Books, Films, Podcasts: Inspirations from the Northern Real Farming Conference Team

Dr Rachel Marshall, N8 AgriFood Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University 

I’ve just finished Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and I think it’s one of the best books about our place in the world. 

I also really love the novel Overstory by Richard Powers, which is about forests. Charles Eisenstein’s Podcasts are good in general, and I enjoyed the Farmer Rishi one. I also really enjoy Radiolab, which is a more general podcast about science, nature, history and people.

I am also really appreciating the poet Mary Oliver at the moment. Her collection A Thousand Mornings is lovely, and I think it is capturing the feeling I get whenever I get out early in the morning into this beautiful spring we’re having.

I’ve also just found a really nice podcast called For the Wild. It focuses on land based protection, co-liberation and storytelling from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and communities.

Melanie Fryer, Livestock farmer 

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young is a lovely read.

Dr Beccy Whittle, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University

So, here’s some things I’m currently reading/listening to/finding inspiring. I warn you it’s pretty eclectic!

Charles Eisenstein’s podcast A New and Ancient Story is awesome listening anytime, but I loved this recent interview with Farmer Rishi of Kiss the Soil — all about gardening, regeneration and self care.

If you’re into tub thumping and inspiring political stuff, then I can recommend these online webinars: this one from the US on how to resist coronavirus capitalism, and this from the UK.

And if you want something gentler/slower (which might be necessary after the above!), then I recommend this piece on ignoring productivity porn, and this lovely poem by John O’Donohue:

“This is the time to be slow,

 Lie low to the wall

 Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let

 The wire brush of doubt

 Scrape from your heart

 All sense of yourself

 And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,

 Time will come good;

 And you will find your feet

 Again on fresh pastures of promise,

 Where the air will be kind

 And blushed with beginning.”

Ellen Pearce, Coordinator, Northern Real Farming Conference

I’m finding I have even less time for reflection than usual, so am enjoying delving back into favourites from the past which are grounding  and inspiring, including Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree.

I am especially liking books where I can read a little at a time. Two of these are by Steve Thorp: Soul Manifestos and Pieces of Joy and Soul Meditations. Meditation 11 starts with “sometimes I feel weary with the world. This is an appropriate response to this crazy place,” and goes on to “champion a grounded silence” and to “just be in the world”. I welcome reminders to keep hope, purpose and inner calm.

With my little girl, we’ve enjoyed Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker and the ensuing conversations about the importance of the forests.

From Rod Everett, Backsbottom Farm, Roeburndale

I really enjoyed a podcast from Kiss the Ground with Paul Hawken where they were talking about engaging farmers online to create communities that share ideas so that farmers can make changes to become more regenerative.

I am reading Water for Any Farm by Mark Shepard, which details water management method to use on your farm. It has good, clear explanations on keyline management and other techniques.

I heard a podcast by Josh Lane on meditating in nature, which inspired me so I am now reading his book Conscious Nature: The Art and Neuroscience of Meditating in Nature.