#25 soil carbon uncovered, chef-farmer connections, happy bees & homegrown veg

This month we we hear from across the pond as Abi Glencross talked to, Adam Kaye, head of Culinary Affairs at Blue Hill in New York. He tells us how close connections between farmers and cooks are giving birth to new dishes and revenue streams. You may remember back in episode 21 we chatted to root-to-fruit chef Tom Hunt about his clover dish for the wastED pop-up in London, well Adam was one of the chef’s behind that – it’s great to hear the stories of the different farmers and producers who helped make wastED happen here in the UK, and he tells us how they uncovered some interesting ways of working with Oilseed Rape.

(Photo from @CotswoldBeef Farm)

Internationally renowned soil expert, Dr Christine Jones, fills us in on the different carbon cycles in soil and what it really takes to build humus. We had never really understood the decomposition and liquid carbon pathways before, so she clarifies that nicely, plus talks about the latest research in cover crop mixes and the best way to build long-term structure in your soil.

From soils and plants to the wild world of insects that live in harmony with them. Marianne Landzettel explores an alternative view of bee-keeping with molecular biologist and beekeeping fanatic, Johannes Wirz. He is investigating ways to keep bees commercially without using chemicals to prevent the varroa mite, as these are proving devastating to honey bees worldwide.

Finally you’re invited to get involved in a citizen science project that celebrates allotments and home-grown veg. Roscoe Blevins who we met at Soilhack, shares the message of MYHarvest – (Measure Your Harvest), a citizen science research project he is helping to run at the University of Sheffield. He invites anyone who is growing food to feed themselves or their neighbours to track just how much food they are providing. The team at Sheffield Uni want to understand how much home-grown food contributes to UK National Food Production.

Adam Kaye of Blue Hill also mentions their fruitful collab with E5 Bakehouse for wastED London! We are very grateful to be supported by E5 Bakehouse, they have just harvested their Lys Brun heritage wheat grown over at Duchess Farms in Hertfordshire. So if you have been waiting to try a loaf, then be sure and pop down soon! In the next month or two, after the grain has rested a little, they will be freshly milling this heritage grain for their Hackney Wild and wholemeal loaves. Plus their in-house mill is rather beautiful and mesmerising to see in action.

This show was produced by Abby Rose, Katie Revell and Jo Barratt. Thanks to Marianne Landzettel and Abi Glencross for sending in recordings! See you next month!

#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:

#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.

#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.

#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.

#18 Thoughts from the ORFC, productivity of small-scale farmers, street play and diversity in storytelling, forest fires in Chile, soil life and no-dig insights.

For much of the farming community in the northern hemisphere, January is time to engage in conversation and share ideas and so we headed to the 8th Annual Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) at Oxford Town Hall, where over 800 farmers, chefs, makers, scientists and activists came together to share highs and lows encountered on the journey towards an agro-ecological future. This is a conference where communal silence is the welcome call and singing and stomping are part of the programme.

We have a few stories from the conference to share with you, firstly market gardener Rebecca Laughton from the Landworkers Alliance tells us about her investigations into the productivity of small-scale producers. We get stuck into no-dig experiments with Charles Dowding, learning about soil biology and the intriguing results from his latest forking trials. You can hear more about And finally we hear from Ashwini Shannikodi about Street Play as tool to tackle social problems in rural farming communities in India, as well as the importance of women in farming.

Abby also reports from Chile where she is currently evacuated from her family’s farm, vidacycle, as some of the largest forest fires in Chile’s history surround them.

Thank you all for listening to Farmerama this month and every month and thank you to all this month’s contributors Joy Rose, Darla Eno, Nigel Akehurst, Lauren Simpson, Phil Moore and Richard White at ORFC and Owen Barratt, who recorded the new music we have on this show.

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

#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!

#11 Organic Soil-less Growing?, landscape based eating, the ultimate salad harvester, crowdfarming, Food Assembly plus farmer to farmer advice networks in Kenya and Peru

Farmerama-ers…this episode we are brimming with innovations and new perspectives from all over the world. We enjoy crowd-farming oranges in Valencia, WeFarm’s farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing in Kenya and Peru and the community fuel of Food Assemblys around the country – all part of a panel discussion we chaired at the ReWork Future of Food Summit. Ben Raskin is back as he chats to Alan Schofield about an organic perspective on hydroponics, can soil-less growing be organic? Abby gets the low-down on a super salad tool from Pete at Sandhill Farms in Utah, and we learn how to eat our way to a stable climate by becoming climavores: landscape-based eating as proposed by design studio Cooking Sections.