Farming can feel isolating, especially during winter, when the hustle slows down and we rest our bodies. A great way to know that we are not alone is through a wide world of podcasts. Whether you want ideas, stories or just a helpful voice to keep you company while you start seeds and make repairs, podcasts can be the farmer’s best friend. Here are my favorite podcasts I turn to for inspiration and the perspectives that each one provides. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed on the Urban Farm podcast, and I’ve recorded an interview with the Permaculture Podcast that’s scheduled to air in February 2018.)
1. Urban Farming With a Capital “U”
The Urban Farm Podcast with Greg Peterson is a portal to practical skills you can apply to your farm or garden, focusing on the particular challenges and resources found in the urban environment. Peterson’s interviews feature a wide range of experts in gardening and permaculture, mixed in with lesser-known leaders in the local foods movement. It’s easy to relate to their stories and find valuable lessons to apply to your own field.
I found a couple of new personal heroes in The Urban Farm archives. Episode 285 with Cyfrin Barefoot is a rags-to-riches story that begins with this woman’s childhood of hunger and homelessness. She miraculously leveraged her challenging start in life to become self-sufficient and unbound by conventions, achieving successes, learning from failures and picking herself up each time she got knocked down. She had to forage to find food as a child, and now she creates gourmet food for paleo diet consumers.
Episode 280 features The Humane Gardener, a person named Nancy Lawson and the title of a book she wrote. The interview reveals that she hadn’t always been conscientious of native plants and animals in her yard, even though she was a professional advocate for all animals, wild and domestic. In listening to Lawson’s own experiences with wildlife and native plants, we hear how to bring balance back to the natural systems that we work with, even in busy and crowded cities.
The Urban Farming Podcast gears you up for learning, and Peterson has much more to offer. Explore the rest of his website for the other capital “U,” a university of online urban farming courses, many of which are free.
2. Dive Deeper Into Permaculture
The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann has been a solid source for thoughtful and well-researched expertise on building sustainable systems. Permaculture goes beyond the food to consumer connection, and it incorporates our economic, social and justice systems—many of which are reasons we reconnect with nature through farming. Visit the archives of the Permaculture Podcast and choose from the categories that interest you. For example, financial permaculture, foraging, natural building and rewilding are a few of the hundreds of topics Mann explores.
Some of my favorite podcasts fall under the category of roundtable discussions, where dynamic conversations are enriched by various perspectives. Even though Mann speaks with permaculture leaders throughout the world, I especially enjoyed hearing a roundtable discussion on building community that was recorded with a group of people not far from me, some of whom I’ve interviewed as well. Listen to Episode 1538 to get a taste of a truly intentional community in Kentucky, full of folks caring for the land and for each other.
3. Weaving Roots & Breaking Beans
The Appalachian Food Story Project is an initiative of the Community Farm Alliance, a Kentucky-based nonprofit group that works to improve urban and rural prosperity through supporting family-scale agriculture. The Appalachian Food Story Project focuses on the stories of the food culture in the eastern mountains, uplifting the rich diversity that inspires resilience in the people and the land.
I’ve recently learned about industrial hemp projects in my area, in the city and in the country by listening to CFA’s Woven Roots episode 5. A resourceful architect saw an opportunity to create an energy-efficient home using hemp byproducts as insulation, known as hempcrete. More traditional uses of hemp are taught and demonstrated in the Appalachian Mountains, where making textiles from flax, wool and other natural fibers is not a lost art.
The podcasts are recorded by various researchers, one of which is Sister Kathy Curtis, a member of a women’s monastic community. She visits farms and provides slices of life directly from the field and homestead in her series called Breaking Beans. For example, episode 8 shares the story of the Bowlings and their Old Homeplace Farm. They run a different approach to a community-supported agriculture program. Their rural neighbors and friends who buy their produce have a lot of convenient options: They get to choose what and how much they buy each week and can do all their shopping from the farm’s website without paying a large sum for the entire season. The Bowlings’ method suits their market, and they haven’t needed to haul their produce to the farmers’ markets or pay for advertising.
Every farmer has a unique story, one that we wouldn’t normally be able to hear without visiting the farm. Podcasts hold a wealth of cultural wisdom, ideas to try and inspiration for collaboration.