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#58: Cooperative land, holistic management, Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, and the secret life of insects

Sinead Fenton of Aweside Farm: Credit @awesidefarm

This month, we hear from Sinead Fenton and Adam Smith, farmers at Aweside Farm in East Sussex. They’ve been able to access the land thanks to the Ecological Land Cooperative, an organisation which buys land in England and Wales to make it available for small, low-impact ecological farms. The ELC are on the hunt or passionate landworkers and ecological entrepreneurs who are ready now – or will be ready soon – to build a growing business. If that sounds like you, visit their website to find out more.

Next, we head north, to Lismore, an island off the West Coast of Scotland. There, we meet farmer Roger Dixon-Spain and his wife, Gilly, of Lismore Beef and Lamb. Roger introduces us to the idea of holistic land management, and explains how he and Gilly are creating a viable farm business on marginal land – and preparing the ground for the next generation of farmers.

We hear from Prudence Ayebare, chair of the Ugandan network of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, speaking at the Fixing the Future Conference in Barcelona, back in 2019. Thank you to Atlas of the Future for the recording. FMNR is a simple and low-cost approach to land restoration, designed to be used by subsistence farmers. It involves regrowing indigenous trees and shrubs from tree stumps, root systems and seeds, with the goal of increasing food and timber production while restoring soils and boosting environmental resilience and biodiversity. 

Will Hawkes, a researcher at the University of Exeter, talks to us about the secret life of insects. Insects provide many of the services we rely on for our survival: pollinating crops, controlling pests and decomposing waste. But they also have another side to their lives: a huge number of insects – from butterflies to beetles, and dragonflies to moths – are migratory. Will and his fellow researchers are revealing the huge impact insect migration has on European agriculture–yet another reason why it’s absolutely vital that we protect these remarkable creatures.

We are excited to say this month’s episode is supported by Treedom – a platform that makes it easy to support a farmer in Africa or South America to plant a tree. But this isn’t just about any old trees. When you buy a tree with Treedom you’re actually financing farmers who want to plant trees as part of small agroforestry systems, and providing the local know-how and support to ensure those trees have the best start in life and truly benefit the farmers, their communities and the soil. Once you buy a tree you can also follow its journey online – it really is very cool. Since they started in 2010, Treedom have planted over a million trees. They’ve recently launched in the UK, so it’s definitely worth checking them out on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube. Let’s green the planet.

Finally: we recently let you know that our “Cereal” series had been nominated for two Guild of Food Writers Awards, in the “podcast or broadcast”, and “investigative” categories. We’re delighted to say that we won both of them! Thank you so much to everyone who was involved with making and sharing the series – and to everyone who’s listened so far. If you haven’t, you can find the series on our Soundcloud page.

This episode of Farmerama was produced by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose and Katie Revell. We’re really grateful to our Patreon supporters, who help make Farmerama possible. If you’d like to become a supporter, visit patreon.com/Farmerama.

Thank you to Philip Revell, James Fryer, Phil Moore and Atlas for the Future for recording the interviews featured in this episode. Community support for Farmerama is provided by Hanna Söderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#57: Fibreshed UK, Chestnuts, The Edible Schoolyard and Welsh Poetry

Credit: @famergala (Instagram)

This month, we’re back to our regular format, bringing you a mix of voices from the regenerative agriculture movement. First up, we hear from Gala Bailey Barker, a first generation farmer at Plaw Hatch Farm. Gala and her mother Deborah Barker, a natural dyer, are establishing Fibreshed UK to bring together all the people involved in a garment’s lifecycle.

Next, we head to Caney Fork Farms in Carthage, Tennessee, a 400-acre organic, 100% grass-fed mixed farm owned by environmentalist and former US vice-president, Al Gore to meet vegetable and agroforestry manager Ranan Sokoloff. Last year, the farm hosted The Climate Underground conference, which explored what it takes to raise food, sink carbon and work towards healthier communities. 

Then, we hear from Angela McKee Brown, deputy executive director of the Edible Schoolyard Project, an initiative founded by celebrated chef Alice Waters. Angela designs and facilitates hands-on educational experiences in gardens, kitchens and cafeterias that connect children to nature, food and each other.

Finally, we come back to the UK to meet shepherd Sam Robinson, another first-generation farmer based in Machynlleth, Wales. The 27-year-old moved from Oxford to the Welsh countryside where he joined a rugby team, became a member of a Welsh choir, got a job on a livestock farm and became fluent in Welsh – all in the space of 18 months. He reads us a poem called Untamed, by Megan Elenid Lewis, which speaks to the heart of rewilding. 

This episode of Farmerama was made by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell, and Abby Rose. We’re extremely grateful to our Patreon supporters, who help us make the show. If you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/Farmerama . Thanks to James Fryer and Cathy St Germans for recording interviews featured in this episode. Community support for Farmerama is provided by Hanna Söderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

Farmerama are looking for Community Collaborators for a new series

*Deadline has been extended to 24th June*

‘Who Feeds Us?’ will share the collective stories of how the people of the UK responded to the supermarket shelves being empty and restaurants closing during the COVID-19 crisis. We are looking for 5 Community Collaborators to unearth the stories that reflect the wide experience of people living in the UK. 

‘Who Feeds Us?’ is a multi-part podcast series in which we will share the stories of food producers who have been affected by the pandemic: their struggles and successes, their resilience and hard work, and their incredible capacity for innovation. We will unearth on-the-ground stories of those who have stepped up to feed their communities in new ways: by re-focusing their production, setting up micro-bakeries, developing local food databases, and helping people to grow their own…

This series is about exploring the human experience, our emotional relationship to food, and the ways in which we all are connected to the land from which it’s harvested. Farmerama is also committed to sharing the voices of under-represented groups and we recognise that at Farmerama our networks only reach so far. 

The voices of rural, Queer, Black, Asian, people of colour, neurodiverse, disabled, and working class communities are important to this story in order to speak to not only the injustices in the food system but also the spiritual, the beautiful, the healing, the political and transformative relationships we have with land, farming and food. We are committed to ensuring diversity is reflected on the production team as well as in the stories we tell. 

E.g in the UK Muslim community during Ramadan: How did the community come together as the food system rapidly fell apart around them? Who found new connections with food producers? Who didn’t have access to food?

If you would like to apply, please complete this form.

THE ROLE

The Community Collaborator role is about finding stories that reflect the wide set of experiences of people in the UK, and helping us to tell them.  

The role will include:

Part 1

– Scoping out potential stories

– Working together with the Project Manager to update a spreadsheet with stories, key people and contact details as they come in

– Working with the wider team to decide which stories best fit the series

Part 2

– Helping to contact the people we would like to interview, explaining the project to them, fielding their questions and overseeing interview arrangements.

– The Producer of the episode will manage scheduling of interviews etc. We would just ask that you are CC-d into any emails/communications

– Listening to episode edits, and providing feedback on content, script and overall messaging

WHAT WE OFFER

We can offer £300 for the initial research part of this role (Part 1). During Part 1, we expect you to source a number of potential stories. Then, as we enter Part 2, we will work with you to agree on your time commitment. We offer £200/day.

HOW TO APPLY

  • For the application we are inviting people to submit a short paragraph explaining why they would like to work with us in this role via this form
  • The form should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We respect your time. Look at this as the start of a conversation. If we have more questions, we’ll come back to you.
  • Applications close 17th June. *This has now been extended to 24th June*

WHAT IF I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?

  • Please ask us directly by emailing farmeramaradio@gmail.com, with ‘Community Collaborator Role’ in the subject line
  • If relevant, and with approval, we’ll add any questions and answers to the FAQ at the end of this blog post, as they may help others.

Thank you to Deirdre Woods for help in formulating some of the words of this application.

ABOUT ‘WHO FEEDS US’ 

This series will showcase the stories of food producers who have been affected by the pandemic: their struggles and successes, their resilience and hard work, and their incredible capacity for innovation. It will unearth on-the-ground accounts of those who have stepped up to feed their communities in new ways – by re-focusing their production, establishing micro-production set-ups, developing local food databases, and helping people to grow their own – with a focus on including underrepresented and diverse voices and experiences.

ABOUT FARMERAMA

Farmerama Radio shares the voices behind regenerative farming. We are committed to positive ecological futures for the earth and its people, and we believe that farmers of the world will determine this. Each month, the show features farmers and growers rebuilding our food and eco-systems from the ground up. Our standalone series Cereal, has been nominated for the Broadcast and and Investigative categories in the 2020 Guild of Food Writers awards. 

#56: The Bowhouse special

The East Neuk Market Garden

This month brings a special episode, focused on the Bowhouse, in the East Neuk of Fife. The East Neuk is a coastal region in Scotland, blessed with fertile volcanic soils and beautiful fishing villages. The Bowhouse is a food hub that links local producers to customers in the community, while providing opportunity for collaboration between producers.

We hear from the founder of Bowhouse, Toby Anstruther, who initially launched the project as an extension of his farm estate, to promote links between local food production and local people. Tony chats about his frustrations with the increasingly centralised food system, and how Bowhouse has evolved as he learns more about the importance of engaging with the local food community.

We then hear from several of the producers at Bowhouse; Robert Campbell, who sells grass-fed beef from the East Neuk, Susie Anderson, a maker of premium Scottish charcuterie, Catriona Monson, who produces all-natural water kefir, Jayson Byles, a wild-foodie and seaweed forager, Clement Boucherit who provides fresh shellfish from the East Neuk, and Connie Hunter and Tom Booth, who farm a small market garden in East Neuk.

We also hear from Rosie Jack, the Market and Events Manager at Bowhouse. Most of the interviews in this episode were recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic, but towards the end of the episode, we check in with Rosie for an update on how the lockdown has changed operations at Bowhouse, and learn how they have evolved to meet today’s challenges.

This episode was produced by Katie Revell, with Abby Rose and Jo Barratt. Community support for Farmerama is provided by Hanna Soderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham. The theme music is by Owen Barratt.

Farmerama are looking for audio producers!

We are looking for audio producers to work with Farmerama on a new series about food producers who have been affected by the pandemic.

We have decided to work with 5 different producers because we want to build a team that reflects the breadth of talent in audio, as well as providing opportunities for as many people as possible.

If you would like to apply, please complete this form.

We will review every application and listen to every example of work supplied, and make our decisions based on this. 

The role

  • As Lead Producer, you’ll be the creative lead on the episode. 
  • You will do 1–2 interviews, put the episode together, make amends according to production schedule and contribute to structure, script and sound design.
  • You will be supported by an experienced team of audio producers and experts in regenerative farming, as well as community collaborators who will all work with you on planning, sourcing stories, structure and script writing. 
  • The series has a project manager to help make sure everything runs smoothly.  
  • The series will have a single presenter, so you will not be voicing the episode.
  • There will be a palette of original music elements that you will have access to. 
  • We’re open to working with people in different ways according to interest and experience. For example, you may not be able to travel to do interviews. We’ll support you in the ways that you need to make your best work.
  • We’ll work with each producer to agree what is possible within 5 days before we begin and you will not be expected to work more than this.

What we offer

  • £1,000 (based on 5 days work @ £200/d)
  • Travel or other expenses will be covered.

How to apply

  • For the application we are inviting people to submit a short paragraph explaining why they would like to work with us, and a link to something you have worked on. 
  • The form should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We respect your time. Look at this as the start of a conversation. If we have more questions, we’ll come back to you.
  • Applications close 19th June.

What if I have more questions?

  • Please ask us directly by emailing farmeramaradio@gmail.com, with ‘Audio Producer Role’ in the subject line
  • If relevant, and with approval, I’ll add any questions and answers to the FAQ at the end of this blog post, as they may help others. 

About ‘Who Feeds Us’ 

This series will showcase the stories of food producers who have been affected by the pandemic: their struggles and successes, their resilience and hard work, and their incredible capacity for innovation. It will unearth on-the-ground accounts of those who have stepped up to feed their communities in new ways – by re-focusing their production, establishing micro-production set-ups, developing local food databases, and helping people to grow their own – with a focus on including underrepresented and diverse voices and experiences.

About Farmerama

Farmerama Radio shares the voices behind regenerative farming. We are committed to positive ecological futures for the earth and its people, and we believe that farmers of the world will determine this. Each month, the show features farmers and growers rebuilding our food and eco-systems from the ground up. Our standalone series Cereal, has been nominated for the Broadcast and and Investigative categories in the 2020 Guild of Food Writers awards. 

#55: Enlightened agriculture, sustainable economies, and regenerative businesses

Colin Tudge at ORFC (Img Credit: ORFC official photographer)

As we bring this episode to you, we know that the Coronavirus pandemic is putting many of the farmers and growers out there are under more pressure than ever to provide food for your local communities and to rapidly find new markets for your produce – all whilst being concerned with the health of those around you. So we wanted to take a moment to say as ever we and so many others are grateful for all the work you do: thank you — Farmerama is made for you! 

This month, we go back to the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) one last time, this time to focus on the economic system and ask the question: what form does our economy need to take if we want to support a regenerative farming future? To start helping us answer this question, we hear from biologist, author and co-founder of the ORFC Colin Tudge, who helps us understand today’s dominant economic paradigm, and shares his vision for an economy that supports regenerative farming.

Next, we speak to Tony Greenham, a finance professional, economist, sustainability consultant and Executive Director at South West Mutual, who explains how, in his view, the economy has failed us and what he thinks a more sustainable economy might look like.

Then, we share some of the final episode of CEREAL, the 6-part series we released at the end of last year, to illustrate how everything Colin and Tony spoke about is embedded in our food systems, including in our bread.

Two of the key characters in CEREAL were baker and regenerative retailer behind Small Food Bakery, Kimberly Bell, and Fred Price, the farmer at Gothelney Farm. They both run regenerative businesses that produce food to nourish people, bring joy, promote healthy lifestyles and build communities. We hear from them about what shifting towards regenerative business and a regenerative economy means to them. 

This episode of Farmerama was made by Abby Rose, Louis Hudson and Hanna Soderlund, along with Jo Barratt and Katie Revell. We’re extremely grateful to our Patreon supporters, who help us make the show. If you’d like to support Farmerama, visit patreon.com/Farmerama. Community support is provided by Hanna Soderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#54: Land reform, stewardship, community ownership and land justice

At the time of writing, the Coronavirus has forced us all to adjust to a rapidly-changing marketplace, and a lot of uncertainty in UK farming. While we can’t be out reporting from the fields at the moment, we begin this episode by sharing some messages from farmers and growers coming together at this time, and we have plenty of interviews stashed away in the hopper, so we will continue to bring you stories from the frontline of regenerative farming!

This month, we continue our focus on inspiring stories from the Oxford Real Farming Conference, focusing on land reform, stewardship, community ownership, and land justice. Our first conversation is with Molly Scott Cato, a former Green MEP, who shares her thoughts on land reform in the UK after attending a session with other political parties at ORFC. Molly shares her concerns with our current model of land ownership, where land access is not equal to all, with huge swathes of countryside instead inherited down family lines.

Next, we hear from Ninian Stuart, co-founder of the Centre for Stewardship, who shares his family’s learnings from exploring different kinds of ownership on their estate. We talk about the resulting land stewardship scheme on Ninian’s land in Scotland, the diversity that it brings to the land, and why he feels ‘owning’ land is a funny concept.

We then chat to Sebastian Parsons of the Stockwood Community Benefit Society. Sebastian is another landowner who’s doing things differently! We learn about his experience in moving his family farm to community ownership, and how these dynamic structures can support both the farmer and the investors.

Next, we hear Leah Penniman and Ọlá Ayòrindé in conversation about land injustices and repairing colonial trauma through relationship with the land. Leah is the co-founder of Soul Fire Farm in New York, and Ọlá is the co-founder of Land In Our Names (LION), an organisation addressing land injustices in the UK, and seeking to reimagine a system where people of colour can live off the land in ways which care for the soil, the surrounding biodiversity and themselves.

Finally, we share exciting news of a chance for you to get actively involved in a shared land ownership model. The Ecological Land Cooperative are currently offering the opportunity to join them as an investor member right now! If you’re interested, follow this link for more information. 

This episode was written and edited by Suzie McCarthy and Hanna Soderlund, and presented by Abby Rose, Katie Revell Jo Barratt. Featured interviews were recorded by Darla Eno and Cathy St German at ORFC 2020. Community support for Farmerama is provided by Hanna Soderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.

#53: Storytelling, Nutrient Density, Fashion Connections & Community Farms

Photo credit: Save Trecadwgan Farm Facebook page

This month, we bring you the first of 3 special episodes focusing for the most part on stories from the Oxford Real Farming Conference, or ORFC. This year, we were delighted to be the ORFC’s official media partner.

First, we hear from writer and storyteller Georgia Wingfield-Hayes about why storytelling and myth-making are crucial to the regenerative farming movement. At ORFC, Georgia shared a story called ‘The Herdsman’, a true story which shows what cheap food is doing to the land, the animals and the people involved in its production.

Next, we speak to Matt Adams, a deep ecologist, and who is working with public health and nutrition specialist Elizabeth Westaway, about to launch a their new initiative called Growing Real Food for Nutrition—Grffn for short—which is bringing to the UK the work of Dan Kittredge and the Bionutrient Food Association

Then we share the work of fashion designer Alice Robinson, who has created two innovative accessory collections, re-awakening the connections between fashion and farming. Each collection is made solely from one animal, and using all parts of the animal without a scrap wasted. We’re helping get Fibreshed UK started, so if you are interested in being involved then tune in to future Farmerama episodes and we’ll keep you in the loop.

Finally, we share an urgent call for councils across the UK to recognise the value of real farming through the story of the Save Trecadwgan Farm campaign in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Trecadwgan has been a council farm for nearly 100 years, but now the council has decided to sell it off. A group from the local community and beyond, including farmer Gerald Miles and Sam Roddick, are fighting to buy Trecadwgan and turn it into a community farm. 

Farmerama is made by Jo Barratt, Abby Rose, and Katie Revell. In this episode there were interviews by Darla Eno and editing by Louis Hudson. Community support is provided by Hanna Soderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Olivia Oldham. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt. We also heard some music recorded at this year’s ORFC from a session led by Robin Grey at St Aldate’s Church.

#52: Oxford Real Farming Conference, social justice & land, new forms of land ownership

Leah Penniman at ORFC (IMG Credit: ORFC Official Photographer)

This episode we’re sharing stories from the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) – where we were proud to be the official media partners – reporting live during the event! We’ll be sharing more stories from the conference over the coming weeks.

We kick off with the powerful words of Malcom X, read by the ever-inspiring Leah Penniman, who featured in our Women of the Land series last year. We then hear from Josina Calliste, co-founder of Land in Our Names (LION), who shares about her visit to Leah’s Soul Fire Farm and their collaboration on a conversation around food justice, land justice and re-connecting with nature at the conference.

Next, we immerse ourselves in the natural world with Ian Solomon-Kawall, who runs May Project Gardens, and chat about the transformative properties of nature and how much it can help to improve mental and physical health, and address trauma. 

Finally, we speak with Miriam Rose from Hardwick Estate about reforming age-old aristocratic dynamics of land ownership, and creating a new and progressive structure for ownership of their estate.

Farmerama is made by Jo Barratt, Katie Revell, and Abby Rose. In this episode there were interviews from Darla Eno and Cathy St Germans and editing from Louis Hudson. Community support is by Hanna Soderlund, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins, Olivia Oldham and our theme music is by Owen Barratt. We’ve also heard some music recorded at this years ORFC, Amazing Grace at the closing plenary, and other songs from a session led by Robin Grey at St Aldates Church.

FARMERAMA – THE OFFICIAL MEDIA PARTNER FOR Oxford Real Farming Conference 2020!

This week the Farmerama team will be at the 11th Oxford Real Farming Conference (8-9 January), where we are excited to be the official media partner. This is a highlight in the calendar every year, and a chance to share so many stories of hope for the future of our food and farming, and to meet and reconnect with the people behind a new regenerative paradigm – those instigating change for a better future for all. 

As extreme weather events capture global attention again this month, conflicting views and opinions are cast on the future of agriculture and its role in the climate crisis, and as we undergo an independent review of our entire food system, it could not be a more poignant time for ORFC. 

20/20 is the year for clarity of vision. Now is the time and the place for radical discussion about the future of our food, our farming, our environment, and our health. To follow are a few of the topics we’re looking forward to covering. 

Regenerative agriculture as a part of the solution to the climate crisis. A key challenge we face today is getting people to believe that we are part of a natural world. We must acknowledge that we are part of the ecosystem and embrace regenerative farming to ensure that we nurture the habitat we live in.  

Regenerative agriculture has the promise of rebuilding thriving ecosystems, providing clean water, producing nutrient dense food, preventing flooding/superfires, not to mention the added benefit of sinking carbon below ground. It could also mean more and more people become inspired by farming and want to be involved. 

We are also excited to learn about people working to build new definitions of success, new approaches to land ownership and business models that are regenerative by their very makeup. The economic and business structures that have served many people for the last few centuries are based on the extractive mindset which doesn’t fit with our new regenerative paradigm. 

What are the business structures and social change we need to build regenerative agriculture that truly serves people and planet, not just lining the pockets of shareholders? The talks looking at land ownership and alternative ownership models/succession plans really speak to this, as do discussions of land ownership across racial divides.

We’re looking forward to seeing the many friends from our latest series, CEREAL, where we spoke to the British farmers who’d become disillusioned with modern wheat varieties and commodity crops, and discovered the benefits of growing heritage varieties using regenerative agriculture methods. Many are speaking on panels about the new grains movement and alternative models and supply networks they’ve created. 

Championing biodiversity was a big part of our last series, and we’ll explore this in more detail at ORFC looking a biodiversity in practice – from Agroforestry to Silvopasture as well as diversity of people on the land.

Of course, we’re interested to hear more about animal farming as a key part of regenerative agriculture too. So expect a lot to come! 

With tickets selling out in record time this year, it’s great to see this community  of farmers, activists, scientists, lawyers and producers gain serious momentum. To us, these people are the real game changers! 

The OFRC team has done a brilliant job pulling together a hugely comprehensive and very relevant programme. Most importantly there are so many stories of hope and ORFC always acts as a reminder that there are people out there doing remarkable things to build a better planet for us all, and that we are all in it together. 

If you aren’t attending, follow our social channels and @ORFC on Twitter. We will be capturing voices from the community to share on future episodes. If you see something in the programme of interest, drop us a message and we’ll try to cover it.