#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 he 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 and 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.

#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

#17

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.

#6 Oxford Real Farming Conference, a positive health CSA, Field of Wheat uniting farmers & other folk, cover crops + no-till, & land songs

Join us this month to unfold new dialogues and build bridges at the Oxford REAL Farming Conference. Patrick Holden, of the Sustainable Food Trust, grows us a field-guide for the conference(s). We follow farmer Peter Lundgren and artist Anne-Marie Culhane through their rather unconventional art project – ‘A Field of Wheat‘ – sewing the seeds for new dialogues between farmers and other folk. We journey from a CSA in the grounds of a hospital to a healthier comeuppance for mixed cover crops tested by Peter Brown, director of the biodynamic association UK. All along the way we sing the songs of the land led by Robin Grey of 3 Acres and a Cow (intermingled with the lovely lone voice of one CSA farmer singing his version of the alphabet).