#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

 

#33: Kitchen Table talks, Jersey soils, trade deals, pig clubs and bee-lieving

This month we have a political focus and still manage to squeeze in some brilliant stores of soils and microbes. Firstly we share some personal stories from a ‘kitchen table talk’, on what good food means to the people of Scotland. These Kitchen Table Talks are a way of enabling the public to feed their ideas into the Good Food Nation Bill, you can hear more about this initiative from Nourish Scotland in this Short.

We hop over to Jersey to hear from young farmer Justin Le Gresely at Anneville Farm about their first attempt to produce potatoes and vegetables with zero external inputs. He shares how they’re using microscopes and compost extracts to guide bacterial and fungal populations trying out an innovative approach to growing the island’s favourite potato, the Jersey Royal.

REMINDER: If you do live in the UK, then there’s only a few days left to respond to the consultation on the Agricultural Bill “Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit”, which sets out the government’s ambitions for farming in England and seeks the views of all readers on its proposals.

This will dictate government policy in farming (and food!) for many years to come, and now is the time to get your voice heard. Have your say here! It’s not just farmers who need to respond, but anyone who cares about the environment or eats food. So… that’s everyone, then.

Next we have an update from Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University London, in conversation with reporter Marianne Landzettel on ‘Green Brexit’ and trade deals.

We’re happy to revisit Jubilee Farm in Northern Ireland, to hear an update from their CSA and head farmer Jonny Hanson chats to Dr Jude Stephens, a smallholder-turned-lecturer at Queens University Belfast, about the promise of Pig Clubs — intrigued? We are!

The show ends with a catchy tune from the bee-lievers, ooh Mr Gove, we sincerely hope you’re listening. 🐝 🐖🍭🍏

#31: Growing herbs, Christian perspectives on farming and Aquaponics on diversified farms

(Alice Bettany of @sacred_seeds harvesting herbs for her CSA herbal medicine box scheme)

Welcome to Farmerama! This month, we hear from herb growers and suppliers about the opportunities for growing herbs in the UK. We have the first of a series of reports from Jubilee Farm in Northern Ireland, offering a Christian perspective on agriculture and the environment. We take a visit to Humble by Nature, a tenant farm in the Welsh Wye Valley run by TV presenter Kate Humble we hear from an artisan pasta producer in Italy.

One of the most exciting panels at this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference was all about growing and selling herbs in the UK. We learned that there’s real demand for good quality UK-grown herbs, and that more growers are finding ways to grow commercially here on a relatively small scale. We caught up with a few of the panelists: herb producer and medical herbalist, Helen Kearney; Managing Director of The Organic Herb Trading Company Jim Twine; and Alice Bettany who runs a CSA herbal box scheme (you can hear her on a ‘Shorts’ over on our soundcloud page).

Jonny Hanson is an environmentalist who’s involved in setting up Northern Ireland’s first Community-Supported Agriculture scheme, at Jubilee Farm, he tells us a bit about what they are building and what Christianity has to do with it all.

We meet Andrea Cavaliari, whose family have been producing pasta in Italy for generations by what he calls the delicate method. Finally we hear from Beca Beeby who setup and runs the Aquaponics project at Humble by Nature, a diversified farm in the Wye Valley, Wales. She is very clear that aquaponics is a brilliant addition to a mixed farm, but definitely not a substitute when it comes to growing food.

#30: Gove, agri-CULTURE, Human Ecology, Sanfoin and Pollarding

Hello and welcome to Farmerama, episode 30! This month we bring you stories from the 9th Annual Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC). The Conference this year was a bit different as politics took centre stage, we have a few words from Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in conversation with Zac Goldsmith. His positive words we hope will bring positive actions.

A brilliant part of the conference was the launch of The Soil Never Sleeps, a book of poetry from the Pasture Fed Livestock Association (PFLA), written by their poet-in-residence Adam Horowitz – you can get a copy here. We hear two PFLA farmers, Fidelity Weston and Chris Jones, share their experiences of working with a poet and read poems written about their farms.

Human Ecology and holistic food systems in cities are explained by Abi Morden of Propagate, who run Glasgow based food projects. Richard Smith, farm manager at Daylesford talks about his favourite crop, Sanfoin and just how beneficial it can be.

Finally we hear from Ted Green who is focused on pollarding for fodder – if that doesn’t mean anything to you (it didn’t to some of us) then listen in and all will be revealed!

This episode was produced by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt, and Katie Revell. Thank you to Joy Rose, Annie Landless and James Fryer for helping us capture stories at the conference. Thank you also to the wonderful fiddler Becky Dellow who played the music at the start of the show, performed between poems from the Soil Never Sleeps launch. And thank you also Katherine, Nessie and the ORFC team for making ORFC 18 such a success and pleasure to cover!