#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.

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.

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.

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