#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.