Tonight, for this very special Rock and Roll Farming Podcast I head down to Westminster in London to talk to DEFRA Secretary of State Michael Gove about their consultation paper ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food and farming and the environment in a green brexit’, and why it’s absolutely vital that working farmers respond.
Rock and Roll Farming is proud to work in partnership with Farmer’s Guardian. Please visit www.fginsight.com
Tonight I’m heading down to Overbury Farms on the Worcestershire/ Gloucestershire border to talk to Farm Manager Jake Freestone @No1FarmerJake
We hear about the 1600ha mixed farm that he manages, that’s been in the same family since 1722, and the wide range of soil types, conditions, crops, and enterprises that they have going on there.
We discuss Jake’s non-farming background, and how he caught the bug initially helping out on his Godfather’s dairy farm in Bedfordshire, and how from then on he wasn’t going to do anything else but farm. We find out how he eventually ended up at Overbury, after stints at Seale Hayne Agricultural College and several different farms and estates, gaining a wide range of experience in different roles.
We hear what crops they were growing when he arrived, and what system they were using then, before moving on to discuss the impact of his Nuffield Scholarship and what he learned from innovative farmers around the World using a zero-tillage system, and his ‘light-bulb’ moment in Oklahoma.
We then discuss at length how he’s set about drastically changing the tillage system at Overbury; from the cross slot drill they use, to both cover and companion crops, and the huge environmental and cost benefit they’ve seen since making the change.
We also talk about his passion for sharing the knowledge he’s accumulated through his experience with the system with other farmers, and also his blog, harvest diary, and social media, and why he feels that showing what they do on the farm is important.
All this and much, much more.
Jake’s one of the brightest and best farmers in the UK, and it was a genuine pleasure to hear more about the pioneering work he’s doing with environmental farming.
Check it out folks..
Tonight for this Rock & Roll Farming Special, I head down to Exeter in Devon to talk to Farmer, and co-founder of Ladies in Beef, Jilly Greed, to hear all about Great British Beef Week (April 23rd – 30th)
Tonight I’m delighted to be heading just over the English border to Sandbach in Cheshire to talk to farmer and digital marketeer, Cesca Beswick. @Cesca_Beswick
We talk about her early life on her family’s dairy farm in Staffordshire, and how her Dad tragically died when she was 18 months old leaving her Mum to carry on the farm on her own, before eventually remarrying and moving up to Cheshire.
We discuss her decision to study Product Design Engineering at University, and how she gained an interest in social media marketing and saw the potential for it to be used in business, which back then was a new concept.
We talk about what she learned working in digital marketing after Uni, and what skills she was able to take back to the farm, when eventually the call of home proved too much and she joined her family business, complete with some Wiltshire Horn sheep in tow!
We hear about the various courses she’s completed including foot trimming, A.I, and Entrepreneurs in Dairying, and the importance of personal development, before moving on to talk about ‘Cesca’s Lamb’, the meat boxes that she’s now selling direct to the public.
We also go into why the sheep have helped her confidence grow over the last 3 years. All this and lots, lots more.
Cesca’s one of the loveliest people you could ever meet, and i really enjoyed learning more about her farming journey tonight.
Check it out folks..
Rock & Roll Farming is proud to be part of the Farm & Rural Ag Network. For more great farming related content please visit www.farmruralag.com
Tonight I’m delighted to be travelling down to Silchester in Hampshire to talk to Crop Scientist and Director of the AgriFood Training Partnership, Professor Carol Wagstaff @cwagstaff
We talk about how studying biology at Royal Holloway, University of London, and spending time at Kew Gardens led to a fascination with plants and crops, and eventually to a career as a crop scientist at the University of Reading.
We discuss the research group that she leads, that focusses on improving the quality of food, including the nutritional value, appearance, flavour and shelf life, as well as helping consumers make healthy dietary choices.
We go into some of the best things about the job she does, which include working with a range of people from primary food producers, right through to large scale organisations and government, and also talk about GM crops and some of the misconceptions there are out there.
We then discuss the AFTP @AFTPnews (AgriFood Training Partnership), and how they’re providing high level training and skills development for professionals in the agriculture, food and beverage industries, through a wide range of courses in various formats – online, face to face workshops, and blended learning. We also talk about the AFTP Conference that takes place on 3rd July, and what people can expect there.
Lastly we talk about Carol’s other life as a high-level dressage rider, and how she manages to find the time to do that, as well as train for a marathon!
All this and much more. It was an absolute pleasure to talk to Carol tonight, and learn more about her life and career as a crop scientist.
Check it out folks..
Rock & Roll Farming is proud to be part of the Farm and Rural Ag Network. For more agriculture-related great podcast, blogs and digital content please visit www.farmruralag.com
Tonight I’m delighted to be heading up to Perthshire in Scotland to talk to farmer, consultant, and host of the Pasture Pod Podcast Michael Blanche @totallyewesome
We start off with talking about how the hell he developed an interest in farming, given he’s the son of an accountant and a teacher, and how he got his first sheep and a tractor at the tender age of 3.
We discuss how he went from being an almost beret-wearing English student, to being a tweed underpants wearing REALM student at Harper Adams, and how this in turn led to a job in land agency.
We go into why ultimately this wasn’t for him, and the next step which was working as a farm advisor for SAC, before talking about his first steps into the zany World of sheep farming, which was partly inspired by a life changing trip to Wales.
We talk about the initial challenges, and how in the first five years he TRAVELLED THE EQUIVALENT OF TWICE AROUND THE WORLD (?!) to see his sheep, and also the heartbreak of being repeatedly turned down for farm tenancies.
We hear at length about his Nuffield scholarship ‘The Farming Ladder’, and how the experiences he had, and 1st generation farmers he met from all around the World, changed his outlook and increased his determination and need to farm even more.
We also talk about how eventually, at the 8th time of asking he secured a tenancy, and just two months later had just £500 cash available for a 500 acre farm. We also of course discuss the fantastic Pasture Pod Podcast, why pasture pumps him up, and his bedroom shrine to me.
All this and lots, lots more. People take the piss out of me for overusing the word ‘inspirational’ in my podcast interviews, but I don’t care – Michael Blanche is a truly inspirational man, and it was a pleasure, as well as great fun, to talk to him tonight..
Tonight I’m really happy to be heading down under to outback south Australia to talk to Gillian Fennell on her family’s one million acre cattle station.
We talk about the part of Australia where they live, and some of the challenges they face with the climate and remote location, before moving on to talk about her background growing up in a small Queensland town and her time misbehaving at boarding school!
We discuss how she met her husband Mark, and how after a whirlwind romance they headed off windmill contracting in the Northern Territory, camping in the bush and fixing broken windmills, before moving back to town for a couple of years and attempting to live a ‘normal life.’
We then hear about how her Father in Law sold up and moved to a one million acre cattle station in South Australia, and their decision to go along too. We talk about the initial challenges they faced with no air conditioning, no mobile phone, no internet, and the nearest town being 350km away, as well as the strains of living in such close quarters with in-laws.
Gillian talks candidly and openly about her history with depression, something that has plagued her since her teenage years, and how seeking treatment has helped her to control it, as well as the importance of social media in helping to overcome isolation problems.
We talk about their three children and how they’re schooled at home via the Alice Springs School of the Air, and how challenging this can be, as well as the difficulties in keeping young people in rural communities. We also discuss Gillian and her husband Mark’s roles as volunteer Ambulance Officers, and what this entails, dealing with incidents from road traffic accidents to bar brawl injuries.
We the discuss in depth the cattle on the farm – 5000 head of Charolais x Brahmans. We talk about their characteristics, and how they suit their system and management, as well as some of the practicalities and how they muster them 3 times a year using motor bikes and gyrocopters to wean and sell.
We also talk about the difficulties that particularly kangaroos, but also wild horses cause, and how they have to deal with these on a regular basis.
All this and lots, lots more. I started this podcast with the aim of helping to show off cool and interesting people involved in agriculture, and Gillian fits the mould for that perfectly! Check it out folks.
Tonight I’m delighted to be heading up to Malham in the Yorkshire Dales to talk to beef and sheep farmer, Neil Heseltine.
And yes, first of all we start off talking about how a rugby playing upland farmer called Neil ended up with the slightly confusing twitter handle of @hilltopfarmgirl 😉
After clearing that up though, we move on to talk about the farm that his family have been at for several generations, hilltopmalham.co.uk and the challenges of farming at 1200-1800ft above sea level, as well as discussing his early life and his time studying agriculture at Seale Hayne in Devon.
We talk about his return to the family farm, and the changed he’s made since, including the reintroduction of cattle, the traditional British Breed of Belted Galloway, some of their characteristics, and the reasons behind that decision. We also chat about the Pasture Fed Livestock Association and how they’re producing meat more sustainably from grass.
We talk about how they reduced their Swaledale sheep numbers from a high of 800 to 200, and how their entire farming system is now based around the natural environment, which has seen flora and fauna, hares, and birds such as lapwings and curlews return to the farm.
Neil tells us about the Nature Friendly Farmers Network, the recent surge of interest there’s been in this relatively new organisation, and why he believes that increased focus on the environment in farming can lead to a more sustainable and profitable business.
We talk about the importance of selling their produce locally, and the social and community aspect of this, before moving on to talk about some of the scepticism he’s encountered with regard to his way of farming.
We also discuss mental health in the farming industry, and how we must address the terrible accidental death and suicide statistics that are the largest of any industry in the UK.
All this and much more. Neil’s a great guy, farming in a really interesting way, and it was an absolute privilege to get to know him better tonight. Check it out folks..
Tonight I’m delighted to be staying in Wales and heading down to Brecon in Powys to talk to farmer and new President of NFU Cymru, John Davies.
We talk about the family farm near the village of Merthyr Cynnog and the various enterprises they have there, including 100 suckler cows, finishing Welsh Black Cattle, 1000 ewes, and a contracting business covering 2000 acres of grass silage production for neighbouring farms.
We also discuss the 3 holiday units that they renovated to a very high standard from derelict farm buildings, and now rent out to tourists – epyntholidays.co.uk
We go into the various events they’ve held on the farm, from YFC rally, through to the very first Royal Welsh Grassland event in 2012, which happened to be the wettest June day in living memory!
We discuss the huge role that Young Farmer’s Club has played in his life, from being National Chairman to meeting his wife Menna ,and some of the experiences that he had along the way, as well as a local history project that he was involved in ‘Cofio’r Epynt’ which looked at the impact to the area when 52 families had to be moved at short notice in 1939 to create an army training area.
We also talk about his time as Chairman of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, and his role in organising the biggest Ag show in Europe, The Royal Welsh Show.
We then discuss at length NFU Cymru (Wales National Farmer’s Union), and how he feels to be elected President. We talk about some of the issues facing Welsh farmers at the moment, the importance of securing a free trade deal with Europe, and how vital it is for people to get involved and support the organisation. We also discuss what it’s like to stand up and stick your head above the parapet, and how important it is to have good friends and family around you, and what motivates John to take on a high profile role like this.
All this and much more. John’s a fantastic representative for Welsh farming and a great guy, and it was an absolute pleasure to talk to him tonight. Check it out folks..
Tonight I’m heading down to Gloucestershire to talk to Vet and Sheep farmer, Phillipa Page.
We discuss her early years in Lancashire in a non-farming family, and her decision at the tender age of ten to one day become a vet. We talk about the years of hard work and dedication that followed, with a degree in Animal Production science at Leeds, followed by 5 years of further study at Liverpool.
We talk abut the various jobs and experiences Phillipa had whilst studying, including the baptism of fire that was working with vets around the country during the foot and mouth crisis. She talks movingly about that difficult time, and how the farming community welcomed her, and increased her determination to become a part of that.
We talk about what being a successful vet means, and the importance of being able to work with farmers who can be under great stress. We also discuss Women vets, how sexism can still be present even now in 2018, and how they’ve proved themselves more than equal with their male counterparts.
We go into her years spent as a dairy vet in Gloucestershire, one of the hardest hit areas of the Uk for bovine TB, and how difficult it is telling farmers they have a reactor in their herd, before going on to talk about her current role working as a sheep vet at Flock Health Ltd, and what that entails.
We also discuss both her and her husband’s farming operation, the farm shop that they opened in 2015, and how they juggle it all with being the parents of two young children!
I’ve wanted to talk to a farm vet since I started the podcast, and I’ve finally got around to it now! Phillipa’s a fantastic example of just how integral they are to livestock farming, and it was a real pleasure to chat to her tonight. Check it out folks..
This episode is kindly sponsored by NFU Cymru. For more information please visit www.nfu-cymru.org.uk or www.rockandrollfarming.com