#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.

#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.

#41: Turtle Island, banana bonanza, soil regeneration and market garden updates

This month, we meet Lorraine Kahneratokwas, who tells us about Slow Food Turtle Island, an inspiring collective that represents over 500 indigenous nations at Salone del Gusto, Terra Madre. Turtle Island is the name given to the North American continent by many indigenous peoples; this Slow Food Association includes indigenous nations from Canada, the USA and Mexico. We learn stories from the origins of the island, and hear about traditional growing practices, where good intentions, songs and ceremonies allow crops to flourish.

We then head to Java, Indonesia, where we learn about the Heritage Yogyakarta Banana Varieties Presidium. This is one of over 500 Presidia: a Slow Food International initiative aiming to protect and sustain unique or local foods, while recovering traditional practices. Java-based food researcher Amaliah Khanima tells us all about the beauty of banana biodiversity. Amaliah is keen to inspire the younger generation on the island to get involved, and shares some local recipes, and savvy natural tips for pest prevention.

Next, we hear from a hugely influential figure in the regenerative agriculture movement; Gabe Brown. Gabe has been running his 5,000 acre farm in North Dakota since 1991, and begun to focus on regenerative methods after devastating hailstorms on his land highlighted the issues with conventional farming. Gabe’s farm now boasts a high soil resilience, which he achieves through zero-till policy, crop diversity and high intensity mob grazing of cattle. He believes that farms should provide to the local community, as well as providing ecological services to the local environment.

Finally, we hear from our regular market gardening reporter, Joel Rodker, with an end-of-year update on the highs and lows of making a living from a small plot of land.

Thanks to Rebel Kitchen for supporting this episode! Earlier this month Rebel Kitchen celebrated World Soil Day by sharing about the different regenerative agriculture initiatives they support as part of their 1% for the Planet commitment. You will find a link to their post on our socials, or head to rebel-kitchen.com to read more.

Leah Penniman: Farming While Black

In this special episode, brought to you by Chelsea Green Publishing, we hear from a super inspiring small-scale farmer, Leah Penniman. Leah is a farmer, activist, author and co-founder of Soul Fire Farm in New York: a family farm committed to restoring food-sovereignty and ending injustice in our food system. (Photo: Onion harvest on Soul Fire Farm credit:Leah Penniman).

In the last century, over 14 million acres of land in the US have been taken from the control of black farmers. Leah’s recent book, ‘Farming While Black’, published by Chelsea Green, is a stirring manifesto that aims to reconnect people of colour to the land, in sharing Afro-indigenous traditions and sustainable farming practices that have been aggressively undermined through slavery and colonialism. At Soul Fire Farm, innovative programmes such as the ‘Black-Latinx Farmers Immersion’ and a sliding-scale farmshare ‘CSA’, work to reverse systematic food injustice.

This is a story of one black woman embracing the land and activating a whole community to do the same. The book is at once fiercely political, deeply practical, and unashamedly spiritual, because as Leah shows us…. farming is ALL of those things.

The podcast is brought to you by Chelsea Green Publishing, the leading publisher of books on sustainable food and farming, including Farming While Black by Leah Penniman. To get this book and discover more great titles visit chelseagreen.com

This show is made by Katie Revell, Jo Barratt and Abby Rose. Thanks to Leah Penniman for sharing her recordings of field songs and Yabisi Asili for sharing his experiences. Community support is provided by Annie Landless and Eliza Jenkins.

#39: Beginner farmer tips, Piglet to Plate and small-scale farmers Feed the World

First up this month, farmer, writer and activist, Leah Penniman, of Soul Fire Farm in New York State, shares  3 top tips for farmers who are just starting out. We also hear how Leah is committed to the duty of stewarding life on her farm. Although she herself is a vegetarian, she keeps and kills animals on Soul Fire Farm and shares the knowledge of these practices with others. (The photo this month is from Soul Fire Farm. Credit: Leah Penniman.)

Leah has just written a book, Farming While Black, which is both a manifesto and a manual. It includes recipes, wisdom from diasporic African farmers, and practical techniques for setting up a small-scale farm.

You can hear much more from Leah in our special episode (out November 4th), brought to you by Chelsea Green Publishing, which digs deeper into her story of Farming While Black.

 

Continuing the somewhat taboo theme of killing animals, we hear from Millie Diamond in north Wales. Through her @piglet2plate Instagram account she candidly shares her experience of keeping, killing and eating her own pigs.

 

Next up, we head to London and the We Feed the World Exhibition on London’s South Bank. We hear from speakers on the opening night, including Theo Sowa of the African Women’s Development Fund. Theo tells us how the We Feed the World exhibition begins to challenge the dangerous myths of industrial agriculture and presents an alternative story about the passionate smallholders who understand and care for the land.

 

Finally Vandana Shiva shares with us some powerful reflections on what the We Feed the World exhibition means for all of us. She leaves us with her compelling call to action, stating that “it is not a luxury, but an imperative to defend the small-scale farmers of the world”!

We would like to thank Rebel Kitchen for supporting this episode. Rebel Kitchen are all about redefining health. But they have a different kind of health message, and we think that’s great. It’s a health message that doesn’t separate the individual from the whole, and that’s based on actions instead of preaching – because, as they point out, it’s all connected. Amen to that!

Farmerama is produced by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose, and Katie Revell. Social media is led by Annie Landless with Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and the music is by Owen Barratt.

#36: Wondrous worms, cow pats, biodynamic vines and Free Range Families

This month we hear from Jackie Stroud, a Soil Scientist at Rothamsted Research and, renowned in the UK farming community as “The Worm Lady”. She runs a citizen science project called #60minworms to encourage farmers to count the number and importantly types of worms in their soil. Jackie talks us through the different types of worms and why each one is important. Learn how to identify worms with her wonderfully simple quiz and get involved in the next #60minworms this September.

Greg Judy is an enthusiastic mob grazer based in Missouri. He talks to us about getting animals back on the land and building biodiversity in grasslands, including the importance of cow pats… all with the goal of increasing the long-term viability of your farm. You can hear the full interview with him on this month’s Short.

Then we head over to California for thoughts on regenerative agriculture from long-time vintner Paul Dolan who runs the Dark Horse Vineyard and Farming Company, a biodynamic enterprise based in Mendocino County. He tells us about some different experiments he is doing looking at water availability with his dry-farmed vines.

Finally we dip into the Free Range Families initiative at Jubilee Farm in Northern Ireland. Last month, they hosted the very intriguing sounding “Bioblitz” festival. Farmer Jonny Hansentells us about the festival, and speaks to GROW Wild manager Stephanie Bain about the Free Range Families programme.

We are also very excited to announce our new supporters Rebel Kitchen!

Their mission is to redefine health through food, business and beyond.

As we have heard from many people, health starts on the farm. It’s so important to have food companies actively supporting, and engaging with, the farming community – connecting up the dots for the wellbeing of humans and the earth. You will hear a bit more about what they do in a future episode.

 

One last thing, please do head to our Soundcloud to tune into the audio-diary of grower Joel Rodker, as he works to set up his first Market Garden. Joel would love suggestions and encouragement in the comments!

This show was produced by Abby Rose, Katie Revell, and Jo Barratt. Additional reporting this week came from Jonny Hansen at Jubilee Farm. Social media is managed by Annie Landless and our theme music by Owen Barratt.

#34: 3D Ocean Farming, Mental Health, Gene Activation in plants & Chilean Circle Agriculture

This month we hear from self-confessed non-environmentalist, Bren Smith, about an ocean-based farming solution that might inadvertently be saving the environment as well as providing a simple, new and sensible option for people wanting to make a living from the sea. Bren is executive director and co-founder of Greenwave, a fisherman-run organization focused on 3D Ocean Farming of kelp. Their polyculture vertical farming system grows a mix of seaweeds and shellfish that require zero inputs while sequestering carbon and rebuilding reef ecosystems.

 

We get stuck into the very important issue of mental health in farming with Jonny Hanson at Jubilee Farm in Northern Ireland. He speaks to his wife Paula, a trainee counselor, to discuss the intersection of mental health, wellbeing and farming. They talk about The Farming Community Network, who have a helpline to support Farmers struggling with mental health, all details are here.

Marco Bentzien farms with his family at Fundo Laguna Blanca in the 9th Region in Chile, under the watch of 2 volcanoes, one still active, the landscape is incredibly lush, a real feast for the eyes. This sanctuary is something Marco wants to share and here he tells us about the importance of community and opportunities to be involved in what he calls ‘circle agriculture’.

 

We caught up with Joel Williams of Integrated Soils again at last month’s brilliant Future of UK Farming Conference put on by the Sustainable Food Trust. Joel tells us how plants turn on certain genes, how this relates to seed saving and just how important mycorrhizae are as a plant’s communication channel.

 

You can also tune into our Short this month to hear from Pasture For Life farmer Rob Havard who was also at the Future of UK Farming Conference. He tells us some clever tips on how to harvest your own seeds for planting herbal leys and how he has been experimenting with terminating herbal leys, working solely with his animals.

 

This weeks show was produced by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose and Katie Revell. Additional reporting from Jonny Hanson at Jubilee farm. Thank you to Annie Landless for doing a sterling job of keeping everyone informed on social media, and to all of our guests and listeners. Music for Farmerama is made by Owen Barratt.