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#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

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.