‘Cereal’ #6: Grain Futures

We are the bread system. If you eat bread – or any grains – you are part of it.

So how can we all get involved, and what can we do to usher in the new grains movement to build joy, nutrition and resilience in all of our communities?

In this final episode, we explore what a more efficient, nutritious, regenerative and joyful bread system might look like. We hear some of the ways people are coming together and building networks to strengthen the movement in the UK and further afield.

It’s clear that in this beautifully complex, entangled system, even just a conversation can spark much wider change. This is a story of hope and a blueprint that has the potential to cause reverberations far beyond bread. It turns out that bread is political – and you, too, can take a stand for the world you want to live in. 

This might be our final episode of Cereal, but it isn’t the end – it’s just the beginning! Join the new grains movement. Talk to your local bakers, seek out local millers, thank your farmers, be open-minded, be curious.

A huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed to Cereal. As well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape the series. Thanks to Andrew Whitley (Scotland the Bread), Kim Bell (Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab), Mark Lea (Greenacres Farm), Fred Price (Gothelney Farmer), Steven Jacobs (Organic Farmers & Growers), Ben MacKinnon (E5 Bakehouse), Anne Parry (Felin Ganol), Rupert Dunn (Torth y Tir), Josiah Meldrum (Hodmedods), Tomaso Ferrando (University of Antwerp) and Fintan Keenan. Thanks also to the Lost Revellers and everyone who came to the Nottingham Cereal launch harvest party and lent their voices to make the Flour Ambassador’s Pledge.

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review and subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. All six episodes can be found on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama.

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

‘Cereal’ #5: The best thing since sliced bread? Unsliced bread

The UK is the fifth largest economy and has some of the cheapest bread in the world – is that something to be proud of, or is it a convenient outcome of a system that prioritises shareholder profit, fobs off economically deprived people with poor quality food, and throws away a third of what it produces? 

It’s so ingrained in us that cheap food is better for everyone, but in this episode we ask you to stop and really think – are we supporting a system that is efficient for lining the pockets of a few, whilst impoverishing everyone else? 

What if the real cost is our collective health, and the health of the planet? 

Bread is not just money, bread is nourishment, deliciousness, companionship, connectedness, pride, politics.

In this episode we hear from bakers up and down the UK who are redefining the value of bread. Bakers who are making a stand for their communities and the planet. Bakers from some of the most economically deprived areas who are bringing meaning, intention and joy to their baking. Bakers who are being recognised for their craft and sharing the benefits with their local communities. 

This is about food networks, not food chains — this is about reaching true efficiency that takes into account the whole system (health, environment, waste, community, joy), not just the financial balance sheet.

The radical changes that bread has undergone are revealing of much wider truths about our relationships with food, to farmers, with the land, the environment, and with each other. If you eat food, you have a stake in this story.

A huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed to Cereal – as well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape the series. Thanks to Chris MacCormack (Govanhill Bread Man), Theo Laffargue (Riverside Bakery), Catriona Milligan (High Rise Bakers), Kim Bell (Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab), Ben MacKinnon (E5 Bakehouse), and Rupert Dunn (Torth y Tir).

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review & subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. All six episodes can be found on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama.

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt. 

‘Cereal’ #4: The Millers are Missing

In episode 4 of Cereal, we ask how the milling process has led us to producing flour with almost no nutritional value? And why would the majority of the wheat grown in the UK go to animal feed?

We meet millers around the UK who are doing things differently, providing flour with terroir, flour that is fresh and filled with nutrition, using locally grown heritage varieties that are benefiting people and planet.

The radical changes that bread has undergone are revealing of much wider truths about our relationships with food, to farmers, with the land, the environment, and with each other. If you eat food, you have a stake in this story.

A huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed to Cereal – as well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape the series. Thanks to Connie Hunter, Andrew Whitley (Scotland the Bread), Anne Parry (Felin Ganol), Angus McDowall & Alison Campbell (Mungoswells), Fintan Keenan, Josiah Meldrum (Hodmedods), and Kim Bell (Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab).

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review & subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. Episodes are released each Sunday on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama.

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt. 

‘Cereal’ # 3: Farms Produce Food

Intensive chemical (or conventional) farming systems can be incredibly efficient in perfect conditions, but in a global climate emergency this method of farming is out of date.

Fred Price in a field of alfalfa, returning nitrogen to the soil as part of his rotation
Fred Price, Gothelney Farmer, in a field of alfalfa, returning nitrogen to the soil as part of his rotation

In episode 3 of CEREAL, we hear how soil health, biodiversity and regenerative farming are enabling farmers to move to a new system of farming that is nutritious for humans and the land. 

What is the experience of farmers growing the wheat, that’s ground to flour, that makes our bread? We explore why farmers are moving away from intensive chemical systems to more ecological approaches, why farmers are reclaiming their autonomy, detaching themselves from exploitative commodity markets, re-building connections with seed breeders, millers, bakers, and consumers – and once again finding reasons to celebrate diversity and distinctiveness. 

The radical changes that bread has undergone are revealing of much wider truths about our relationships with food, to farmers, with the land, the environment, and with each other. If you eat food, you have a stake in this story.

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to Cereal – as well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape this series. Thanks to contributors Kim Bell (the founder of Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab), John Letts (Heritage Harvest), Andrew Whitley (Bread Matters, currently based at Bowhouse Fife, chairman of Scotland the Bread), Mark Lea (Greenacres Farm), Fred Price (Gothelney Farmer), Steven Jacobs (from Organic Farmers & Growers)

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review & subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. Episodes are released each Sunday on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

‘Cereal’ #2: Nature Hates Uniformity

Most bread we eat today is made using modern wheat varieties bred for uniformity and yield at the expense of our health and our soil. Just as our bread has changed, so have our seeds. 

In this week’s episode, Katie Revell takes us straight to the source and asks: in the face of a climate and health crisis, what seeds should we be sowing? Hear how people like Mark Lea of Greenacres Farm (pictured) are finding ways around oppressive laws and reviving heritage varieties in order to feed people with nutritious grains.

It might get a little technical in places, but stick with us — industrialised wheat covers an estimated 218 million hectares of the planet, more than any other food crop. If we are to feed to the planet in years to come, we need to work in sync with nature and embrace ecological farming systems that support DIVERSITY. 

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to Cereal – as well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape this series. Thanks to contributors Kim Bell (the founder of Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab), John Letts (Heritage Harvest), Andrew Whitley (Bread Matters, currently based at Bowhouse Fife, chairman of Scotland the Bread), Mark Lea (Greenacres Farm), Rupert Dunn (Torth y Tir), and Josiah Meldrom (Hodmedods). Thank you also to the Oxford Real Farming Conference for their archive recording of the late Professor Martin Wolfe.

This series was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Roddick Foundation. Please listen, share, review & subscribe, and support the farmers instigating change. Episodes are released each Sunday on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama

Cereal is produced and edited by Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

‘Cereal’ #1: Flour, Water, Salt

Bread.

Once the cornerstone of our diet, bread is now, at best a guilty indulgence or, at worst, something to be completely avoided.

How did something so basic, so fundamental, get so complicated? Why are more and more people made sick by this age-old staple?

Introducing our critical new series, CEREAL. Farmerama’s Katie Revell travelled the country to find out how the needs of industrial production have come to dictate the way that seeds are bred, grain is grown, flour is milled, and bread is baked and eaten.

Episode 1 “Flour, Water, Salt”, released today, begins to unveil the truths behind how our bread is made today and its impact on human health and the planet.

We are introduced to the Real Bread Campaign and the bakers and researchers giving rise to a new grains movement that’s good for our soil and our guts.

The radical changes that bread has undergone are revealing of much wider truths about our relationships with food, to farmers, with the land, the environment, and with each other.

If you eat food, you have a stake in this story.

In this episode, we hear from Chris MacCormack – ‘Govanhill breadman’, Kimberley Bell – the founder of Small Food Bakery and UK Grain Lab, Chelsea Marshall  – Trustee of Scotland the Bread, Andrew Whitley – co-founder of Scotland the Bread and The Real Bread Campaign, and Theo Laffargue – baker at Riverside Bakery, Stirling.

Please listen, rate, review & subscribe, and support the movement. Thanks to the Roddick Foundation for their generous support to make this series possible. Episodes are released each Sunday on Soundcloud and all podcasting platforms. And if you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/farmerama

Cereal is produced and edited by  Katie Revell, with support from Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Suzie MacCarthy and Hanna Söderlund also worked on the series. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

Thanks to Christopher, Ross, Jess, Sabine and Euan for lending your voices. As well as the voices you hear in this episode, many more conversations have helped to shape this series, thank you to everyone involved!

#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.