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The Ruminant: Audio Candy for Farmers, Gardeners and Food Lovers

For people passionate about farming, gardening, food politics, food security, and the intersections among these topics. Jordan Marr, a certified organic farmer in British Columbia, interviews farmers, gardeners, academics, and journalists about stuff farmers and food system nerds care about. If where and how your food is produced matters to you, this podcast is produced for you!

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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e.46: Growing Great Potatoes

This episode, Ruth Genger, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin in Madison Organic Potato Project, joins me to talk about the finer points of getting your potato production off to a great start. Ruth explains how to ensure your potato plants "jump out of the soil" by starting with high quality seed potatoes, and employing a few other important techniques. 

55mins

16 Apr 2015

Rank #1

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e.34: Culinary Herb Production Done Well part 1 of 2

Veteran farmer Chris Blanchard built a thriving culinary herb business on his Iowa Farm, and thinks you can, too. In this episode, which features the first half of our conversation, Chris makes the case for focusing on herbs, and discusses the proper sourcing, and subsequent propagation, of herb cuttings.  Chris also oversees Purple Pitchfork, an educational and outreach organization dedicated to helping farmers and their farm businesses. Chris will soon launch a podcast of his own, which you can learn about on his site.  In our conversation, Chris references a culinary herb factsheet he has produced for Ruminant listeners. You can access it at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/ruminant Part two of our conversation airs in a week. 

35mins

28 Jan 2015

Rank #2

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What our Ancestors Ate and Why it Matters Today

Today's guest: Stephen Le, author of 100 Million Years of Food. Stephen is an anthropologist who argues that if we want to understand the role of diet in influencing our health, we need to ease off of our obsession with nutrutional science and focus more on the role that evolution has played in defining the relationship between what we eat and how we feel.  Canadian listeners: the Canadian publisher will give away one copy of this book. Details within!

47mins

8 Apr 2016

Rank #3

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e.68: Epic Tomatoes

I stumbled across Craig LeHoullier's book, Epic tomatoes, by accident one day when I was trolling the internet looking for episode ideas. I bought his book on a whim, and am I ever glad I did. Many years ago, Craig fell in love with growing tomatoes, and then, specifically, heirloom tomatoes, and he eventually put everything he learned about tomato history, and the art and science of growing beautiful tomatoes, down on paper. I roared through the book. And then, impressed with what I read, I asked Craig to come on the show to talk about his passion. And, it is a passion. Craig figures he has five thousand tomato varieties in his collection, and that he's personally grown out more than 2000 of them. This episode: part one of our conversation, which focuses on heirloom history, and practical considerations for starting tomatoes in the nursery and pruning them in the field. Part two, which includes a best-of varietal list for commercial growers, comes out next week.

46mins

23 Jan 2016

Rank #4

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Foliar Feeding w/ Steve Solomon

Steve Solomon is back to talk about what's turning his crank in the garden these days: foliar feeding. Steve is the author of numerous gardening books including one of my faves, The Intelligent Gardener.

46mins

23 Apr 2018

Rank #5

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e.42: Molly Haviland on the Soil Food Web, part 1 of 2

This episode, we hear from Youssef Darwich about cool ways to plan your farm using GIS and other tools. Then: my conversation with Molly Haviland, a soil biology consultant who aims to convince you to take your soil's microorganisms more seriously. Molly argues that the complex relationships that develop between many different types of microorganisms in our soil are the key to unlocking the soil's true potential to produce healthy food. We abuse and ignore the soil biome at our peril, in fact.   Improving the soil biome starts with reducing tillage, reducing or eliminating the addition of soil amendments, and making great compost, and then, if necessary, applying compost teas and extracts to fine tune microbe populations. I've broken our conversation into two parts, which will be released concurrently. 

46mins

26 Mar 2015

Rank #6

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e.92: The Farmers Aren't All Right

Farming is tough work. The unpredictability of the job and the pressure to present a curated, bucolic version of the work can easily lead to various kinds of mental health problems: despair, feeling overwhelmed or like a failure, or even depression. In this episode, co-produced with Jessica Gale of Sweet Gale Gardens, we discuss the prevalence of mental health problems among farmers, and how to address them.  Mentioned: Professor Andria Jones-Bitton's work The Market Gardener (JM Fortier) The Urban Farmer (Curtis Stone) Sustainable Market Farming (Pam Dawling)

45mins

3 Mar 2017

Rank #7

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e88: Cut Flower Maintenance, Farm Internship Workshop

This ep: Jessica Gale of Sweet Gale Gardens is back with suggestions for taking good care of your cut flowers throughout the season: soil fertility management, pruning tips, deadheading, and harvesting.  After that: Dr. Charles Levkoe joins me to talk about the politics and practice of farm internships as a source of labour on farms. Charles and colleagues are hosting a one day workshop on the topic as a precursor to Food Secure Canada's 9th National Assembly in Toronto in October. foodandlabour.ca is where you can find out more about the workshop, and register. Or, download this PDF. Or go here to learn about the overall conference.

39mins

24 Jul 2016

Rank #8

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e.05: Irrigation Tips from Troy Peters

This episode: Troy Peters, an irrigation expert with the Washington State University Extension Service, talks about best practices in crop irrigation. We discuss a cool new smartphone app that helps farmers decide when and how much to irrigate, I learn techniques for deciding when it's time to water, and Troy explains how to approach irrigation of different soil types.

37mins

24 Sep 2015

Rank #9

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e.06: Better Nutrient Managment for your Soil

This episode, a rerun from 2013, when Soil Scientist Clare Sullivan joined me to talk about managing nutrient cycles on the farm. After that, I talk about the results of my effort to attract more beneficial insects to my garden using lots of mulched annual flowers.

45mins

24 Jul 2015

Rank #10

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e.35: Culinary Herb Production Done Well part 2 of 2

Culinary Herb Production, pt. 2: Veteran farmer Chris Blanchard built a thriving culinary herb business on his Iowa Farm, and thinks you can, too. In this episode, which features the second half of our conversation, Chris talks about how to harvest your herbs in a way that strikes a balance between high production and low labour costs. He took his inspiration from previous experiences managing intensive rotational grazing systems. Chris also oversees Purple Pitchfork, an educational and outreach organization dedicated to helping farmers and their farm businesses. Chris will soon launch a podcast of his own, which you can learn about on his site.  In our conversation, Chris references a culinary herb factsheet he has produced for Ruminant listeners. You can access it at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/ruminant

33mins

4 Feb 2015

Rank #11

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Rerun: e.16 Steve Solomon on Intelligent Gardening Part 2

Here's a past episode that, until now, hasn't been included in this podcast feed. I've added a new intro, as well as a brand new segment at the end of the episode. In this long-form interview with gardening writer Steve Solomon, we discuss his new book, The Intelligent Gardener, which he co-wrote with Erica Reinheimer. In it, Steve argues that the key to growing healthy crops is to combine the return of organic matter to the soil with a practice called remineralization, which involves assessing the mineral content of your soil and then adding the right mix of amendments to ensure they are in proper balance (Steve's contention: few soils are). Along the way, Steve provides an excellent beginner's entry into soil science, and challenges some of the organic movement's tightly held assumptions about sustainable crop production. This is part 2 of our conversation. In this segment we focus on the assertions Steve makes in his book regarding healthy vegetables, how to achieve a nutrient-balanced soil, and why organic gardeners should be open to the idea of using certain synthetic fertilizers.

1hr 22mins

21 May 2015

Rank #12

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e106: How to Gross 250K on 1/2 Acre

This ep: my conversation with urban farmer Kevin Sturdy, author of a book getting a lot of buzz: You're Welcome: How to Crush Your Dreams By Grossing More Money on Less Land Than You Ever Thought Possible. Kevin claims that by following his guide, you can gross 250K on a half-acre urban farm. Episode Sponsor: Dubois Agrinovation Many thanks to professional thespian Kirk Smith, who co-produced this episode with me.

16mins

20 Feb 2019

Rank #13

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e85 Assembling a Herd| Mobile Hoophouse Design

This ep, Susan Kerr of WSU extension returns to talk about the right way to build a healthy herd; Hermann Bruns returns to talk about a 30'x100' mobile hoophouse design that has worked really well for him. See the companion post about his design here.

37mins

29 May 2016

Rank #14

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e.31: Best practices for farmers selling to restaurants and chefs part 1 of 2

Selling your farm goods to chefs can be lucrative, but there are idiosyncrasies to this type of marketing that a farmer should understand if she wants to keep and increase the business she gets from restaurants. In this episode and the one to follow, I speak to two chef-owners of a high end catering business that has built its reputation for great cuisine on a devotion to sourcing and serving local farm goods.  Cam Smith and Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering in BC's Okanagan Valley really want to support your farm, but they but they also insist that you take the customer service you provide them seriously. Herein, they provide some no-nonsense advice for how to approach and maintain restaurant customers. Learn more about Joy Road Catering here. At show's end I reference a couple of farming conferences I'll be attending in February and March.  February 25-28, 2015: Moses Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin March 4-8, 2015: Permaculture Voices Conference in San Diego, California

42mins

7 Jan 2015

Rank #15

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e93: Stop Washing Your Children So Much!

The microbes that colonize us when we're in the womb and as infants have lasting impacts on our health later on. My conversation with Claire Arrieta, author of Let Them Eat Dirt. Marie-Claire is the co-author with B. Brett Finlay of Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World.  After that, I talk about lego for farmers.

50mins

18 Mar 2017

Rank #16

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e.61: Growing Perennial Fruits: Jim Riddle and Blue Fruit Farm

At Blue Fruit Farm in Minnesota, Jim Riddle and Joyce Ford grow a range of perrenial tree fruit and berries of the blue and nearly-blue kind. In our conversation, Jim Riddle talks about why he and Joyce switched to perennial crops from annual market veggies, considerations for establishing a farm like his, and how he and Joyce have approached their marketing. You can find out more at bluefruitfarm.com. More info about Jim's production practices can be found in the expanded show notes for this episode at http://theruminant.ca

34mins

13 Nov 2015

Rank #17

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Shifting the workload to your livestock

Meg Grzeskiewicz is the owner of Rhinestone Cattle Company in NY State. A grass-fed animal producer who concentrates on breeding, Meg advocates a no-nonsense approach to breeding and managment that, over the long term, can produce a healthy, profitable, self-sufficient herd. In our conversation, we talk about the breeding and management rules she employs with her herd, and about the benefits of mob grazing. You can find out more about Meg's farming, speaking, writing, and consulting work at her website.

34mins

4 Jun 2015

Rank #18

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e.60: We've Missed the Point on GMO Food

This episode, I'm joined by farmer and writer Forrest Pritchard, whose September 22, 2015 column in the Huffington Post suggests that the battle to prevent the widespread use and human consumption of GMOs was lost a long time ago, and that GMO opponents' energy could be better put to focusing on the negative effects of, for example, the massive amounts of glyphosates used in conjunction with GMOs, and the scorched-earth effect they have had on our ecosystems. Pritchard's latest book is called Growing Tomorrow: Behind the Scenes with 18 Extraordinary Sustainable Farmers Who Are Changing the Way We Eat.

34mins

23 Oct 2015

Rank #19

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e.44: Peter McCoy on Radical Mycology

Peter McCoy, mycologist and co-founder of radicalmycology, joins me for this episode to talk about the vital importance of fungi in our natural and farmed ecosystems, why fungi literacy is so low, and how we might change that. 

48mins

1 Apr 2015

Rank #20