#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.

#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.

#28: Films for the farming movement, rural-urban connections in Greece and fungi to manage weeds

Welcome to another episode of Farmerama with more voices from the smaller-scale farming communities in the UK and beyond.

This month we hear from two projects which are using film to share stories from the front-line of farming. First up is filmmaker Sabine Hellmann who shares about her Participatory Video work with small-scale farmers in Malawi, a practice she developed working with Insight Share. Also featured is the recently released ‘In Our Hands’ film from the Land Workers’ Alliance and Blackbark Films. They say, “At the heart of all change lies a story, and ‘In Our Hands’ is the story of a new kind of farm, a new kind of food and a new kind of society”.

We hear a brief excerpt from one of the farmers featured in the film, dairy farmer Josh Healey (pictured above) at North Aston Dairy. He has just 18 cows and runs a successful milk business employing 2.5 people. The film is free to screen and they encourage everyone to setup screenings in towns and cities around the UK to spread the word.
Thanks to the GROW Observatory team in Dundee, we meet sociologist Maria Partalidou, who’s been studying the relationship between urban and rural communities in Greece.

And we indulge in more fungi-love with soil expert Joel Williams as we learn how it’s possible to manage weeds simply by working with the microbial balance in the soil.

This month’s episode was produced by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell and Abby Rose. Special thanks to Pavlos Georgiadis and the Grow Observatory team for the interview from Greece, and thanks to Hannah Steenbergen for her interview with Humphrey.

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 twitter, instagram and facebook.

#20 Halal & Tayyib meat, Open Food Network UK, tips for growing veg in harsh conditions & crafting human-scale CSA tools

This month we celebrate the dawn of Spring as we bring you stories from many different communities across the UK: Muhsen Hassanin of Abraham Organics, a specialist Halal and Tayib Meat supplier, gives us the low-down on halal and the meat they supply to the Muslim community in London. We hear how the Open Food Network (OFN) works from OFN UK head Lynne Davis and Mark Harrison, farmer at Stroud Community Agriculture, tells us how they are using OFN to expand their business plus reduce waste from surplus crops. Next, we hear clever tips from Ed Hamer at Chagfood CSA in Devon, about growing great veg on the wild exposed moors (and more generally growing great veg in the face of unpredictable british weather). Finally Ben Raskin of the Soil Association/CSA Network UK hears from Plotgate CSA growers about the human-scale tools they are crafting to support people caring for the land. Thanks for listening and supporting the smaller scale farming community – it’s an exciting time for the future of farming!

Produced and edited by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose & Katie Revell.

#19 Traditional methods & new tools, future growers, rewilding and Cambodian learnings

As Spring draws nearer we bring you Joel Salatin talking traditional methods and modern tools. Joel calls this new-fashioned farming, where systems such as cow-feed lots and high chemical input systems are now old-fashioned. We also have an example of new-fashioned farming in action from Angus, Scotland where Pasture For Life farmers, Andrew Brewster and his brother have cattle on 900 acres. He tells us about the low-tech tools and setup they put together to get their rotational grazing off the ground.

We begin to unpick the world of rewilding with Steve Carver of the Wild Land Research Institute. This is something that has caused much debate and upset amongst farmers, conservationists and wildlife fans alike. Steve explains that it’s not anti-farming at all and emphasises that we all need to work together to create connected habitats up and down the country.

Next up are despatches from the Soil Association Future Growers apprenticeship, a very popular way for new farmers to learn about growing veg. We hear from current students, alumnae Laura Newman and organiser Rachel Harries to get different perspectives. Finally we hear from Cambodian farmers and teachers about their experience of learning to grow organically thanks to the Green Shoots Foundation.
So many thanks to our contributors this month, Muneezay Jaffery and Joy Rose. Farmerama was produced by Jo Barratt and Abby Rose.

#16 Agroforestry, small data, food sovereignty and people’s food policies

#16

Farmerama have learnt that farming’s best economic models mimic nature’s clever ways and make many things from the same piece of land.

Farmer Stephen Briggs tells us about one of these clever models. He fills us in on his  agroforestry setup or ‘3D farming’, where he grows organic apples and cereals on his 150 acres in Cambridgeshire. We also hear a few thoughts from Ben Raskin, head of horticulture at the Soil Association, who is just starting a new agroforestry project in Wiltshire at Helen Browning’s Organic Farm.

Our co-host Abby shares a tool she initially created for her family’s farm to help them build a more resilient business using ‘small data’. Now other farmers are using it in the UK and Chile, in particular we hear from Davenport Vineyards about how they have used it to help their vineyard prosper.

We finish with a bit of a food sovereignty focus – two reports from different ends of Britain both building people’s food policies: in Scotland we hear about the ‘Good Food Nation Bill’ and Dee Butterly, talks us through ‘The People’s Food Policy’ supported by The Landworker’s Alliance. In our divided world we wonder if food and farming could be a web that will connect us all.

Farmerama is produced by Jo and Abby and presented with Nigel. Reporting this week was from Nigel, Abby, Katie and Phil. This week we have additional sound design by Eight Fold Way, music by Michael and we have much appreciated social media support from Madeline and Richard.

#15 Dairy farming tips, transparent pricing, cheap soil testing, Wwoofing and a roundup from the first Scottish Farmhack

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After last month’s words from farmers around the world at the Slow Food Terra Madre, we are now back on British soil with stories from Perthshire to Devon.

We start on the west coast, with Patrick Holden from the Sustainable Food Trust. Patrick tells us about how he makes the most of the by-products from his dairy farm thanks to local producers Illtud & Leisel, and what a positive effect transparent pricing could have on all farmers.

We hear about a great little trick for soil testing on the cheap – the TBI – from systems thinker Dr Tom Powell. He used this technique to sample a Field of Wheat at many locations earlier this year to compare ‘underground’ activity in the soil.

And then we are in Shropshire to find out about some of the ups and downs of Wwoofing from Barbara at Babbinswood Farm. Wwoof UK celebrated its 45th birthday a few weeks ago and it’s great to hear about the contribution wwoofer’s have brought to Barbara’s farm, and how she has contributed to them.

Finally, we get a collection of dispatches from the first Scottish Farmhack organised by Common Good Food, an experience that had many people excited to share ideas and co-create tools – including new methods for crafting with the community minded MakLab.

You can listen online here or subscribe on iTunes here

We would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts about what’s good and bad in Farmerama! We are always looking for more contributors, ideas, anecdotes or stories from farmers and their friends all over – so please do get in touch if you have something you want to share!

Thanks to this month’s contributors Carolin Goethel at Food Assembly, Abi Glencross at Future Farm Lab, Keesje Crawford-Avis at The Burmieston Project , Abby Rose at vidacycle tech (and Farmerama) and of course our podcasting crafter Jo Barratt.

#14 Voices from around the world, storytelling fishers, an open-source tractor, holistic management, multiple suckling calves & eco-gastronomy

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#14

We recorded Farmerama ‘live’ from Turin, Italy this month where thousands of small-scale farmers, shepherds, fishers, chefs and people committed to more resilient food systems from over 100 hundred countries around the world have come together to celebrate and share food and farming knowledge at the Slow Food Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, it’s like the UN for food systems.

In Turin eco-gastronomer David Szanto from the University of Gastronomic Sciences tells us about feeding all of our senses, fisherman Paul Molyneaux shares storytelling as an alternative to certification and we hear the united voices of farmers from around the globe coming together thanks to the Slow Food Network.

Back home the holistic management framework gives mob-grazer Rob Havard some clear goals at home and in the fields, Will Edwards has a super simple calf-feeding technique for his dairy herd and Alabama-based Locky shares about the Ogunn Tractor an open-source, easily fixable tractor.

If you want to find out more about Holistic Management, RegenAg UK are putting on a weekend introduction to financial and grazing planning 20-22 November, you can find out more here.

Reflections on Terra Madre compiled from different people’s voices:

The beauty of Terra Madre is saved in the smiles.

We walk differently, dress differently, communicate differently, yet we share soil moisture tips, ways of preparing foods, how to bring the hope back home.

The power lies in knowing, we now see the world with new eyes, we are not alone.

We may return to our villages or cities a single voice, but when we close our eyes we know the thousands of other people alone on hillsides, with small restaurants in distant towns, all caring for the land, bringing tasty, nourishing food to schools and hospitals, feeding 70% of the planet using only 30% of the resources.

We are all part of this web that is woven cross-continents and oceans.

They are giants, but we are millions.

#13 Post-brexit perspectives, soil tests uncovered, practical farm advice & seed journeys

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#13
We are at a crossroads in British food and farming history, so this month we begin to probe the post-Brexit discussion. We hear a few candid kitchen-table chats with different farm families, including Ed Hamer, grower at Chagfood and policy person at Land Workers Alliance.

Soil tests are untangled, the hidden truths behind the tests is revealed after National Trust Farmer Richard Morris raises some questions, which Innovation for Agriculture soil-man Stephen Briggs answers for us all.

We learn about practical knowledge sharing platform Agricology, which bridges the gap between science and what really happens on the farm. Plus, we hear about one of the projects they feature on their site: Fit for the Future Network, a network that shares experiences of renewable energy between newcomers and people/institutions with established projects.

Future Farmer Amy Franceschini tells us about the heritage seeds headed from Norway to the Middle East, returning to their homeland on an artistic voyage of discovery, the Seed Journey.

This is the beginning, we all need to sew the seeds of an agricultural policy that leads to a positive food and farming future in the UK.