#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.

#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.

#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.

#44: Radical roots, Slow Money, CSAs and Allies

This month, we begin by hearing from Kim Hamblin and Dan Rinke of Roshambo Art farm in Oregon, who share their story of building resilience in their orchard through diversity. In the Pacific Northwest, climate change is increasing the occurrence of droughts, so Dan and Kim have also recently planted a seedling orchard, which increases heat resistance through better taproot connections to groundwater, and allows the trees to genetically adapt to their surroundings.

Next, we speak to Woody Tasch, a forward-thinking and environmentally conscious financier who founded the Slow Money movement. Slow Money defies the prevailing economic ethic of fast-paced globalised trade, instead focusing on soil and community health, through boosting local trade between growers and their surrounding community.

Next, we’re back to Jubilee farm, where Jonny Hanson reports from their recent #CSAacrossborders event with the UK and Ireland CSA networks. We loved hearing about the power of community supported agriculture to forge new bonds across international borders, with its focus on cooperation rather than division.

Last but not least, we hear from the super inspiring Brenda Ruiz, a chef and food educator who represented Slow Food USA at Terra Madre last year. She shares her dedication to allyships in the working environment, reminding us of the importance of collaborating with those around you, to connect restaurants, farms and food with integrity.

Thanks to Rebel Kitchen for supporting this episode! Rebel Kitchen are a member of 1% for the Planet. This means they donate 1% of their sales (not just profits!) to partners contributing to the planet – it’s through this commitment that they are helping to support us to continue to share knowledge in the farming community and spread the word to many more farmers and growers.

Farmerama is made by Katie Revell, Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. This week, editing by Suzy MacCarthy and Louis Hudson. Thanks to Jonny for sending in the story about CSAs. The Farmerama theme music is by Owen Barratt. Thanks as ever to our community team: Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham.

#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.

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.

#38: Alice Waters, Terra Madre, Palestinian teenager, intercropping trials and cooperative farming

This month we begin in Turin, at the international gathering of the Slow Food Movement, Terra Madre. Members of the farming and food community from over 90 different cultures around the world assemble with a shared philosophy of respect for the earth that we farm on. Among the diversity of voices in this community is Alice Walters, founder of the Chez Panisse restaurant in California and general champion of ecological agriculture. Alice shares with us just how important it is to work with small-scale farms and also gives us a sneak peak of her latest project connecting schools and small-scale farms!

We also hear from a super inspiring young farmer called Muna from the West Bank in Palestine. Muna is passionate about saving the fragmented land that her family have farmed for generations. She also tells us about an epic project she began, aged just 15, tending to abandoned olive groves after recruiting young volunteers from her community.

Next, we head back to the UK, to hear about an exciting farmer-led research project from Innovative Farmers. They are trialling the efficacy of different arable intercropping systems. Katie Bliss, from the Organic Research Centre and Agricology, reveals some fascinating results in favour of on-farm diversification for the suppression of weeds and reduction of chemical inputs.

Finally, we revisit Jubilee Farm, to hear from Jonny Hansen, who has exciting news about a farm-share to be launched on October 20th; the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. Jonny speaks to Tiziana O’Hara of Co-operative Alternatives, who shares the benefits of the community ethic, where a network of co-operation and support achieves success.

We also hear a special message from two old friends of Farmerama with some lovely news!

We would like to thank Rebel Kitchen for supporting this episode. Rebel Kitchen are a member of 1% for the Planet. This means they donate 1% of their sales (not just profits!) to partners contributing to the planet – it’s through this commitment they are supporting us to continue to share knowledge in the farming community and spread the word to many more farmers and growers.

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. Additional reporting this week came from Jonny Hansen at Jubilee Farm. 

#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.

 

#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.