#51: Compost, soil carbon vs soil health, a call to farm, CEREAL, and community beer

This month, we chat with compost pioneers Dr. David Johnson – a microbiology researcher and Associate at the Centre for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems at Chico State University, California – and his partner, Hui-Chun Johnson, about the breakthrough compost methodology they have devised, called BEAM.

Next, Abby shares some thoughts on soil carbon and soil health, encouraging us not to forget about all the many benefits of improving soil health aside from carbon sequestration. We hear an impassioned call to farming action from Jyoti Fernandes, co-founder of the Landworkers’ Alliance and member of La Via Campesina.

We are very excited to announce a six-part series called CEREAL on the UK Cereals industry, starting Sunday 24th of November. In the series, we ask how the industrial food system has come to dictate the life cycle of cereals, from seed to loaf, and introduce some of the people building alternative models for the future. This month, we share a conversation with John Letts, of Heritage Harvest and one of the original pioneers growing different types of grain in the UK.

Next, we chat to Ann Bodkin of Grow Beer, who, along with her community, grows her own hops and makes community beer through the Brixton Beer Company.

Keep an ear out for the next episode in our Women of the Land Series, produced in partnership with Chelsea Green Publishing, in which we’ll be featuring vermiculture queen Rhonda Sherman talking about her new book, ‘The Worm Farmer’s Handbook’.

Finally, a party announcement and a quick request. Join us to celebrate the launch of our CEREAL series. We’ll be raising a glass to the new grains movement and the farmers, millers, bakers and activists building a better future. Save the date: 21 November in London, and 29 November in Nottingham. Tickets will be released soon.

As we embark on our fifth year, we would love to hear your ideas on how we can make Farmerama even better. If you have a few minutes, please share what you’d like to hear in the future! 

Thanks for listening to Farmerama this month, and every month.  Community support for the show comes from Hanna Soderlund, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins, Olivia Oldham and Mary Hurd. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#50: Regenerative agriculture and climate change, seaweed entrepreneurship and noticing nature

This month, we begin by chatting to regenerative agriculture hero Charles Massy, who farms around 2000 acres of Merino sheep in Southern Australia. Charles makes sure to prioritise healthy, biologically active soil on his farm, and has a hugely biodiverse system, without any chemical input. We interviewed him at Groundswell this year, and we loved hearing him speak about the link between regenerative farming, human health and climate change.

Next, we head over to Fife, to check out Bowhouse – a production and market space that aims to connect small scale growers and producers directly with shoppers and restaurants. We’ll be releasing a short about Bowhouse soon, but in this episode we chat to Jayson Byles, who runs East Neuk Seaweed (one of the regular stalls at the monthly Bowhouse markets). Jayson tells us all about the beauty of foraging, and we learn about the abundance of seaweed in Britain, and how it can be harvested to reconnect with wild, seasonal food!

Finally, we connect with one of our Women of the Land – Brigit Strawbridge Howard. Brigit’s book, ‘Dancing with Bees’, came out on September 5th, and is a real journey of awakening alongside the wonderful world of bees. This time, we chat to Brigit about her mothers’ connection with nature in her final days, and we’re reminded of the importance of taking the time to notice the beauty of the natural world around us. If you’d like to hear more from Brigit, you can listen to our full length episode with her here.

We’d love to hear what you think about the show and to learn more about who you are. So we’ve created a short survey to help us understand what you like, and what you’d like to see more or less of on the show. Follow this link to take the survey – it will only take a few minutes.

Farmerama is made by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell and Abby Rose. This month, with extra support from Louis Hudson. Community support for the show comes from Hanna Soderlund, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins, Olivia Oldham and Mary Hurd. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#49: The Sustainable Cooperative, wilding, beneficial insects and connecting faith with farming

Image credit: Knepp Wildland

This month, we visit The Sustainable Cooperative (SCOOP) in Jersey, whose aim is to create a more sustainable supply of food on the island. Co-founder India Hamilton speaks about making sure that ecological farmers have a market, and that people have access to more affordable healthy, local food.

Next, we head back to Knepp Estate, where we quiz owner, farmer and author Isabella Tree about the idea that rewilding and farming are incompatible. We find out whether she sees herself as a farmer, her thoughts on how projects like Knepp fit into the farming landscape, and her vision of how rewilding can be part of a regenerative farming future.

Then, we return to Gothelney Farm in Somerset to hear from farmer Fred Price. He tells us how he’s building wildlife into the arteries and veins of his farm. We’re particularly intrigued by his plan to have every part of his farm within 50 metres of beneficial habitats.

Finally, we hear from Reverend Godwins Maere in conversation with our old friend Jonny Hanson at Jubilee Farm. They speak about Reverend Godwins’ work with a farming community in northern Malawi, and how his faith and farming practices are connected.

Keep an eye out for the next episode of our Women of the Land Series, produced together with Chelsea Green Publishing. On the 5th of September, we’ll be sharing the story of pollinator queen Brigit Strawbridge Howard and her new book, Dancing with Bees.

We’re so excited to be starting Farmerama’s 5th year with your support! Farmerama is made by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell and Abby Rose. This month, editing support was by Suzie McCarthy, Louis Hudson and Zack Ekpe. Community support for the show comes from Hanna Soderlund, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#48: Cover crops, pigs to pork, wilding and Chilean agroforestry

Image Source: Knepp Wildland

This month we’re celebrating our fourth birthday episode! We begin by hearing from cover-crop guru Jay Fuhrer from North Dakota, on the importance of soil monitoring and bespoke cropping systems. We spoke to Jay at Groundswell this year, and were fascinated by his clear explanation of Carbon to Nitrogen ratios in crops and soils, and how they can be considered when determining the perfect crop mix to boost soil health! 

Next, we chatted to Alice Percy, author of the fantastic book ‘Happy Pigs Taste Better’. We discuss the problems with industrial-scale slaughterhouses, and the importance of a humane and respectful approach to meat farming. You may have heard our chat with Alice as part of our ‘Women of the Land’ series recently, but this is some of our conversation that you won’t hear in the main feature!

We also caught up with Isabella Tree at Groundswell, author of the incredibly inspiring book, ‘Wilding’. Isabella is the co-founder of the Knepp Estate, along with her husband, Charles Burrell. She shares some stories from her experience of 18 years of low-intervention rewilding, with a focus on how nature can always be trusted to correct disruptive monoculture when left undisturbed. 

Finally, we hear all about an agroforestry system in Chile, from Edo at Mas Newen. It’s amazing to learn about the power of reintroducing native species in silvopasture, and how these agroforestry systems can be an incentive to local farmers to transition towards more regenerative methods. We loved hearing Edo speak about the value of natural farming systems, and how planting native Chilean species can later be harvested for botanic uses, while limiting damage from deforestation. 

We’re so excited to be heading into our 5th year of Farmerama with your support! Farmerama is made by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell and Abby Rose. This month, Suzie McCarthy and Louis Hudson supported by producing some of the features. Community support comes from Hanna Soderlund, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#47: Women farmers in Chile, woodchips, pasture-happy pigs and regenerative vineyard management

Credit to Johan Vineyard

This month, Abby spends some time with Josephina, a former art teacher, on her ranch in the Chilean mountains. Josephina started a group for women farmers in the region, which has grown to become a network of community support and friendship.

Then, we hear about the Woodchip for Fertile Soils project run by Sally Westaway from the Organic Research Centre. As part of the project, Robert Benford of Down Farm takes in wood from William Hamer’s Hampshire Woodfuel Cooperative, and uses it to improve his soil.

Next, we speak with Fred Price from Gothelney Farm, Somerset, who was on the show back in January. This time, he talks to us about a key part of his system: the pastured pigs. Fred explains how he uses a forage-based system to build soil, keep the pigs happy, and make sure the farm is ecologically and financially resilient.

We also hear back from another old friend from a few episodes ago, Dan Rinke. As well as his farming experiments with Kim Hamblin at Art and Science, Oregon, Dan manages Johan Vineyards in the Willamette Valley, and he walks us through his regenerative vineyard management system.

Finally, we return to the nuances of no-till and conservation agriculture, focusing this month on the application of glyphosate right before harvest in the UK, also known as pre-harvest crop desiccation. We can understand why farmers might want to do this, but this use of herbicides makes us uneasy. What do you think?

Thanks for listening to Farmerama this month, and every month. Farmerama is made by Abby Rose, Katie Revell and Jo Barratt. This month, editing was by Suzie McCarthy, Louis Hudson and Zack Ekpe. Community support for the show comes from Hanna Soderlund, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#46: Vandana Shiva, Loans for Enlightened Agriculture, Mulching & No-till talk

This month, we begin by hearing from Vandana Shiva – an incredibly inspiring speaker who champions biodiversity and small-scale farmers around the world. We were lucky enough to catch Vandana at a Farming the Future event in London last month, and were blown away by her passionate vision of food as “the currency of life”.

Next, we respond to a question we received recently about no-till farming and agri-business. Abby discusses the subject, and explains why the no-till method alone doesn’t always mean an ecological approach is being used!

We then hear from Robert Fraser at the Real Farming Trust, who tells us all about the Loans for Enlightened Agriculture Programme (LEAP). Launched this year, LEAP is an exciting new project where social investment loans and grants are given alongside mentoring, to agro-ecological food and farming enterprises in need of a boost to grow to their next stage.

Finally, we hear from Johannes Storch, who we caught up with at the Oxford Real Farming Conference in January. Johannes came from the Bio-Gemusehof farm in Germany, and tells us about the importance of collecting data on his farm, and how he puts his observations into action. He explains how he preserves soil fertility and supports nature at Bio-Gemusehof with a carefully designed mulching system.

Farmerama is made by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt and Katie Revell. This month, we also had editing support from Suzie McCarthy and Louis Hudson. Thanks to Rob Reed from the A Team Foundation for his recorded interview this month. Community support is by Hanna Soderlund, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

And as always, thanks to our supporters Rebel Kitchen. Their mission is to redefine health through food, business and beyond. They have a different kind of health message – one that doesn’t separate the individual from the whole, and one that is based on actions instead of preaching – because it’s all connected.

#45: Gardens of Sanctuary, the adventure of organic farming, and biodynamic wines

Photo credit: Green Backyard

This month, we start the show with a story about Gardens of Sanctuary, a network of green spaces across the UK started by Ben Margolis, co-founder and Executive Director of The Grange, Norfolk and Sophie Antonelli, Growing Together Advisor for the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. The initiative aims to provide asylum seekers and refugees a place where they can become co-creators of community gardens and environmental projects, providing opportunities for therapeutic benefits and community integration.

Next, we take a trip across the pond to talk with Eliot Coleman, an organic farming legend who has been running Four Season Farm in Maine for over 50 years. Eliot has just published a new edition of his book “The New Organic Grower”, an important read for organic farmers and market gardeners everywhere. The way Eliot talks about organic farming is similar to the principles behind regenerative agriculture – it’s all about being guided by soil health and working with the natural world.

Then we hop across to Montinore Estate, a biodynamic vineyard in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Rudy Marchesi, the president and chief viticulturalist at Montinore, is a globally respected biodynamic winegrower, and he shares with us some tips for using biodynamic methods on a larger scale.

We finish up with a message from Joel Rodker, who is saying goodbye to Harvest Barn Market Garden. We wish him the very best and are looking forward to following his future endeavours.

We’re delighted to be nominated for a Bullseye Award at this years British Podcast Awards. We’ll let you know how we get on next month! You can also vote for us in the listeners’ choice award by going to britishpodcastawards.com/vote and typing in ‘Farmerama’. It takes less than a minute, and voting closes on the 15th May.

Thanks to Rebel Kitchen for supporting this episode! Rebel Kitchen are a member of 1% for the Planet. This means they donate 1% of their sales (not just their profits!) to partners contributing to the planet – and it’s through this commitment that they’re helping to support us to share knowledge within the farming community and to spread the word to many more farmers and growers.

This month’s show was made by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose and Katie Revell. We had help with editing from Louis Hudson and Suzie MacCarthy. Thanks to Joy Rose for sending in the recording about Gardens of Sanctuary. Community support is handled by Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#44: Radical roots, Slow Money, CSAs and Allies

This month, we begin by hearing from Kim Hamblin and Dan Rinke of Roshambo Art farm in Oregon, who share their story of building resilience in their orchard through diversity. In the Pacific Northwest, climate change is increasing the occurrence of droughts, so Dan and Kim have also recently planted a seedling orchard, which increases heat resistance through better taproot connections to groundwater, and allows the trees to genetically adapt to their surroundings.

Next, we speak to Woody Tasch, a forward-thinking and environmentally conscious financier who founded the Slow Money movement. Slow Money defies the prevailing economic ethic of fast-paced globalised trade, instead focusing on soil and community health, through boosting local trade between growers and their surrounding community.

Next, we’re back to Jubilee farm, where Jonny Hanson reports from their recent #CSAacrossborders event with the UK and Ireland CSA networks. We loved hearing about the power of community supported agriculture to forge new bonds across international borders, with its focus on cooperation rather than division.

Last but not least, we hear from the super inspiring Brenda Ruiz, a chef and food educator who represented Slow Food USA at Terra Madre last year. She shares her dedication to allyships in the working environment, reminding us of the importance of collaborating with those around you, to connect restaurants, farms and food with integrity.

Thanks to Rebel Kitchen for supporting this episode! Rebel Kitchen are a member of 1% for the Planet. This means they donate 1% of their sales (not just profits!) to partners contributing to the planet – it’s through this commitment that they are helping to support us to continue to share knowledge in the farming community and spread the word to many more farmers and growers.

Farmerama is made by Katie Revell, Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. This week, editing by Suzy MacCarthy and Louis Hudson. Thanks to Jonny for sending in the story about CSAs. The Farmerama theme music is by Owen Barratt. Thanks as ever to our community team: Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham.

#43: Children growers, travelling cow laboratory, silvopasture, and a taste of sustainable wine

Thank you Tasca D’Almerita for the photo!

This month, we learn about the importance of involving young children in food growing and a much-loved friend of the show shares some wisdom on cattle management. We get an introduction to the whole-system approach of silvopasture, and we taste some natural wine in Sicily.

First up, we heard from Deb Moses, a new farmer who champions the cause of involving the very young in food growing. She realised the power of gardening to inspire very young children when her own son was born, and was amazed to see just how much it changed their relationship to food and flavours when they got involved in growing.

Abby bumped into our old friend Greg Judy, an enthusiastic mob grazer based in Missouri after the Savanna Institute Perennial Farm Gathering in Wisconsin. He explained to her how his herd remineralises the land for him. He also shared his thoughts on running a single large herd all year round, including 50 bulls, to mimic what happens in nature.

Steve Gabriel, an ecologist, educator and forest farmer from the Finger Lakes region of New York was at the Oxford Real Farming Conference earlier this year. We caught up with him about his ideas on silvopasture, including some great tips on integrating trees, grasses and animals in a single system. Steve explained that the biggest challenge he has faced in setting up his own silvopasture system has been to get the trees established in the first place.

We joined a wine tasting session in Sicily with Fabrizia Lanza and Alberto Tasca. They are well-known in Italy for promoting sustainability and the use of indigenous grapes. Alberto shared with us his feelings on the importance of measurement, the value of knowledge sharing and the need to look beyond flashy story-telling. The Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school has a 10 week “Cook the Farm” program which runs each year.

Finally, a heads-up. Public consultation has finally begun on the “Good Food Nation Bill” in Scotland. Nourish Scotland has put together a really handy guide to the consultation questions. It includes simple explanations of the questions, as well as suggested responses, and you can find the guide on the Nourish website. If you’re in Scotland, take a few minutes to respond – but make sure you do so by the 29th of March when consultation closes.

Thank you to our supporters Rebel Kitchen. Rebel Kitchen chose to become a Certified B Corporation so they could stand up and be proudly measured against the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. They’re honoured to be part of this movement driving change and playing their part in solving world social and environmental problems. They believe in a future where companies not only compete to be the best in the world but also the best for the world.

Farmerama is made by Katie Revell, Jo Barratt and Abby Rose. Thank you Suzie McCarthy for editing support this month. Thank you to Claire Roberson, Sam McKeown and James Fryer for sending in recordings this month. Community support is by Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

 

#42: No-cost agriculture in Zambia, Biofertilisers and a Regenerative farming journey

This month we head to the tenth annual Oxford Real Farming Conference. First up we hear the inspirational story of 5000+ women who are now practising natural agriculture, or no-cost agriculture, on farms and smallholdings across Southern Zambia. Back in the UK we get the lowdown on biofertilisers providing food for microbes, and finally we hear the ups and downs of a regenerative farming journey from one young farmer in Somerset.

Photo: one of the famers who are part of the Natural Agriculture Development Program in Zambia. Thanks so Shumei Intl for the photo.

January for us, and many others across the UK farming community, means ORFC – The Oxford Real Farming Conference – now in its tenth year and this year double the size.

There were more speakers than ever and the Landworker’s Alliance ceilidh was a definite highlight.

First up, this month, is one of our favourite sessions at the conference with Barbara Hachipuka Banda, founder of the Natural Agriculture Development Program in Zambia. Barbara is working with Shumei International and thousands of women in Zambia to teach and promote natural agriculture – or “no-cost” agriculture, as she calls it.

We have been intrigued by biofertilisers for a while now as we have heard from a number of different farmers and growers who are excited about them, yet the scientific community often seem unconvinced by them. At ORFC we got the lowdown from Matt Dunwell and Juanfran Lopez who regularly run courses on biofertilisers (and much more) at Ragman’s Farm, a 60 acre farm in the Forest of Dean. They explain that unlike compost teas, biofertilisers are all about providing food and nutrition for the microbes, not actually brewing microbes themselves.

Finally we hear from Fred Price who was part of a panel on becoming a soil health expert on your own farm, hosted by Abby and the team behind the Sectormentor for Soils app. Fred has been farming at Gothelney Farm in Somerset for the last 10 years. From the start, he’s been on a quest to be the best farmer he can be. Initially, that meant maximising his yields and being as productive as possible. Within a few years, he’d achieved those goals – but then he started to realise it didn’t all add up. The questions he began to ask have led him on a regenerative journey – a process of un-learning the chemical farming mindset and instead using the soil as his guide to build the health of his farm

Be sure and keep an ear out later in the month for our Short which features brilliant perennial polyculture farmer Kathy Dice with some tips from her pick-your-own farm in Iowa, Red Fern Farm. We met Kathy at the Perennial Gathering put on by the Savanna Institute in Wisconsin late last year. The Savanna Institute are laying the groundwork for widespread agroforestry in the Midwest. Over 100 farmers and researchers gathered to share learnings from different agroforestry and silvopasture operations. Kathy has some great tips…

Photo: Pastured pigs on Gothelney Farm, Somerset

Thanks as ever to our supporters for this episode Rebel Kitchen! Their health message doesn’t separate the individual from the whole, and demonstrated through actions, not just words. As they point out, it’s all connected. We couldn’t agree more!

Farmerama is made by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt and me, Katie Revell. This month, we also had help from Louis Hudson and Suzie McCarthy. Thank you to the Oxford Real Farming Conference for kindly allowing us to use their recording of Barbara Hachipuka Banda speaking at the event.

Community support is by Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and our theme music is by Owen Barratt.