#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.

#37: Intergenerational tensions, compost tea revisited, agroforestry and Dutch innovation

This month we begin by hearing from Joel Salatin about the tensions that inevitably arise from family farming over two generations. Joel is a pioneering farmer who frequently tours the world teaching the masses about his diversified ecological farming system. Here he gives us his tips on ways of resolving generational conflict on a family farm.

The ever-inspiring Sophie Alexander was a finalist for Arable Farmer of the Year in 2017, which was due in part to her fascinating work on compost tea trials at Hemsworth Farm in Dorset. We first heard about these trials in the Organic Farmers and Growers event podcast in July of last year, but in this episode we catch up with Sophie for an update on the benefits and costs of the compost tea technique.

Next, we hear from Stephen Ware at Throne Farm in Herefordshire, who is working on solutions to prevent disease in his apple orchards. Stephen had previously farmed dense bush orchards, but has now redesigned part of his farm in favour of a more diversified agroforestry system. The larger gaps between the lines of trees allow the apples to dry out quicker after rainy periods, and the diversified system encourages insect pollinators to thrive and soil organic matter to increase. Stephen is looking for a share-farming opportunity with a local grazier to introduce rotationally grazed cattle to the system, to further the increase in diversity.

Finally, we hear about the impressive innovation of Geert van der Veer, who is interviewed by Koen van Seijen for the Investing in Regenerative Agriculture podcast. Geert van der Veer is a co-founder of Herenboeren, a community owned farm in the Netherlands. The Herenboeren model relies on the shared investment of a 200-person strong co-operative, who raise all the annual costs of their farm, and get to eat the fresh produce in return! It has been such a great success they are in the process of starting up 20 other farms using the same model.

We would like to thank Rebel Kitchen for their ongoing support. We love that they are a B Corp – which means that as a business they are accountable to maximise not only profits but also their social and ecological contribution to the Earth. We find the B Corp movement very inspiring!

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. This week we had contributions from Koen van Seijen, and one of our original hosts Nigel, who interviewed Joel with Abby.

#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.

 

#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!

#29: Biodynamic vines, Catalonian chickens & medicinal plants

We have passed the darkest day here in the UK, every new day eeks out a few moments more light. To tide us over this month we have some slightly longer stories for you from 3 young farmers scattered across the globe.

First up, is young Welsh biodynamic farmer Dave Morris. He grows and makes natural wine at Ancre Hill Estates in Monmouthshire, Wales. Biodynamic farming is often seen as pretty esoteric but Dave makes it all seem fairly straightforward and sensible.

To get a biodynamic certification you must prepare and use both the 500 and 501 sprays. Preparation 500 is an animal horn manure and Preparation 501 is animal horn silica. Dave explains how he uses each in the vineyard.

We hear from Jaume Pretel, a chicken farmer in Catalonia who is moving towards making a living off the land and why he is doing this. Finally, Ari de Leña is the owner-operator of community-supported Kamayan Farm, near Seattle. As well as being a farmer, Ari is also an educator with a focus on the land and plants as medicine.

For the year ahead we’re excited to hear more stories from the fields, what’s important to you? We make Farmerama to share knowledge amongst the independent farming community so if you’ve got another story for us, do let us know.

A very happy new year to you all!

This episode was produced by Katie Revell, Jo Barratt and Abby Rose. Thanks to Joel Rodker for sending in the story about Catalonian chickens and to Annie Landless for all her support on social media.

If you have something you’d like to share, please get in touch. We’re farmeramaradio@gmail.com and you can find us easily on twitterinstagram and facebook.