Restart Podcast Ep. 64: Regenerative farming and rural tinkering with Farmerama

Farmerama series art

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This month, we talk to fellow podcasters Abby Rose and Jo Barratt from Farmerama. Farmerama is a monthly magazine show that aims to share the voices and experiences of regenerative farming. By combining their experience in farming, tech, and podcasting, they have managed to create an award-winning podcast that brings the farming community closer to each other and the listener.

Last year, our podcaster Dave Pickering worked with the Farmerama team to produce one of the episodes in their series, Who Feeds Us? The series captures a moment of collective resilience and adaptation seen by food producers across the UK. This story of pooling resources to help those in need resonated with us as it also reflected the work done by our community during the last year. As lockdown highlighted the massive issue of digital inclusion, repairers spent their time fixing devices to donate them to those in need. This collective spirit really comes through when listening to Farmerama.

The importance of soil

As well as working on the podcast, Rose’s connection to farming comes from her work on her family farm. She explains to us what it means to practice regenerative farming and why it is so important to solving climate and biodiversity crises. Regenerative farming is about working mindfully and in collaboration with the natural environment. 

“Healthy soil is this miracle substance…Five years ago, I thought soil was dirt and I couldn’t have cared less about it. And now I think it’s the most important thing in my life and in all of our lives.”

From the roots of a plant, to the microbes in the soil, to the fungal networks underneath our feet. We can learn so much from this “communication mesh” that exists right under our feet. 

Dignity and responsibility

This idea of networks and collaboration extends across our whole food production chain. By sharing the voices of farmers, growers, food producers, Farmerama helps us to situate ourselves within this chain of food production. We draw a comparison between food and electronics in the way that consumers are not always encouraged to recognise their place in the system of production. Without this, it is difficult to properly internalise what our responsibilities and impact are. We are starting to see this change though. 

Hacking and repair vs corporate control

Rose says that “many farmers are repairers in heart and soul” as tools and the ability to adapt your processes are integral to farming life. We also hear clips from Farmerama that talk about Farm Hack which is a self-described “worldwide community of farmers that build and modify our own tools”. Especially for younger farmers with less equipment and money, this is an essential community for learning from more seasoned farmers. 

We couldn’t do an episode on farming without talking about John Deere and the Right to Repair. Rose and Barratt say that farmers not being able to repair their machinery is at its heart a question of agency. Furthermore, this issue is plaguing the agricultural sector as a whole. While data can help farmers – as seen by Rose’s work making apps like Soilmentor – the data that is being collected on a mass scale does not. Rather, it just serves to help big corporations profit. 

Autonomy is at the root of seed saving

These topics of agency and ownership will also resonate with repairers. They are also present in the conversation around seed sovereignty. We hear from a few different voices about what seed sovereignty is, why it is important, and how it supports reconnecting with our cultures, heritage, and environment. 

Seed saving is a practice that is encouraged partly to empower growers to have more autonomy over the food they are producing. Farmerama too, want to share “old knowledge” that Barratt says is being wiped away by big business. Much like in our repair community, it is important that we share our knowledge and share our skills so that we can all have more ownership over our electronics. 

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[Art courtesy of Farmerama and Hannah Grace]

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