#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:

#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.

#19 Traditional methods & new tools, future growers, rewilding and Cambodian learnings

As Spring draws nearer we bring you Joel Salatin talking traditional methods and modern tools. Joel calls this new-fashioned farming, where systems such as cow-feed lots and high chemical input systems are now old-fashioned. We also have an example of new-fashioned farming in action from Angus, Scotland where Pasture For Life farmers, Andrew Brewster and his brother have cattle on 900 acres. He tells us about the low-tech tools and setup they put together to get their rotational grazing off the ground.

We begin to unpick the world of rewilding with Steve Carver of the Wild Land Research Institute. This is something that has caused much debate and upset amongst farmers, conservationists and wildlife fans alike. Steve explains that it’s not anti-farming at all and emphasises that we all need to work together to create connected habitats up and down the country.

Next up are despatches from the Soil Association Future Growers apprenticeship, a very popular way for new farmers to learn about growing veg. We hear from current students, alumnae Laura Newman and organiser Rachel Harries to get different perspectives. Finally we hear from Cambodian farmers and teachers about their experience of learning to grow organically thanks to the Green Shoots Foundation.
So many thanks to our contributors this month, Muneezay Jaffery and Joy Rose. Farmerama was produced by Jo Barratt and Abby Rose.

Young Farmers Meeting – ORFC & OFC

 

Invitation to an event:

Wednesday 4th Jan 16:15 – 17:45 we are co-hosting a small informal meeting for young farmers during the ORFC and OFC at St Aldates Tavern, 108 St Aldates, Oxford, OX1 1BU

We are gathering a small group of young farmers, from a mix of backgrounds, to come along and share their stories, the challenges they face and their hopes for the future.

We recognise there are two events happening at the same time in the same town and we think it’s important that as the next generation of farmers we start to build bridges across that divide – and begin a conversation, share our stories, share a common understanding which we can build learning and friendships from. Farming in the UK is not easy for anyone and this is a time to start learning with each other.

Please do come along if this interests you, we welcome anyone including those not young in years but young at heart!

This will begin a series of events, blogs and other things to try and bring together farmers from all walks of life and to communicate the views of young farmers.

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

#16

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.

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

unnamed

#13
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

unnamed

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!