#31: Growing herbs, Christian perspectives on farming and Aquaponics on diversified farms

(Alice Bettany of @sacred_seeds harvesting herbs for her CSA herbal medicine box scheme)

Welcome to Farmerama! This month, we hear from herb growers and suppliers about the opportunities for growing herbs in the UK. We have the first of a series of reports from Jubilee Farm in Northern Ireland, offering a Christian perspective on agriculture and the environment. We take a visit to Humble by Nature, a tenant farm in the Welsh Wye Valley run by TV presenter Kate Humble we hear from an artisan pasta producer in Italy.

One of the most exciting panels at this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference was all about growing and selling herbs in the UK. We learned that there’s real demand for good quality UK-grown herbs, and that more growers are finding ways to grow commercially here on a relatively small scale. We caught up with a few of the panelists: herb producer and medical herbalist, Helen Kearney; Managing Director of The Organic Herb Trading Company Jim Twine; and Alice Bettany who runs a CSA herbal box scheme (you can hear her on a ‘Shorts’ over on our soundcloud page).

Jonny Hanson is an environmentalist who’s involved in setting up Northern Ireland’s first Community-Supported Agriculture scheme, at Jubilee Farm, he tells us a bit about what they are building and what Christianity has to do with it all.

We meet Andrea Cavaliari, whose family have been producing pasta in Italy for generations by what he calls the delicate method. Finally we hear from Beca Beeby who setup and runs the Aquaponics project at Humble by Nature, a diversified farm in the Wye Valley, Wales. She is very clear that aquaponics is a brilliant addition to a mixed farm, but definitely not a substitute when it comes to growing food.

#30: Gove, agri-CULTURE, Human Ecology, Sanfoin and Pollarding

Hello and welcome to Farmerama, episode 30! This month we bring you stories from the 9th Annual Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC). The Conference this year was a bit different as politics took centre stage, we have a few words from Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in conversation with Zac Goldsmith. His positive words we hope will bring positive actions.

A brilliant part of the conference was the launch of The Soil Never Sleeps, a book of poetry from the Pasture Fed Livestock Association (PFLA), written by their poet-in-residence Adam Horowitz – you can get a copy here. We hear two PFLA farmers, Fidelity Weston and Chris Jones, share their experiences of working with a poet and read poems written about their farms.

Human Ecology and holistic food systems in cities are explained by Abi Morden of Propagate, who run Glasgow based food projects. Richard Smith, farm manager at Daylesford talks about his favourite crop, Sanfoin and just how beneficial it can be.

Finally we hear from Ted Green who is focused on pollarding for fodder – if that doesn’t mean anything to you (it didn’t to some of us) then listen in and all will be revealed!

This episode was produced by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt, and Katie Revell. Thank you to Joy Rose, Annie Landless and James Fryer for helping us capture stories at the conference. Thank you also to the wonderful fiddler Becky Dellow who played the music at the start of the show, performed between poems from the Soil Never Sleeps launch. And thank you also Katherine, Nessie and the ORFC team for making ORFC 18 such a success and pleasure to cover!

#29: Biodynamic vines, Catalonian chickens & medicinal plants

We have passed the darkest day here in the UK, every new day eeks out a few moments more light. To tide us over this month we have some slightly longer stories for you from 3 young farmers scattered across the globe.

First up, is young Welsh biodynamic farmer Dave Morris. He grows and makes natural wine at Ancre Hill Estates in Monmouthshire, Wales. Biodynamic farming is often seen as pretty esoteric but Dave makes it all seem fairly straightforward and sensible.

To get a biodynamic certification you must prepare and use both the 500 and 501 sprays. Preparation 500 is an animal horn manure and Preparation 501 is animal horn silica. Dave explains how he uses each in the vineyard.

We hear from Jaume Pretel, a chicken farmer in Catalonia who is moving towards making a living off the land and why he is doing this. Finally, Ari de Leña is the owner-operator of community-supported Kamayan Farm, near Seattle. As well as being a farmer, Ari is also an educator with a focus on the land and plants as medicine.

For the year ahead we’re excited to hear more stories from the fields, what’s important to you? We make Farmerama to share knowledge amongst the independent farming community so if you’ve got another story for us, do let us know.

A very happy new year to you all!

This episode was produced by Katie Revell, Jo Barratt and Abby Rose. Thanks to Joel Rodker for sending in the story about Catalonian chickens and to Annie Landless for all her support on social media.

If you have something you’d like to share, please get in touch. We’re farmeramaradio@gmail.com and you can find us easily on twitterinstagram and facebook.

#28: Films for the farming movement, rural-urban connections in Greece and fungi to manage weeds

Welcome to another episode of Farmerama with more voices from the smaller-scale farming communities in the UK and beyond.

This month we hear from two projects which are using film to share stories from the front-line of farming. First up is filmmaker Sabine Hellmann who shares about her Participatory Video work with small-scale farmers in Malawi, a practice she developed working with Insight Share. Also featured is the recently released ‘In Our Hands’ film from the Land Workers’ Alliance and Blackbark Films. They say, “At the heart of all change lies a story, and ‘In Our Hands’ is the story of a new kind of farm, a new kind of food and a new kind of society”.

We hear a brief excerpt from one of the farmers featured in the film, dairy farmer Josh Healey (pictured above) at North Aston Dairy. He has just 18 cows and runs a successful milk business employing 2.5 people. The film is free to screen and they encourage everyone to setup screenings in towns and cities around the UK to spread the word.
Thanks to the GROW Observatory team in Dundee, we meet sociologist Maria Partalidou, who’s been studying the relationship between urban and rural communities in Greece.

And we indulge in more fungi-love with soil expert Joel Williams as we learn how it’s possible to manage weeds simply by working with the microbial balance in the soil.

This month’s episode was produced by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell and Abby Rose. Special thanks to Pavlos Georgiadis and the Grow Observatory team for the interview from Greece, and thanks to Hannah Steenbergen for her interview with Humphrey.

If you have something you’d like to share, please get in touch. We’re farmeramaradio@gmail.com and you can find us easily on twitter, instagram and facebook.

#26: Fungi above & below ground, our microbiome, chicken homes & vines in the UK

Welcome back to Farmerama! This month we hear more from Dr Christine Jones, this time talking about why we plant cover crops and the wonderful world of fungi below our feet. If you missed her last month talking about carbon cycles and healthy plants/soils, then check out that episode here.

Young farmer Harry Boglione runs a truly mixed farm nestled amongst the Dorset hills. We visited earlier this summer and were amazed at the many different things he has going on at Haye Farm. He told us about his experiments to build the perfect mobile chicken hut and how the bird-flu threats earlier this year took his thinking in a whole new direction.

Patrick Mallery is a fungi fiend. He runs Upcycled Mushrooms and is all about using fungi to convert waste materials into something delicious and nutritious. We heard his tips on growing mushrooms outdoors and particularly how they can be a great companion crop to fruit trees.

We caught up with biologist Ann Bikle to hear how soil microbial underworlds are linked to human health and the microbiome. Anne and her husband David Montgomery are a geologist and biologist duo that have written a series of books about soil, microbial life and how this all relates to agriculture. We also spoke to David about good soil health and their most recent book – Growing a Revolution – and this ‘Short’ is up on our Soundcloud page.

Finally we headed back to Dorset at Bride Valley Vineyards, where vineyard manager Graham Fisher told us about his thoughts on growing grapes in a changing climate.

This show was made by Abby Rose, Katie Revell and Jo Barratt, with an additional interview from Abi Glencross.

Thanks again to our supporters E5 Bakehouse. If you’re ever in London, go try some of their bread – you can even see the grains being milled on site!

We’d also like to thank Annie Landless for the help she’s been giving us managing our social media. We are @Farmerama__ on Twitter and Instagram and you can easily find us on Facebook at Farmerama Radio. 

#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:

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.

#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.