It’s good to be back this month with a collection of conversations with farmers who are building a more ecological future. We begin at Whistlebare Farm learning how raising sheep and goats ecologically results in wool that’s extra special – all because of good work going on in the soil. We head to France, to Andy Cato’s farm, to hear about his regenerative learning journey, and discover how he’s putting that learning into practice in the UK. And finally, we’re in Germany, where Kulturland have created an innovative funding model bringing farmland back into common ownership, and securing it for generations to come.
Alice and Dominic Elsworth manage fifty eight acres at Whistlebare Farm, nestled between the northumberland coast and Cheviot hills. They keep pedigree flocks of Angora goats for their fine mohair fleece and Wensleydale sheep for their high lustre longwool. They aim to produce ethical high quality knitting yarn. They know that this begins with the soil and land, and they’re always looking for ways to keep their farm as healthy as possible. They share some of their different management strategies as well as how their market for wool has changed significantly over the last 10 years.
Andy Cato was a very successful musician before he decided to become a farmer. He now farms a 100-hectare mixed farm in France with a bustling farm shop and an on-farm mill and bakery, but getting there has not been straightforward. Although he’s always farmed organically, Andy realised a few years ago that the way he was farming just wasn’t working – so he started grazing animals, growing heritage wheats and using horses on the land, as well as incorporating pasture cropping methods (pasture cropping is when you grow annual crops, like wheat, within a perennial system, for example in a field of ‘grass’ where animals graze part of the year). Andy tells us about his learning journey and how he is in the process of setting up Wild Farmed Grains providing a way for UK farmers to try pasture cropping and grow heritage wheats, regardless of their current farming system.
Finally we hear from Thomas Rippel, a biodynamic farmer who has helped build Kulturland – a crowd-investing cooperative that is bringing farms in Germany into collective ownership. The Kulturland Cooperative have also stumbled upon a rather simple succession model that allows farmers to leave their land with a new home and pension payments, whilst ensuring the farm stays in ecological management.
This episode of Farmerama was produced by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt, and Katie Revell. Thanks to Annie Landless for the recording from Whistlebare Farm. Community support for Farmerama is provided by Olivia Oldham, Fran Bailey, Annie Landless, Eliza Jenkins and Hanna Soderlund. Our theme music is by Owen Barratt.
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ORFC Global 2021 is coming up! (7-13th Jan)
As the official media partner of ORFC, we’ve curated a series of guides to help you navigate the event, as there are over 150 online sessions over 7 days — there’s something for everyone! You can get your ticket here.
2021 presents a rare opportunity for a much wider group of people to access the Oxford Real Farming Conference – an annual gathering of farmers, growers, environmentalists, policy-makers working toward a more ecological farming future
These guides are here to help you get started with 7 sessions you definitely want to go to based on what you are most interested in… Scroll down and see what sounds good to you!
Thank you to Hannah Grace for the beautiful designs.