriculture soil-man Stephen Briggs answers for us all.

We learn about practical knowledge sharing platform Agricology, which bridges the gap between science and what really happens on the farm. Plus, we hear about one of the projects they feature on their site: Fit for the Future Network, a network that shares experiences of renewable energy between newcomers and people/institutions with established projects.

Future Farmer Amy Franceschini tells us about the heritage seeds headed from Norway to the Middle East, returning to their homeland on an artistic voyage of discovery, the Seed Journey.

This is the beginning, we all need to sew the seeds of an agricultural policy that leads to a positive food and farming future in the UK.

#12 Growing garlic, apprenticeships near and far, neo-peasant politics plus diverse cropping techniques home and abroad

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We’ve now been following the nitty gritty of the smaller-scale farming world for one growing year. One journey of this world around the sun. We’ve chanced upon and dug up so many stories, met inspirational farmers and growers. The podcast has spiralled from a discussion over dinner, into an adventure uncovering different ideas, perspectives and techniques along the way.

This episode we head back to Utah but this time for a garlic special in the Wasatch mountains at Sandhill Farms. They grow over 50 types of garlic and tell us tips of how to grow garlic yourself. Hannah hears inspiring stories from a Dagenham trainee about the importance of farming opportunities for her life.

Diverse cropping is on the cards, we learn of long-established Mexican intercropping methods and companion cropping closer to home.Finally we hear from new reporter Phil as he chats to one of his small-farm heroes, Chris Smaje at Vallis Veg about neo-peasant politics. Listen in to find out what it’s all about!

#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…