#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

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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.

#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.

#9 SoilCity in Glasgow, Farmhack, urban farm updates, poetic landscapes and glasshouses, plus rural entrepreneurs

The Farmerama family is ever-growing, artist Alec Finlay sets the tone for this month’s adventures with his eco-poetry and the lineage of landscapes echoing throughout the episode. Alec’s performance is part of our report on Soil City at Glasgow International Festival, designed to reimagine the city as if soil matters. Clem Sandison tells us why the Open Jar Collective created Soil City for Glasgow, and Rebecca Chan chats to Severine von Taschen Fleming who led a Farmhack planning night for the Scottish contingent.

Ben pays a visit to the glasshouses at Hankham Organics for the Organic Growers Alliance AGM, Pete takes us on a tour of these glass giants and Kate Collyns lets us in on what being part of Organic Growers Alliance has meant for her growing.

Lambs-a-plenty over at Hockham Farm mean that Nigel is on duty day and night, luckily we do get to hear his voice among the masses over at the Farmers For Action March in London. He reports as farmers from all over the country downed their tools to spend hours travelling on buses and trains to get to London to make their voices heard.

Keesje brings to light how important the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Program has been for herself and other graduates, and Hannah brushes the soil from her hands just long enough to have a chat with Shelagh Martin, for the latest from the Dagenham farm.

Thanks also to David Szesztay for the beautiful notes guiding us through all these voices and to Olga who made the recordings of Alec at Soil City and sent them our way. What a wonderful bunch of people bringing Farmerama to life this month including everyone tuning in to listen.

#8 The voice of small-holders, business tips for urban gardens, cellular agriculture and organics in Udaipur, India

And we’re off, as we happily hop into another Spring season. Beautiful flowers in bloom, lots of hard work planting veg for the year ahead and baby animals dotting the countryside.

This month we have a new contributor, small-holder Keesje Crawford-Avis heralding from the Scottish highlands. She shares her thoughts from the Scottish small-holder conference, in conversation with the Accidental Smallholder.

Hannah gets very excited about a few very simple business tips for budding urban gardeners that she gleaned from the team at Keats Community Organics in South London.

We have something a little unusual, a very open-minded cellular agriculturist, Abi Glencross, who wants to bring permaculture to the lab and find a way for her tissue cultures to be part of agroecological farming. See what you think…

and then we are brought back to the real world, Udaipur India, where Rohit Jain has helped setup a CSA-style membership model for Banyan Roots, connecting farmers to local people and producing grains with soul.

We also take a moment to acknowledge all those who help make food possible, we must never forget the producers are the linchpin of society. Thank you!! Thank you for caring for the people and our soils.