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#43: Children growers, travelling cow laboratory, silvopasture, and a taste of sustainable wine

Thank you Tasca D’Almerita for the photo!

This month, we learn about the importance of involving young children in food growing and a much-loved friend of the show shares some wisdom on cattle management. We get an introduction to the whole-system approach of silvopasture, and we taste some natural wine in Sicily.

First up, we heard from Deb Moses, a new farmer who champions the cause of involving the very young in food growing. She realised the power of gardening to inspire very young children when her own son was born, and was amazed to see just how much it changed their relationship to food and flavours when they got involved in growing.

Abby bumped into our old friend Greg Judy, an enthusiastic mob grazer based in Missouri after the Savanna Institute Perennial Farm Gathering in Wisconsin. He explained to her how his herd remineralises the land for him. He also shared his thoughts on running a single large herd all year round, including 50 bulls, to mimic what happens in nature.

Steve Gabriel, an ecologist, educator and forest farmer from the Finger Lakes region of New York was at the Oxford Real Farming Conference earlier this year. We caught up with him about his ideas on silvopasture, including some great tips on integrating trees, grasses and animals in a single system. Steve explained that the biggest challenge he has faced in setting up his own silvopasture system has been to get the trees established in the first place.

We joined a wine tasting session in Sicily with Fabrizia Lanza and Alberto Tasca. They are well-known in Italy for promoting sustainability and the use of indigenous grapes. Alberto shared with us his feelings on the importance of measurement, the value of knowledge sharing and the need to look beyond flashy story-telling. The Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school has a 10 week “Cook the Farm” program which runs each year.

Finally, a heads-up. Public consultation has finally begun on the “Good Food Nation Bill” in Scotland. Nourish Scotland has put together a really handy guide to the consultation questions. It includes simple explanations of the questions, as well as suggested responses, and you can find the guide on the Nourish website. If you’re in Scotland, take a few minutes to respond – but make sure you do so by the 29th of March when consultation closes.

Thank you to our supporters Rebel Kitchen. Rebel Kitchen chose to become a Certified B Corporation so they could stand up and be proudly measured against the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. They’re honoured to be part of this movement driving change and playing their part in solving world social and environmental problems. They believe in a future where companies not only compete to be the best in the world but also the best for the world.

Farmerama is made by Katie Revell, Jo Barratt and Abby Rose. Thank you Suzie McCarthy for editing support this month. Thank you to Claire Roberson, Sam McKeown and James Fryer for sending in recordings this month. Community support is by Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham, and our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

 

#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.

#40: Grain Lab, Flour Ambassadors, and students helping to fix the food system

Photo credit @duchessfarms

This month we’ve gone a little grain mad after Abby headed to the UK Grain Lab at Small Food Bakery. Over 120 bakers, farmers, millers, plant breeders, scientists and grain enthusiasts gathered for UK Grain Lab to learn and share about the grain future we want to create, from seed to loaf… and donuts….We learn about grain populations and heritage grains, innovative projects that connect millers, bakers and farmers and we chat to bakers around the world experimenting with more diverse flours.  

 

While she was there, Abby took the Grain Pledge – created by author of the New Bread Basket, Amy Halloran – the Pledge recognises that we are all part of this grain system and that we must act together!

 

Kimberly Bell, owner and baker at Small Food Bakery, tells us about the beauty of baking with flour from grains which allow more diversity and lower-input systems on farm. And John Reid, of RedBeard Bakery near Melbourne, shares his excitement about baking with flours milled from populations for the first time.

 

We also spoke with Oscar Harding, farmer at Duchess Farms, and Ben MacKinnon, owner and baker at E5 Bakehouse in London, about how a conventional farm ended up working together with an organic bakery on a joint learning journey. We are also serenaded by Nathaniel Mann of Dead Rat Orchestra, who sings about – you guessed it – bread!

 

Finally, we hear from the students at the Student Eats conference at Manchester Metropolitan University. Claire and Charmaine from Canterbury Christ Church University tell us about their project, the Gastrohub, which does experiential community events focused on reducing farm-level food waste and bringing people together.

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 helping to support us to continue to share knowledge in the farming community and spread the word to many more farmers and growers.

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.

#39: Beginner farmer tips, Piglet to Plate and small-scale farmers Feed the World

First up this month, farmer, writer and activist, Leah Penniman, of Soul Fire Farm in New York State, shares  3 top tips for farmers who are just starting out. We also hear how Leah is committed to the duty of stewarding life on her farm. Although she herself is a vegetarian, she keeps and kills animals on Soul Fire Farm and shares the knowledge of these practices with others. (The photo this month is from Soul Fire Farm. Credit: Leah Penniman.)

Leah has just written a book, Farming While Black, which is both a manifesto and a manual. It includes recipes, wisdom from diasporic African farmers, and practical techniques for setting up a small-scale farm.

You can hear much more from Leah in our special episode (out November 4th), brought to you by Chelsea Green Publishing, which digs deeper into her story of Farming While Black.

 

Continuing the somewhat taboo theme of killing animals, we hear from Millie Diamond in north Wales. Through her @piglet2plate Instagram account she candidly shares her experience of keeping, killing and eating her own pigs.

 

Next up, we head to London and the We Feed the World Exhibition on London’s South Bank. We hear from speakers on the opening night, including Theo Sowa of the African Women’s Development Fund. Theo tells us how the We Feed the World exhibition begins to challenge the dangerous myths of industrial agriculture and presents an alternative story about the passionate smallholders who understand and care for the land.

 

Finally Vandana Shiva shares with us some powerful reflections on what the We Feed the World exhibition means for all of us. She leaves us with her compelling call to action, stating that “it is not a luxury, but an imperative to defend the small-scale farmers of the world”!

We would like to thank Rebel Kitchen for supporting this episode. Rebel Kitchen are all about redefining health. But they have a different kind of health message, and we think that’s great. It’s a health message that doesn’t separate the individual from the whole, and that’s based on actions instead of preaching – because, as they point out, it’s all connected. Amen to that!

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.

#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. 

#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.

#35: California Soil Carbon, Greek traditional seeds, starting a market garden and learnings from Indiana

This month we begin in California, where they are paying farmers to sequester carbon, using practices proven to increase soil health. We hear from Charles Schembre, Vineyard Conservation Co-ordinator at Napa County Resource Conservation District about the world-leading California Healthy Soils Program. This scheme compensates farmers for increasing their soil health – with the goal of sequestering carbon and increasing water retention. The quantities sequestered are estimated using CARB GHG Quantification Methodology and tools. For example, One farm in Merced California is being paid $50,000 to sequester 345.6 tonnes of GHG per year, they will do this by moving to minimum tillage on farm, planting multi-species legume cover crops and spreading compost annually on 70 acres. You can also hear Charles talk about creating carbon farm plans for 4 vineyards in Napa county, plus details of how they monitor soil health and carbon sequestration in this month’s short.

Next up the we hear from Peliti, a voluntary, non-profit organization based near Drama, in Greece. It works to preserve agricultural biodiversity through the collection and exchange of traditional seeds.

There is a longer version of this interview available on our soundcloud, along with 6 other interviews Pavlos and Olly from the GROW Observatory team sent us. The GROW Observatory is an EU-wide citizen science project which helps people to grow food and care for their soils using regenerative practices.

Back to Somerset to hear from Charles Dowding, a UK-based pioneer of no-dig, market gardening who makes his second appearance on the show (first in episode 18) to tell us how he went about planning and creating his beautiful no-dig market garden, Homeacres, in Somerset. And he also has a few tips on how to keep your garden weed-free.

Finally we finish on US soil, deep in Indiana. Merry Lea Sustainable Farm is part of the environmental learning centre at Goshen College in Indiana. You can drive for  hundreds of miles passing vast expanses of corn and soybeans with a tree here and there, but on arriving at Merry Lea you are submerged into a lush prairie and woodland landscape, with lakes all around. This is a working farm buzzing with diversity, a place for students to see just what’s possible in the mid-west. We hear from John Mischler, Merry Lea’s Director of Agroecology, and Ellie Schertz the Assistant Farm Manager, as well as two students who’ve chosen to return to Merry Lea and volunteer for another summer.

 

 

This episode was produced by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt, and Katie Revell. Thanks to the team at GROW Observatory for sending in the recording from Greece. And thank you as always to Annie Landless for keeping everyone up-to-date on social media – and to all of our guests and listeners. The Farmerama theme music comes from Owen Barratt.