Farmerama: The agricultural podcast of the future

clock • 6 min read
Farmerama: The agricultural podcast of the future

Farmerama Radio has been quietly blossoming for six years, but recently it has become one of the industry's most valued voices. Emily Ashworth meets the team behind the podcast.

The Farmerama team have a vision. The face of farming is changing, and to Abby Rose, Jo Barratt and Katie Revell, the future of the industry lies in the hands of those who wish to take a more regenerative and holistic approach.

Inspired by a farming and technology festival, over the years founders Abby and Jo, and now Katie too, have really moulded Farmerama into the force it is now, quietly revolutionising the way listeners think about farming and the food system.

All come from a non-farming background but have found themselves at the helm of a rapidly expanding movement happening within agriculture with their podcast.

Abby, whose family moved to Chile to farm when she was in her late teens says: "I didn't find [farming] interesting and I'm ashamed of that now.

"I realised how naïve I'd been about it and that it's an incredibly complex and skilled life, and there's so much possibility.

"Since then, I have focused my life on engaging with farmers and being part of the community."

Abby creates apps for regenerative farming practices, and Jo and Katie are audio producers, and the trio have seen Farmerama grow from strength to strength. It feels as though their time is now, however, as their own aspirations and passions perfectly meet the needs of the industry.

"There weren't many resources available for farmers," says Jo.

"It's meant to be a library of knowledge rather than a news podcast, and an effective way to condense information.

"If you listen to the early episodes, we've always tried to be journalistically neutral with our ideas and assumptions about farming, but we've definitely moved towards being specifically about regenerative agriculture."

Success

They have a loyal following with huge support from the fellow farmers, including former agricultural podcaster and Farmers Guardian British Farming Awards winner Will Evans. But their success lies in their dedication to keeping it grassroots, and ensuring it is always about the people on the ground.

Katie says: "We're not setting ourselves up as voices of authority. Podcasting is changing and becoming more professionalised, but it's important to remember that the people who are listening are often the people giving us the ideas. We're the ones updating the website, we're doing the social media, so we're all on the same level."

Over the last two years, they have produced some hard-hitting series including last year's, Who Feeds Us?, a collection of stories from farmers and food producers through Covid-19 which explored the impact of the pandemic. It brought to light how diverse our country's food and farming landscape truly is, and led them to form their next series, Landed, an idea initiated by Col Gordon, a young farmer from Scotland who worked with the team on Who Feeds Us?

Landed focuses on succession, which is one of the adversities Abby feels farmers face, and an important but sometimes testing issue for many farming families.

But it goes beyond the realms of how to just hand over a business and looks into ancestry and the historic ownership of Col's family farm in the Highlands.

Abby says: "One thing that is looming is the succession conversation. It feels heavy and tense and it feels like its festering in the environment. It's never particularly pretty.

"Our recent series Landed, with Col Gordon, came from the question of succession. It navigates through that - how can he return and make money and support his family?

"I'm quite excited that Landed is a support to the farming community and it's a deep dive into some of the most difficult questions about succession in the space of four hours."

It also brings to light the lack of support perhaps, both for those who have no successor, or young farmers looking for a place to start.

Katie says: "As someone who is not in farming, I know so many people who would love to work in agriculture but have no background. It feels like an impossible dream and the biggest barrier is access to land.

"There's so much money to be made by selling land, but I think a huge number of farmers probably don't want to see their land go off and be developed and it might seem like the only option. There's a huge amount of emotional investment - people invest their whole lives into their farms."

For many, Farmerama is a refreshing insight into how we all exist - or should - to farm, produce food and live gently alongside nature. They, of course, have their avid listeners, but can see how this conversation is reaching those outside the industry.

"From the get-go, we've had distributed listening and over time we have had more listeners in cities," says Abby.

"Five or six years ago people didn't care about farming, it wasn't on their radar. Chefs are taking about it and people in food suddenly need to know about soil or herbal leys. There's a lot of recognition of a lot of traditional and indigenous practices that underpin a regenerative approach - I'm not saying there hasn't been people doing it before, but there's definitely a mindset shift.

"It's about bolstering life; it's moving out of the paradigm of control, killing things and moving into a thinking of how can I work with these life systems? It's a completely diff way of thinking about things.

"I always remember a quote that Neil Heseltine, a Yorkshire farmer, said, and that was you used to get up and think, what am I going to kill today? Now they wake up and think, what am I going to help grow and flourish today? That means you think about soil health and biodiversity and how can you ensure your workforce is great? It spirals upwards."

You only have to look on social media and see that this movement is rippling out of the farming industry, and into the peripheral of the general public. Last year the team won best podcast/broadcast and best investigative work at the 2020 Guild of Food Writers awards for their series, Cereals, which, says Jo, allowed them to present themselves to a new audience.

He says: "It was amazing to see that chefs and food people were interested in farming. There was that different food angle and it put the perspective of farmers there. We do this to uplift the voices of farming, so to see a mainstream and different audience be part of it was really cool."

They are still going strong and seem to only get more passionate about their cause. For farmers living this reality everyday Farmerama is a place to find likeminded people and see the potential of doing things another way. For those outside the industry, it is a chance to see what kind of work is happening across the UK and globally.

Abby says: "There's a systemic shift. CAP has gone and everyone is like right, the incentives are different so we're going to do things differently. I think regenerative agriculture and soil should be part of everyone's life and that there's a growing interest. It's about having that common web of people who think in a similar way, or who are also experimenting. And something to take away is hope - there's a lot of negative news and information out there that can feel hopeless.

"It's to celebrate the amazing work that's going already. We've always had a focus on not having celebrity voices but speak to the people on the ground and underrepresented voices so people can see themselves in this story and in the farming landscape."

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