Episode #138 Banking on the Beetles: Creating a local circular agro-economy with Liberty Nimmo of The Three Turnips
By now it’s obvious that our current system is destroying all life on the planet – and our food/farming system is key both to the current levels of destruction: industrial farming is eroding soil, poisoning the biosphere on land and sea, gobbling up fossil fuels and harming our health.
Conversely, local community agriculture projects that link together viable enterprises in a network of circular economies is one part of the key to a viable, flourishing future.
Liberty Nimmo is part of a three-person team (The Three Turnips CSA) at Lower Hampen Farm in the English Cotswolds that is working towards a viable future. Their work aims to provide an environment where nature is allowed to flourish and thereby help to support a sustainable, diverse system of agriculture. In this holistic, regenerative approach they wish to benefit all life, building soil health, contributing to cleaner air and improving water quality. They operate a low input, low output farming system and constantly strive to reduce our energy requirements and aim to become carbon negative.
Liberty herself is a Regenerative Horticultural Grower, and the Founder of Nimmo Skincare which uses Pasture Fed Tallow as a key ingredient, along with home grown oil infused herbs. Liberty has a lifelong interest in herbal medicine and using local plants on people and livestock and combines her work at the farm with part time Italian Travel Consultancy.
In this episode, we explore the practicalities of starting from scratch in the evolution of a new regenerative project: what are the aims and values that underpin it, and how can a network of enterprises grow up, each sustaining the others, so that the end result is a community supported agriculture project that feeds and nurtures the local community.
Manda: My guest this week is someone who’s standing at the edge of that flourishing future, looking forward to the ways that we can feed and clothe and heat ourselves in a future that is not dependent on fossil fuels. Liberty Nnimmo is someone who has long had an interest in medicinal herbs and wild flora and spent time working on organic, regenerative and biodynamic farms. Liberty is now part of a group calling itself the Three Turnips based on Lower Hampton Farm in the Cotswolds, where in the last six months she has begun to develop a thriving, community supported agriculture project as part of an ongoing movement to create a circular economy on the farm. And it sounded so exciting and so inspiring to hear from someone who’s literally gone from a grass field to aubergines that I really wanted to talk to her. So people of the podcast, please welcome Liberty Nimmo.
Liberty Nimmo. Welcome to the Accidental Gods Podcast. Thank you for coming out this Friday evening. How is life on the farm? What is most alive for you and your growing world at the moment?
Liberty: Oh, Manda. Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s such a pleasure and a privilege to be here. So thank you. Well, today it’s been another pretty, pretty hot day, but it’s been a bountiful day of harvesting this morning, which is always sort of the best day, really, seeing all of these tiny little things that have been seedlings and that you’ve loved and nurtured and, you know, sang songs to, or or not. And, you know, and finally sort of sending them off to go into delicious food. So it’s been a really wonderful day.
Manda: What are you actually harvesting? Just for my curiosity, because I’ve been harvesting beans and peas this morning. What have you got?
Liberty: We’ve had the first of our aubergines, which I’m very proud about, because they look particularly shiny and delicious. We’ve had lots of runner beans, lots of French beans, lots of salad, onions, some cavalier nero. We’ve had the first of the cabbages, which is quite an exciting moment, and lots of beetroot and carrots and also lots of herbs. So we’re also growing lots of herbs, both sort of, you know, kind of with a view for culinary things and and teas and, you know, also sort of with an idea for medicinal use, too, which is sort of incorporated into cooking.
Manda: Yeah, definitely. And plant dyes, we’re going to get on to that later. But herbs and plants, I suppose they’re not quite herbs. So let’s take a bit of a step back because you’ve not been doing this very long. This is a whole new project and this is why I wanted to bring you to Accidental Gods, because about this time last year, there was a field. And and now you’re producing stuff and processing it and bringing it to market. So can you tell us a little bit about the route from there to here, and what brought you, Liberty Nimmo, to this?
Liberty: Yeah, absolutely. So in terms of the project itself, just to answer the first part of that question, so yes. So six months ago, the field which we’ve now cordoned off for two and a half acres of vegetables and other bits which I’ll come onto, was in arable production. And we received part of a grant funding to set up what’s known as a CSA, which is a Community Supported Agriculture. And essentially it’s, you know, local food for local people done in as an affordable way as possible. You know, the idea is that you as a subscriber and a member, you share in the bounty of the summer, and you kind of are aware of the leaner months. And so it kind of really connects everybody with this idea of seasonality and seasonal produce and, you know, local food that is as affordable as it can be. So that’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re working on sort of No Dig principles. So that’s kind of a la Charles Dowding, which means, you know, wood chip paths and getting our soil microbiology right and you know, making all of these kind of really fun, witty amendments of, you know, egg shells, baked egg shells in vinegar, and burying boxes of rices underneath old beech trees. So what we’re trying to do is create the right soil biology and get the sort of, what’s known as the soil wide web working.
Manda: How are you learning this? The boxes of rice under the beech trees and and the the eggshells in vinegar. How have you, Liberty Nimmo, found the data – because you weren’t always a farmer.
Liberty: No, no, no. So I’m very new to all of this. And, you know, three and a half years ago, I was living in London, where I had been for on and off, between London and Italy, for about ten years. And, you know, I suppose it’s the sort of epiphany moment of, you know, loving, watering vegetables and growing things. And, you know, the beauty of the countryside where I did – you know, I grew up in the countryside and I just felt it’s a world of never ending learning. And that is so exciting. And it’s also a world of incredible beauty and fun. And there’s such joy to be had in seeing things grow. And so I kind of made a shift. You know, I still work part time on my London based job, which, you know, is very much something which – you know, working in agriculture is not a massively profitable field to be in. And therefore, actually, you know, it just makes sort of sound economic sense. You know, I’m not due to inherit a farm or.. It’s kind of a way for me to balance both worlds, which is really lovely.
Manda: So who has the farm? Did you buy a little plot of land or are you renting the land? Or how has your two and a half acres emerged in a way that you can do it while still doing your job based in London?
Liberty: Yeah, absolutely. So I rent a little cottage from Clive and Lydia Handy, who.. and the farm here has been in Clive’s family for about 200 years. And it’s a small family farm. It’s about 350 acres, a mixed farm, so made up of some rare breed sheep and some rare breed cows. And Clive also has some arable fields as well. And the farm’s been kind of farming in a regenerative way for about the last ten years and focusing on No Till, the farm’s No Till. And you know, as I’ve mentioned, everything is about the sort of soil microbiology and and getting that right. You know, we’re in the Cotswolds, so we’re very high and we’re on Cotswold brash, which for anybody who doesn’t know is pitiful soil. And so the whole thing is about how to build this layer of topsoil, you know, how to therefore build in resilience, you know, maintain moisture and and look after all of your fungal networks.
Manda: So you’ve got – they’ve got – rare breed sheep and cattle. Can you tell us which breeds and why? That would be question one. And then, how did you come to be part of the farm? Were they looking for somebody to come and do a horticulture bit, or were you looking for a place to do horticulture and then found them?
Liberty: So, question one. So there’s Devon Closewool sheep, which are, you know, enchanting. And if you were a child and drew a sheep with sort of big, you know, curly ears and smiling faces, that a Devon closewool. And they’re dual purpose. So they’re very good, the farm’s certified Pasture for Life. So, you know, they’re only fed pasture and no grains or anything like that. And Lydia, who’s Clive’s wife and runs the farm with him, she spins the wool and also grows plants in the garden and dyes the wool. And so she sells, you know, directly now from the farm through our little shop at the vegetables, and also through the local markets.
Manda: And also online.
Liberty: And also online. Yes. So I had been working on an organic farm in Worcestershire at Kite’s Nest, which is a really wonderful, amazing place. And I met Lydia on a farm walk and we just got on incredibly well. And the vegetable seems to have sort of emerged in that wonderful way that these kind of funny ideas do. So it wasn’t that somebody, you know, one person was looking for something and a problem was being solved. It’s just happened in quite a nice kind of flowing way.
Manda: Yes, an organic way. Yeah. This is the nature of emergence from complex systems. I think.
Manda: Something emerges that you weren’t expecting.
Manda: So you’re in an area of outstanding natural beauty, AONB, which in England, I think in the whole of the UK, is a kind of designated area that gets particular interest from the government. But I’m interested in the idea of affordability and yet having a system that in the long run will be self-sustaining. Because one of the things that George Monbiot, bless his many bits of writing seems to be arguing, is that we can’t possibly have pasture fed livestock. He seems to have a really big bad thing about pasture fed livestock, which is bizarre because it’s the single most useful way of using fields like the ones around here. But leaving that aside, because he says the product of the food that comes off it will be too expensive and that this then becomes a rich man’s hobby and input, and that ordinary people won’t be able to afford it. And you’re creating a Community Supported Agriculture scheme that I’ve heard rightly is designed to be for local people and designed to be affordable. And it’s not that everybody around you has an Audi SUV and a spare house in London and lots of spare cash, I’m guessing. So is there a route towards this being financially sustaining, do you think, or is it something that’s always going to require a bit of government input, and is therefore government input always going to be required to keep food at a level where people can currently afford it?
Liberty: Oh, Manda, I’m so glad you asked this question. It’s such a fabulous question. I have a lot of thoughts about this. One, I think what we’re obviously trying to do is set up a self-sustaining business. You know, I think, agriculture has to be, you know, any business, it has to be financially viable. That doesn’t mean to say we’re all, you know, going to want to buy second homes in London for selling vegetables. But it does have to make financial sense. I think there is government support and we received government support, which was fantastic, you know, and we received, 50% of the project was grant funded. It was complicated because we had to get planning permission for two poly tunnels because obviously it’s relatively, that sort of slightly conflicts with the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, these kind of aims and objectives. However, you know, 50% is yes, it’s a huge amount of money. But it’s also, I mean, somebody else has got to – you know, Clive and Lydia have had to foot the other 50%, which is a huge risk and quite a sort of scary position to be in for something that you don’t know how it’s going to work out. And however, what I really, really think is that the future of farming and these kind of small scale businesses could very much could very much be dependent on, you know, bigger business in the way that, you know, the farm subsidies and the ELM scheme are changing towards public money for public goods.
Liberty: I think a really sensible way would be for big business to be, whether they’re given tax breaks or some sort of a relief for supporting these public goods, i.e. clean air, you know, good healthy soil, good food. And actually, you know, relatively speaking, to set up our vegetable scheme has been compared to, I don’t know, a lot of other businesses, it’s relatively not a huge sum of money. So if there was a local business that isn’t necessarily looking for a huge return on their money, but is wanting to see, you know, the health benefits of people walking to collect their vegetables and healthy soil and clean water and all of those benefits. It’s a really interesting thing, and I think that’s where these projects can be funded. What we’re trying to do is have as many diverse income streams as possible, which then builds up. I keep talking about resilience in the soil, also resilience within, you know, the system that we’re creating because you then have a little bit of income from one part and a little bit from another part, and all of a sudden that then creates something pretty firm.
Manda: Brilliant. So I definitely want to look at resilience and how soil resilience builds human resilience. But I’d just like to stay with the financial balancing for a bit. I was listening to the Outrage and Optimism podcast the other day with a woman called, I’m going to say her name wrong, but Jacqueline Novogratz, who had a really interesting proposition, which is how do we use the tools of capitalism without letting it own us and and directors? And she’d spent a lot of time, a lot of effort raising micro-financing, particularly for regenerative agriculture projects, as far as I could tell, but mainly in the Global South. And finding that if she had the right conversations with big business, she could point out that the old models of requiring a certain percentage returns were not going to work and they had to at some point accept what she said was a couple of basis points reduction. And we discovered later that a base point is 0.1% in their income. So, you know, wow, you’re going to have to give up 0.2% perhaps in order to find a model that works.
Manda: And I’m thinking the government, all governments around the world, although certainly the Western governments, have poured billions of dollars and pounds and everything else into contaminating the land, destroying the microbiome, and particularly now we’re realising, utterly annihilating the watercourses with toxic chemicals and nitrogen runoff and all of those things. And for them now to shift focus and put money into actually regenerating and creating clean air, clean soil and food that you could actually eat without dying, you know, you don’t have to scrub it for 2 minutes with hot, soapy water to make it safe to eat, which was until very recently, the government recommendation for fruit and vegetables. In this country, nobody ever does it. But that was the recommendation. Seems to me like an obvious thing to do. And I’m wondering whether in your part of the world you were pushing on an open door. Did the representatives of government, in whatever guise you met them, understand what you were doing? Or did you have to educate them first in order to help them to understand?
Liberty: We are incredibly grateful for the support that we’ve received. However, there were certainly logistical and administrative kind of battles with it, and we actually had the whole of the DFA sort of head office for the type of funding that we received out to see where their money had gone. And it was a really great opportunity to kind of explain what we’re doing and why it’s really important. And I also think it’s,really easy to knock DFA and, you know, government bodies. And of course there is a huge lack of joined up thinking, you know, which is why we’re in this sort of position. And, you know, the the the head banging that went on for us to get this grant would have would have been a massive stumbling block for other people and would not have, you know, I think a lot of people would probably have not bothered. I think the problem as well is that at the moment there is not a unified approach from government for what the future looks like. And I think the danger of somebody like George Monbiot, who has this voice and doesn’t understand or hasn’t properly understood the pasture fed farming, the importance of livestock, you know, I think any movement will probably start as being a relatively like high end or high value thing.
Liberty: But, you know, you look at the cost of producing food and we never pay that true cost. You know, I know that by growing my broad beans for, you know, six months and picking them and, you know, talking to them and telling them all the nice things I can think of and, then putting them, blanching them, freezing them, you know, how do you how do you put a value on that? And so, yes, you know, this food is worth more money. You know, pasture fed food is worth more money or, you know, or organic vegetables, or the way that we’re growing vegetables. But that will change as soon as a kind of unified approach to this way of farming can change. I think at the moment when there’s not a clear, unified approach, you can’t take that top down. There is no top down view on it. You know, it has to be, which is why we’re trying to do this kind of more sort of bottom up thing of, you know, well, let’s just figure out what works for us and what we love and, you know, and hope that works rather than saying, okay, what, what can the government do for us? Because it’s too complicated.
Manda: Hmm. Yes, of course. And also, we’re in a period yet again of total political flux. And what they did yesterday might well not be what they do tomorrow. And things are changing. So thank you. Let’s take a segue off onto another track. And I’m really interested in your process of: you had a field that had been under arable production. It hadn’t been ploughed. I’m guessing he was direct drilling to create fodder for the livestock. But anyway, you had a bit of a field. How did you, first of all, choose that bit of field and then your two and a half acres. Can you talk us through the process of turning that into somewhere where you can get the broad beans that you can pick and talk to and you tell them they’re wonderful, and your aubergines and all of that sort of stuff, how you went about planning it and what your criteria were: what you were aiming for and how close you got to what you originally thought?
Liberty: Yeah, so the field was in arable rotation and there was a cover crop that was down there. So it was grazed by the cows and the sheep in the winter. It’s basically an awkward part of a field, so it kind of made sense for the arable rotation for it to be cut off. And it’s also along a footpath, which means we get lots of lovely dog walkers to have a chat with about what we’re doing. And it’s also right near the grain store, which is where we’ve added the little kind of pop up shop. So there’s access and parking and there’s water and so, you know, it’s high and it’s exposed, which means in the winter, you know, it’s pretty windy. But that’s our only trade off, really. Otherwise it’s absolutely perfect. And so to kind of help counteract the wind, we’ve planted lots of diverse hedgerows and we’ve planted lots of willow and hazel that will also form part of our carpeting, and will also form part of replenishing our woodchip paths. And then because it’s a funny shape patch, we’re actually putting a forest garden in at the far end this autumn. And so that’s a sort of multilayered planting, you know, a planting of trees and and fruit, fruit trees and nut trees. And so the idea lots of people actually talk about it as being their retirement plan, because hopefully in 15 years time, quite low maintenance, but you sort of get quite a nice crop of it.
Liberty: And within that, we’re also building a little pond. So, you know, what we’re trying to do is make something that’s as diverse, you know, species rich. And within that, that’s also part of our kind of pest management control for our beloved vegetables. So we’ve also put in a beetle bank, which is kind of part of a dual purpose attempt to help with all of our insect control. So we’ve got aromatic plants on one side, and then we’ve got this Beetle Bank, which essentially is a sort of glorified pile of rubble with some tussock grasses planted into it. And that kind of creates the ideal nesting habitat for beetles. And they all travel up to 50 metres. So they have got, but we thought that maybe it was too much. So they’ve just got 25 metres to go to the vegetable patch so hopefully they’re all thrilled which is, I think the proof is there and I mean the diversity within the veggie patch is absolutely extraordinary. And I must get better at my beetle and insect IDing.
Manda: Or you could get some of the dog walkers to come and do it for you, because I think this just feels like a really rich way of encouraging people to get involved, because I’m always interested in how do we spread the narrative? And there’s a limit to what you can do. You can write little articles for your local parish post, or you can maybe do something with the local radio station. But actually you have people walking past on a regular basis and dog walkers are nothing if not consistent in their dog walking habits, then presumably they can see the change. They’ve watched it as a field and then they’ve seen you planting all of the stuff that you plant and watched it grow. Are you getting custom from the people walking past?
Liberty: Yeah, I mean, that has been absolutely amazing. So I think the unusual thing about where we are is that we’re not necessarily in the typical kind of what you’d imagine as being the Cotswolds. You know, actually it’s a sort of relatively, you know, it’s not the Chipping Norton set at all. It is made up of really lovely local communities. And the most amazing thing has been having these conversations with everyone as they walk past and say, What are you doing and how are you doing it and why are you doing it? And, you know, I would say the majority of our subscribers are made up of the people who do this kind of the loop and come past. And that for me has been one of the most amazing and also the most rewarding things about the way that we’ve been kind of spreading the word, is that we really are reaching people who are disconnected from from agriculture. And, you know, because they’re not farmers, they have normal jobs. And otherwise they value – you know, so many people come into the shop and they say, wow, this smells like my grandfather’s, shed. Because, you know, that smell of onions and the sort of beauty and brightness of everything is not something that we see in the shops anymore. And everyone sort of sighs as they come in. And it’s really wonderful. And then for people to come and collect their vegetables on their walk, and we’ve got one of the families who come, they all cycle over and pick up their vegetables, and talk about what they’re going to cook and argue over who’s carrying the carrots. And it’s wonderful. I think otherwise, you know, they’re the people who actually need to be reached with all of this. I wouldn’t say that they’re all made up of, you know, a higher echelon of society. They’re normal people, which is wonderful. And that’s the aim.
Manda: Yes. Because there are so many threads here. I’m wondering if we can go down the thread of the microbiome in the soil, creating food that has a different nutrient array spectrum than, let’s say, the stuff that you get in the supermarket that’s basically been grown on dead soil with a lot of chemical inputs. And I remember going to talk by a gentleman from the Bayer nutrient feed association in the States, and they were trying to develop a hand-held mass spectrometer, basically, which blew my mind, because when I was a student, mass spectrometers took up the size of the house, and you put your little sample in and waited about three weeks, and something came out. And they were wanting to get an app on your phone, and you just point it at your carrot that you just picked up, and then point one at your carrot you just got from the supermarket, and look at the readouts and go, look, one one is worth eating, and one is basically covered in poison or has no nutrient value, and I don’t think they’re there yet. Sadly. He said it was going to be out by 2022 and I don’t think we’re there. So are you exploring that? I know there’s no particular reason why I should throw my scientific desires onto you, but are you finding ways to look at how to evaluate these things?
Liberty: I mean, that is kind of the million dollar question, isn’t it? And actually, I was talking to a lady last year who was working for Cancer Research or somebody, and they were trying to actually scientifically, it’s really difficult to prove this nutrient density thing. And we do have a refractometer here at the farm, which we have not yet used, but that might be because a couple of other things have been going on. But the intention is there to use it, you know, because I think this thing of, well, it smells beautiful and it looks beautiful and it tastes delicious and is that enough? Does that equal, you know, nutrient density to the common sense mind? It does. But to the scientists, you know, it’s not enough. And, of course, you know, if you were to look at the vegetables, you can see the nutrient density of them. But I think it’s you know, it’s going to be really important to try and prove this as well. And I also think, well, it’s going to be what I’m really interested to see is, you know, who’s coming back? And our customers who come every week because they subscribe, and how their approach changes from their gut microbiome changing from the vegetables that they’re eating. And I think, you know, there’s got to be a kind of measure in there, of this kind of emotional impact that is happening. Then I don’t mean to be conceited about that by saying our vegetables are killing everyone’s happiness, but there is something in that, you know: we are what we eat and the soil is, you know, if we think about our gut being the second brain, the soil is exactly the mirror image of that. And so I think it’s a really, really important thing to kind of think about.
Manda: Gosh, that’s so much so. Because I know – in Aberystwyth actually, there is now a machine where I can send faecal samples from the horses and about three weeks later I will get a readout of the DNA of every bacterium in that sample. So you can measure the gut microbiome in the horses. And if you can do it in horses, you can do it in people. I’m sure they were doing it in people first. And yes, a lot of the horse people that I talked to, they notice a significant change in their horses’ behaviour when they get their gut microbiome back to something that it should be again by basically finding pasture fed horses and stop feeding them cereals. And I’m guessing that somebody somewhere must be doing the work. Wouldn’t it be exciting to be able to take someone who’s basically eaten out of a supermarket, and then introduce them to your produce from your living soil, with inputs only from the surrounding area and measure the change? And then somehow also be able to measure the behavioural change. Because there is a lot of work now that people’s behaviour is really linked to their gut microbiome. And I know just from my own – I gave up carbohydrates, or at least grains, kind of going pasture fed, effectively. And the first six weeks, I was so crabby! I would have killed anyone for, you know, just give me a bit of bread, anything. Bread. I need bread. Now! Give it me now! But then once that had passed, I was sleeping better. I didn’t know how foggy my head was until it wasn’t. And everything became clearer and sharper and easier. And I slept better, and all of those things. And they’re not hard to quantify, these things. It’s just thinking to do it.
Liberty: Yeah, well, if Clive and Lydia listen to this, then I think we’ve got a new project for the Three Turnips. I think it’s brilliant. And we need to do some benchmarking of what was everybody eating before the Three Turnips.
Manda: Yeah. And then also find behavioural ways of, how do you feel? Because there are much better assessments… when I was an anaesthetist we had the kind of ten stage from unhappy face to smiley face, and you know, you circle where you’re at and it tells us your pain level and then we can assess it. But I think there are much, much better ways now of assessing how people are feeling. And this idea that your gut is your second brain… or it’s not an idea, this reality that your gut is your second brain, would be so exciting. Are you measuring changes in your soil biome, or even just seeing differences in worm counts, things like that?
Liberty: Well, we’ve got a microscope on the farm and spend lots of long winters’ evenings looking at soil, and things shooting across the plates, which is just a complete, incredible, magical field. And we have had a soil scientist who’s helped us a little bit here on the farm. And I think with the amendments that we add on to the soil, there are lots of fungi that pop up across our beds and within the woodchip paths, too, which is amazing. And they’ve, you know, they’ve changed over the last couple of months. And then the soil is is starting to change from the different amendments that we’ve put on.
Manda: So what have you put on? What sort of amendments have you put on? Let’s take a step back. Actually, did you do the full Charles Dowding of just mowing it flat and then putting cardboard down and then piling compost on top of it? Was that how you started?
Liberty: We mowed it. We didn’t add cardboard. We actually added, because we thought it was going to blow away, and what we did was: there’s three layers of compost. One is – Clive cleared out all of the silt from the springs on the farm. And so that’s kind of that’s amazing. And we looked at that under a microscope and that was really interesting.
Manda: So alive.
Liberty: And then the second layer was farm compost, which was, you know, has kind of been made in a pretty typical way, but was full of wheat seeds. And so we thought just for our first year, we then actually put a top layer of the council compost, which is inert, on top of the beds and then from that, have kind of inoculated the soil by adding all of these various amendments like the eggshells baked in vinegar and the rice. And, you know, so they all have different stages. So, you know, you cook the rice and bury it. And then once the fungi will form on top of it, you then mix it with with bran and with sugar and then you bring it up to temperature and also mix it with some compost. And then you’ve got this completely incredible bomb of of biology. And so you just sprinkle, it’s like sort of sprinkling salt and pepper onto the bed. So it is amazing.
Manda: Where did you find that? Where are you finding your ideas of input? Is this something that Clive and Lydia have been doing for years, or are you just hunting this out on the Internet or talking to people?
Liberty: Combination of all of those things. So Clive and Lydia have been No Tell for the last eight years. Clive hasn’t used any artificial anything on the farm this year, which is amazing. And then, you know, a combination of asking lots of people, you know, evenings researching and, you know, reading lots of books. And social media is also, you know, a really great source of kind of informing yourself with what other people are doing at that time of year, too. But it’s also, I think there’s kind of an element of naivety in that somebody came to the farm the other day and said that we’re like those instant gardeners from those sort of instant makeovers, where you kind of go in and then two days later you’ve got like a fully formed garden because it’s just been so quick that, you know, all of this has happened in six months. It’s extraordinary. And, you know, the thing is that we have – because, you know, I’m not a market gardener, I’m not trained and I’m learning on the job and I’m doing this as I go. I mean, I now very proudly say I am a market gardener, but it means that, you know, we can do these funny, wacky experiments, like I’m actually, you know, experimenting with trying to get some late peas. So I’ve just planted out some peas in the polytunnel hoping for an October, late September or October crop. And somebody came and said, Oh, that’s fantastic, you know, and it’s because there’s this sort of element of naivety, which means you can be really brave and experimental.
Manda: Yeah. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
Liberty: Exactly, exactly. But I hope in three years time when I know a little more, I’ll still be experimenting
Manda: Yeah, but you will. Because if an experiment works, you know, behaviourally, you only need a few to work for you to carry on experimenting. If they all fail, don’t worry. We’ll give you more experiments. There will be things that you can do. Yeah, tell me a little bit, just for my own curiosity. So egg shells and vinegar, I’m guessing you’ve got basically a calcium carbonate in acetic acid.
Liberty: Yeah, exactly.
Manda: So. So you give off CO2 probably, and end up with a calcium solution. Is that what you’re after?
Liberty: Yes, exactly. So, you know, a lot of the things that we obviously want to be adding are things like carbon and calcium and sulphates. And so that’s what we’re trying to aim to get to. And also, you know, the microbiology of something like an ancient woodland, you know, there’s such a diverse mix in there that if you can help proliferate that, that’s also what we’re trying to do, is sort of speed up that process.
Manda: Right. And I’m guessing because the livestock – you’ve got the Devon red cows and the Devon Closewool sheep, but they’re pasture fed, so they’re extensive. So you don’t have what some farms have, which is a shed full of straw that’s been urinated on and defecated on, trampled around and basically turned into amazing compost. So you don’t have that. Do you end up going across the farm with the bucket, collecting sheep poo, which I find myself doing on occasion?
Liberty: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, again, this is where the woodchip’s so amazing and such a brilliant resource, because a lot of our brown is made up of woodchip and you know, the green is our green. So obviously when you’re making compost, you know, it’s such a scientific process or can be, you know, and you want to make sure you’ve got the right parts of green being green parts and and brown, whether it’s sort of straw or something like woodchip. And so we’re using more woodchip in the compost that we’re making. And what we want to do is also make woodchip compost for our seed for our seed trays, because there’s lots of experiments around at the moment to showing that, you know, seeds tend to seem to start off a bit slower in woodchip compost, but actually then do much better when they’re a little bit further on. And so we don’t want to be buying in bags of seed compost. If we can make it here on the farm and have this kind of lovely closed system, then fabulous.
Manda: And in the end, you can give it to your local community and they can grow their own. YSo I’m really interested in the other businesses that you’re getting going on the farm. Because you have this circular economy concept of ‘let’s let the product of one process become the beginning of a different process and get everything moving round’. So tell us a little bit about the other enterprises that you’re beginning to develop at the farm.
Liberty: Yeah, I think this is in a way one of – I know it’s all really exciting, but it’s one of the exciting bits. So we’ve got a really nice chap who is sustainably making charcoal from the woodlands here on the farm. So we’ve had, as so many people around here, there’s been terrible ash dieback, which is heartbreaking. And as part of the clear felling, we’re turning that into charcoal, but also into biochar, which is another amendment both for the farm and for the vegetables, which, you know, essentially then you’re just adding pure carbon to the soil.
Manda: So tell us a little bit, because my memory of charcoal burning from a kid in Scotland is that it required a half a dozen men who kind of went out to the woods all alone, and they built something and stood around it for a very long time and came back and there was charcoal and it all seemed a bit alchemical. Have you got is this is this person building his own charcoal burner? How is he doing that?
Liberty: Yeah. So he’s got a kiln, which is kind of a dome shaped wood, then a kind of conical roof. And the idea is that the smoke all collects in the top. So you want to end up just with pure carbon. And so I think it’s obviously incredibly complex, but the idea is that all the smoke gathers and the fumes, and they gather in the top, and you start with three chimneys and they produce all this white smoke and everyone thinks that new people are going to be elected or something. And then you end up with…
Manda: The current ones are doing, okay, let’s keep them for a while.
Liberty: And then, you know, over a period of about 24 hours, the chimneys are shut down one by one. When you’re packing the wood in, you want to pack it in really, really tightly. And then at the end, every burn is obviously going to be slightly different depending on, you know, temperature and amount of oxygen. But it’s a really beautiful process. And you know, the smell of the charcoal is amazing. And you can light it with a match. And, you know, you have to carry it around as though it’s something really precious because otherwise it would disintegrate if you shake it too much, you know, it’s so different from what you would buy in the petrol station.
Manda: What’s the difference between that and biochar? What makes charcoal biochar?
Liberty: Biochar is a by-product of making charcoal. And so it’s sort of basically the waste bits that are probably not big enough to be sold as charcoal and so that you mix in water and dissolve it in water and then you spread on the farm as biochar.
Manda: Okay, brilliant. And you’re getting then carbon back into the soil, and then you can build your soil, and then you’re sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and everything is is wonderful. And is this part of a business that is sustainable when the ash stops dying back, when the ash dieback has done its job and all the ash has gone, is this person still going to have enough wood input to keep this going, do you think?
Liberty: Well, I mean, I hope so. I mean, he’s self employed. One of the many amazing things about Clive and Lydia is that they want to encourage young people, you know, who are enterprising, onto the farm. And they are very happy to share their land, which is an extraordinary, you know, an extraordinary approach. And so in return for giving the land and the wood, you know, they then sort of benefit from the biochar and from us being able to sell the charcoal in the shop. But I think for for the chap who’s doing charcoal burning, he’s looking at doing hedgerow management in the winter and then charcoal burning in the summer.
Manda: Hedge laying.
Liberty: Yeah, exactly. And so, so through that, he’s hoping to get that, that also is a relatively sort of diverse income stream for him. And I think for for many years to come, there will be hedges to lay on the farm and there will be, you know, trees to be looked after and to be felled. And, you know, there’s been an awful lot of planting over the last eight years here. So I think there is scope for that. But I think there’s also scope for, say, him to go and work on another farm and bring the wood then to here to be, you know, to be burnt in the charcoal burner and to do the process here. So I think one of these other things that we’re kind of interested in is how do you make this kind of a way of farmers being able to collaborate together? And if we’ve got the charcoal burner, can somebody else from another farm come and use it? You know, why not? Yeah, that then provides more other income streams and more diversity. Then fabulous. So that’s one of the things that has been really exciting over the last couple of months.
Manda: Brilliant. And presumably when he’s hedge laying or even hedge trimming, that produces a lot of brush that you can then chop up and that becomes your your chopped wood chip for your paths and to go into your compost.
Liberty: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So that’s perfect. And then we want to also get funding for a commercial kitchen so that we can turn these wonky vegetables into soups or kimchi or, you know, make jams. And, you know, maybe someone wants to do, you know, frozen vegetables.
Manda: Whatever, or soup, or cooked meals, or anything, once you’ve got a kitchen. Because Joel Salatin, who’s a big regenerative guy in the States, I think I gather from him, he says, if you’ve only got a certain amount of money, the first thing you do is create the kitchen on a commercial level, and with presumably all of the insurance and all of the hygiene certificates and all of that kind of stuff, so that you can process everything that you’re making.
Liberty: Yeah. And do canning and things like that. You know, actually this week I stored, again another experiment, storing some carrots in sand just to see if it’s something that can work. And the sand is incredibly dry, I’m hoping it’s dry enough. That would be really interesting because we could, rather than storing stuff, we can just turn it into a soup or whatever it needs be. But I think it provides further scope for us. And again, this is what we were talking about earlier in terms of where does this funding come from. And, you know, a commercial kitchen, a small commercial kitchen on the small farm, it’s not masses and masses of money, but it’s a huge investment for Clive and Lydia. But if it was to be done by a local business who are wanting different benefits, then I think it is suddenly something that’s really appealing.
Manda: Yeah. Or the local authority who wants proper school meals? Even if you were only offering a percentage of their input to their school meals. The difference in the kids of having food with a living microbiome would I imagine be huge. But, you know, that requires a lot of joined up thinking. So one of the things that we’re looking at potentially here, if we are able to get a silver pasture where we’ve got rows of trees and pasture in between, is is chickens, because extensive chickens – I would not ever be interested in chickens that are shut in a house. We have three chickens. We started with nine. The fox has been a few times. And they basically roam everywhere and then put themselves to bed at night. But that we could do the Richard Perkins idea, the chicken tractor, which is to move it progressively over where the livestock have been after the dung beetles have gone. I saw my first great big, big, huge juicy dung beetles today. It was amazing because we’ve had lots of little ones but I saw the first big ones. So I’m wondering, are you thinking of moving to chickens or a micro dairy, or are sheep and beef the thing?
Liberty: Chickens would be fantastic. Chickens are the next on the list. I would absolutely love to have some chickens. And I know that Clive and Lydia would too. We’re just trying to work out our timings at the moment. But, you know, eggs are fantastic. And there are some chickens here, some hens here on the farm. And, you know, the eggs sell out. You know, they don’t even make it to the shop door and they’ve gone. And also, you know, there’s such a fantastic part of this, you know, of the pasture fed system.
Manda: Yes. Yes. The process of a chicken scratching on the dung and just spreading it everywhere.
Liberty: Yeah. And the boron. So Nicole Masters, who, as you probably know, is the sort of queen of soil, and she talks about the boron from the chicken manure. And it’s gold.
Manda: So hang on a minute. Let’s talk through this. So where do they get it from? Because it can’t be that chickens make boron. That’s not a thing.
Liberty: Well, I can’t go any further!
Manda: Okay.I’ll look it up. Maybe get Nicole Masters, come and talk to us about how that works. Because that would be really exciting. Okay. In amongst all that you’re doing, you’ve told us about the Devon Closewool rare breed sheep. And it seems that wool and fibre in all its forms are going to become increasingly important in all that we do as we move towards a more regenerative future. So can you tell us a little bit more about what you do with the wool and how you use it and what it’s for, all of those things?
Liberty: Well, so Lydia’s just got about 50 breeding ewes. So it’s a small flock. And at the moment, there’s a couple of things going on. So Lydia grows plants here in the garden and dyes them, and then that’s just sold as wool to be spun. So she’s got a sort of cult following of knitters, which is fantastic. And then some of the other wool gets sent off to a weaver in Wales who, as you will definitely know, there’s very few weavers. And the processing of wool is kind of, the wealth of the Cotswolds was built on the wool industry and you know, you really need to go down the road to Northleach to see the church and, you know, to see all of this kind of these incredible buildings that have been built on the wool industry. And here we are now unable to process wool. You know, it’s sort of insane. And it’s such an amazing resource and it’s such an amazing fibre. And so Lydia has also been in talks with a fashion designer about sustainable fibre for clothes. But also what we want to do here at the farm, again, is look at sort of getting funding for something that we can then kind of collaborate with other farmers on. So we want to have a processing plant where you can bring your wool and it doesn’t have to be, you know, beautiful and the best quality. It can be, you know, it can be pretty basic wool. And we want to felt that and turn it into, you know, mulches for trees as a horticultural mulch, because it’s a fantastic mulch. And what it means is that it’s not then, you know, the finest doodah or whatever, it’s for everybody, and it’s for all farmers and you know, locally who want to bring their wool here and it’s making a use of it.
Liberty: And so I think that that’s something that we’re we’re really interested in doing. And and, you know, again, it requires more funding. I think it would be a useful thing to do without having to go down the route of kind of, you know, just making it a luxury product, which, of course it is and can be. But it doesn’t have to just solely be that.
Manda: Yeah. Because, like you Ludlow near where I live was, was built on, on the wool industry and there was a while when everybody wore wool. And now as far as I can tell, our local farmers have to pay the wool board to take it away, and they either burn it or there was a time when they sent it to China where it was processed and then the Chinese sold it back to us at a vast profit so that we could then knit it into things that people might want to wear. So it would be quite good, I think, and not just in terms of our local industry, but in terms of the basic carbon footprint of our clothes, if we could begin to start using the wool locally. And I’m very aware that the Land Workers Alliance three F’s are food, fuel and fibre, the three things that we bring from the land. And so I think it’s Curlew Weavers that are weaving for Lydia. Are they producing things for people to wear or is it more rugs and blankets?
Liberty: They do sort of rugs and blankets for Lydia. But I know that he also works with other farmers. And I believe that, you know, it all falls under the umbrella of the Fibre Shed movement, which, as you know, is an amazing group of people who are trying to promote this thing of fibre, and the multiple uses of it and how it is a kind of neglected resource. And, you know, I think the work that they do is is really amazing. And hopefully, you know, they’re continuing to raise the awareness about all of this. But I think, you know, yes, I know that he has a waiting list of about three years, which that in itself is kind of a heartbreaking thing that there are people with the wool as well who who do want it to be spun.
Manda: Are just desperate for someone to spin it and then weave it into something that they can actually use. Yeah. Okay. Well, we’re getting there. You know, the more we put the word out, maybe somebody would like to become a weaver. I think it sounds like one of those old crafts like like hedge laying and thatching and growing that we all need to get back to more. So we’ve got woodchip. We’ve got wool. And meat from the various beef cattle and the sheep. All pasture fed, all – I’m guessing organic? And what else? I know there are various other enterprises on the farm. Tell us about what else you’re planning and what else you’re doing.
Liberty: Well, one of the other really interesting and exciting things that Clive and Lydia are growing is the heritage wheat, which are the old wheat varieties. And they’ve been developed by a guy called John Leitz, and they’re kind of population wheats, which means that, you know, within the wheat mixture you might have over 100 different types of or up to 100 different types of varieties, which means that you’ve got this very resilient crop. You know, you’ve got bits that grow taller and shorter and deeper. And so what that means is that, you know, the risk is kind of spread. You know, obviously one of the things for farmers about growing wheat or any crop or anything for that matter sits with them. The supermarket or whoever it is that’s buying the produce off them, they’re actually not taking the risk in terms of if that failed lamb doesn’t make it to slaughter. And so what wheat varieties seems to do is add another layer of resilience. And what it also means is we, or Clive and Lydia, are called the Cotswold Grain Network. It’s a group of farmers who are all growing different heritage wheat, and they’re sort of sharing information, sharing ideas. And one of the farmers has bought a mill which actually has been grant funded, which means that Clive can take his wheat to the mill, have it milled. We then team up with a baker in Cheltenham. So eight miles down the road they bake the bread and sell it. And so you’ve got this really wonderful low mileage produce, you know, and that tastes delicious.
Manda: And presumably is healthier, also. Because it seems to me these monoculture wheats, particularly if you’re going to spray them with glyphosate just before you harvest, but even without the spraying, eating monocultures cannot be good for our gut biome, and we’ve already explored gut biome a little bit. So presumably having lots, a 100 different wheat species in your bread makes it a whole different prospect, too.
Liberty: Yes, absolutely. And the lovely thing about eating heritage wheat is that you can you have one slice and you’re full, whereas with Warburtons you want to eat the whole loaf and you’re still not full, and then you feel ill.
Manda: Oh, now you see, I want to go back onto grains again. Is it any harder to harvest? Because I know one of the reasons people go for monocultures is everything is the same. You set your combined harvester at a certain height and you know that your wheat is that particular height, and you just slice it all off and then your straw is all the same length. If it’s all different heights, which I gather is good for differing weather conditions and things like that, is it harder logistically to get it in?
Liberty: I don’t know enough, but I believe that that would be the case. Andd it would probably be be tricky. I mean, I know that in terms of yield, you obviously work on a much lower yield, but the value of that yield is higher. You know, and in the same way of the pasture fed meat sort of, I wouldn’t say argument, but view, is that if we all eat less food, whether it’s meat or wheat or vegetables that have higher nutrient density, as we were talking about, and higher value, you don’t need as much. And so, you know, I don’t think the yield necessarily correlate, it’s not a true kind of correlation of success which which again, is the pasture fed thing, too.
Manda: And also, if we wasted less. It’s, I think, connecting people up with their food and their the land and the lives that have been given. I mean, we’re much less likely to just put something in the fridge, wait till it’s gone off and put it straight back into the recycling, which, you know, there is enough food in the world to feed us all. It’s just that we waste stupendous amounts of it. And so it seems to me that part of the local food movement is helping people to reconnect with the value of food. Somebody’s work went into growing this aubergine, or a life went into the burger that’s on your plate, and then you’re less likely to throw it away because you just can’t be bothered, I hope.
Liberty: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.
Manda: Tell us a little bit about the Three Turnips, because we’ve been talking about you and Clive and Lydia, but you’ve actually got a little group called Three Turnips. Tell us what that is and how that arose and where you got the name from. I think it’s great.
Liberty: Well, the Three Turnips was Clive’s stroke of genius, because this is all a great risk and a great adventure and we don’t know what we’re doing. And so we felt that the apt name for us was the Three Turnips.
Manda: Are we suggesting that turnips are not very bright, somehow?
Liberty: Well, it’s great when some people accidentally think that we’re called the Three Beetroots. Maybe it has less of a reality.
Manda: Beetroot as we know it are really amazing health foods, and quite easy to grow, as I am discovering.
Liberty: So that’s the name of the CSA and the Market Garden. And at the moment for this year we’ve got about 35 members, which is fantastic, and they all come from within a 3 to 4 mile radius of the farm. And they’ve all come through word of mouth and through local, you know, the Parish Magazine and the dog walkers and WhatsApp groups. So we’ve you know, it’s not been a huge kind of marketing burden. It’s just been, you know, local gen, which is exactly what we want.
Manda: Yes. And I’m interested. Do you think that by connecting local people to the land and the food, are you seeing at all – it’s probably too early. But my hope, my dream, my projection is that if we are able to bring quite conservative with a small C people more into connection with the land, then their resistance to the concepts of climate breakdown and the climate emergency and the ecological emergency becomes less ideological. And we can begin to have more conversations about regeneration that are not hitting up against tribal limits. Are you finding that at all?
Liberty: Yeah, I think that is really, really interesting. And I think I suppose those tribal limits and those big ideological ideas about climate change sort of come from a different place. Whereas what seems to be happening is if people are coming onto the farm and they’re seeing, you know, lots of bumblebees or lots of moths, they don’t necessarily initially connect that with being a thing about biodiversity, you know, and they don’t necessarily make those connections. And they don’t necessarily prioritise those things either as being, you know, that’s how we want things to become. Instead, it seems that what they sort of say is, wow, this tastes good and this smells really nice and this looks really beautiful. And do you know what? I saw a bird the other day and I haven’t seen it before. And then all of a sudden the penny drops, and it’s then the whole picture kind of slots in and then they say, oh, right, well this is the environment we want to be creating. And so that then becomes the ideology. It doesn’t kind of happen from, you know, saying, Oh, well, we’ve lost all of this, or this is missing, or it’s kind of a much gentler process.
Manda: Yes, yes. Because knowing that 70% of UK birds are now on the endangered list is a head thing and, and all of the neuro psychology, as far as I understand it, is that if you have worked something out for yourself, it stays in, and it’s real. And sadly the whole Q Anon thing in the States was very clever because they led people, they gave them lots of little building blocks and let them make the links themselves. And because they made the links themselves they believed them. But we can do it here exactly as you’re saying. If people are seeing either more of things that they’re realising they’re not seeing in their own environment or new things that they haven’t seen before and make those links themselves, then it stays in and then it feels real, which is which is fantastic and glorious. And I’m thinking, so we’ve got sheep and wool and fibre, which is really important, and heritage grains and all the biochar and all of the wood. And the one thing that we haven’t talked about is the thing that drew me to you in the first place, which is Nimmo skin care. Tell us a little bit about that.
Liberty: Yes, of course. Well, I also make some lovely face creams, and I started off making them when I was working on this wonderful farm in Broadway, Kite’s Nest, where I learnt to drive tractors and trailers, and made hay, and all of those lovely things, and really learnt about this kind of philosophy of, you know, how to live and farm. And philosophy is too strong a word. But just I really identified with the way that they have chosen to live. And I really admire that the principles by which they live. And we were messing around with, you know, talking about tallow, which is beef fat, and how it’s a really useful medicinal product. And, you know, was obviously used for candles and can be used in soap and also in deodorant. And, you know, farmers don’t get any value for this. You know, there is no value attached to it. It’s a waste product. And I just think that’s a great shame. And I think, you know, if you’ve got meat that you can eat, you’ve got, you know, wool that you can wear, why can’t we also use, you know, tallow as part of our, you know, skincare regime? And so I grow all of the herbs myself and dry them and infuse them in oils, and use pasture fed tallow from the farm or from Kite’s Nest, or from another local farmer, too. It’s not going to kind of compete with some of these bigger names, but it is a lovely little sort of simple product, which I think is really important and I think should be thought of as, as being another thing such as wool and, you know, such as biochar. And I need to have a little more time to apply myself to it.
Manda: Yeah, I was thinking about time, but I’m guessing also as we move towards a more regenerative lifestyle, as people make regenerative choices, you don’t have microplastic beads in your tallow skin care. You’re probably not packaging it in huge amounts of plastic. It’s part of a whole systems change that we need to have. And if people can make this change now, then, you know, if the great big, huge pharmaceutical companies go bust because nobody’s using their stuff anymore, that wouldn’t be a hardship for almost everybody and it would be better. I’m very impressed. So we’ll put a link to Nimmo skincare in the show notes as well. But can people order this online? I guess you don’t actually want to spend your life packaging stuff up and send it out to people. How do how do they find it?
Liberty: Yeah, they can order online or just get in touch with me online.
Manda: And you’ll tell them where the outlets are.
Liberty: Yeah. Yes, exactly.
Manda: And what about the future? Because we are thinking we’re hoping to have agroforestry here and thinking about chicken tractors, the whole Richard Perkins. You move chickens a little bit away after the dung beetles have been and gone, because you don’t want the chickens eating your dung beetles. Although I’ve noticed – we only have three. They run around everywhere, and they don’t seem to eat the dung beetles. But are you looking at that kind of a thing progressing down the line?
Liberty: Yes, absolutely. I mean, pasture fed poultry is is is next on the list. And it’s something I would absolutely adore to do as well. I think certainly the Richard Perkins style, you know, and following the cattle and the sheep around as well, you know, and I think they add so much benefit to the soil health. And also you’ve then obviously got the further diversification of income streams through, you know, eggs and chicken, too.
Manda: And people, it’s another taste thing. Dan Kittredge of the Biodynamic Food Association says you don’t need all of the spectrometers, although he is trying to make the one, but that people’s taste buds are the best assessment and that if things taste good, they are likely to have a higher nutrient density when you buy it. I don’t know, sometimes get raspberries, I occasionally crack and buy raspberries from the supermarket and they actually taste of blotting paper, and sometimes they even taste of blotting paper with really icky stuff in it. They’re horrible, but the ones that you make here are amazing. And it’s the same with eggs, I think whenever we have spare eggs, the colour is different and the taste is just – it’s like it’s a different thing from supermarket eggs. Do you find that also?
Liberty: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we have somebody here in the village who doesn’t eat other eggs but eats the eggs here from the farm. And there’s 13 hens here at the moment. So there’s a small number of eggs, but it’s a completely different thing.
Manda: Different experience. Yeah. Fantastic. Going for a micro dairy at any point?
Liberty: A micro dairy would be wonderful, but I suspect we might need somebody else to come in and do that. So if they I mean, that’s the other thing is that, you know, Clive and Lydia are very open to, you know, having people with enterprising ideas and, you know, and if there is somebody who’s interested in running a micro dairy, you know, we’d be delighted to hear or, you know, or poultry, too.
Manda: Yeah. Just getting the other people doing it. I would love to do a micro dairy, but I think it’s one of those things you do that, or you do everything else. Because it is even if you have the calf on cow, you don’t wean them, you leave them on and so you’re only milking once a day. It’s still a huge amount of extra work that I haven’t quite managed to figure out how many hours there are in the day.
Manda: So we’re coming to the end of the time now. Is there anything that you would like to say to people listening other than find your local CSA, subscribe to it. Be part of a regenerative local food network if you possibly can. Anything else from your experience?
Liberty: Well, I just think that that, you know, it’s a really, really exciting time for farming. And I think the language around farming is changing. And I think it’s really important to, as you say, to try and find your local CSA and engage with the farmers who are doing things in the right way and sort of support and continue to encourage them. Because even though, as regenerative farmers, there tends to be a lot of sort of echo chamber conversations where you talk with like minded people. But to get the message out further tends to be one of the challenges. So I think, you know, to to this level of engagement is really important. And I also think for anybody who’s interested in moving into a world, you know, into the world of agriculture and are sort of fearful of, you know, low salaries or long hours, you know, to really think about it as a kind of wonderful way of living and as a way of doing it in conjunction with other work, too.
Manda: Yes. Yes. Because as you said earlier on, this is one of the few – the word industry isn’t right, but ways of creating value within predatory capitalism where you don’t know the value of what it is you’re making today. You know, if you make widgets, you know what you’re going to sell them for and therefore you know what the inputs are and you can work out what your profit margins are. And that’s how predatory capitalism works. And with farming this year, costs have gone up just exponentially. Diesel and fertiliser and all the normal industrial agriculture inputs are just skyrocketing. And nobody’s going to have any money to pay for food because that always seems to be right at the bottom of everybody’s desperate list. And we don’t know how much we’re going to get for the stuff that we’re having to pay more to make this year. It’s always been the one thing in capitalism, that and women’s care, that has been utterly undervalued. But I think what I see talking to people like you and similar is that the more people come and work on the land, the more they find it meaningful. And they realised that the empty what David Graeber called bullshit jobs that they might be doing might make the money, but they don’t feel like they have value. Whereas working with the land and growing things has a huge sense of this is worthwhile, that has to be worth something in the long run. Anyway, we’re going to let you go. I gather you’re going off to pick your potatoes, so we will let you go and harvest the amazing harvest of your land so that you can put it into the veg boxes and send it out to your local community. Liberty, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast.
Liberty: Manda, thank you so much. It’s been a complete pleasure. Thank you.
Manda: And that is it for another week. Enormous thanks to Liberty as she goes off to lift the potatoes and do all of the other jobs that happen on a farm at 8:00 on a Friday evening. It’s not for the faint hearted. It’s not for people who want a 9 to 5 steady job with every day predictable and every day the same. But I’m not sure anybody actually wants that. And from my own experience, beginning to grow things and learning what it is to feed yourself and your family from the land is an extraordinary experience, and I fully understand that people in the middle of a city may not be able to access two and a half acres. But increasingly there are urban farms and ways of growing and people whose whole aim is to bring growing into the town. And as we move forward to whatever this flourishing future is, it has to involve more locally grown food. So I know I’ve said this before, but I am saying it again. If there is a community supported agriculture scheme anywhere in your area, please do what you can to support it.
Manda: I know we’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis. But nothing is going to get better if we don’t take active steps to change the system. And how we eat is one of those core key things that each of us can actively change. So that’s your mission this week. People look at your food, work out where it comes from, and if it can be changed, then change it. And that is it for this week. We will be back as ever next week with another conversation. In the meantime, enormous thanks to Caro C for this production and the music that introduces us and sends us away. Thanks to Faith Tillery for the website and the tech and to Anne Thomas for the transcripts. And as ever, enormous thanks to you for listening, for supporting us, and for spreading the word. And if you know of anybody else who wants to be part of the generative dance of the world, then please do send them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.
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