Ragmans at the Oxford Real Farming Conference!
Juanfran and Matt were joined by Ruben Borge from the Netherlands to deliver a session on biofertilisers at the Oxford Real Farming Conference on the 4/ 5th of January 2017.
We arrived to a packed conference (over 800 people) and headed off to our session at 4.00pm in the St Algates room. By 3.45 the room was standing room only, and the poor ORFC steward had to hold the door closed to stop another 50 people joining the 70 people inside.
After an hour of talking we offered the audience the chance to escape to the pub - 20 people left and another 15 came in! So it is safe to say that biofertilisers have really caught the imagination at the conference.
This builds on the teaching from Jairo Restrepo and the work that Juanfran Lopez has been doing over the last two years at Ragmans developing our understanding of anaerobic ferments to revitalize our soils.
We also hoped to tweak the whiskers of people at the conference and get them interested in the courses that we are running in 2017 (see flyer)
We were also selling the first translation into English of Jairo Restrepo’s seminal work The ABC of Organic Agriculture through the Blackwells stall at the conference. They told us it was the third best selling book on their stall - not bad for a book with no publicity and only two days out of the printers. It’s a fantastic reference book with loads of biofertiliser recipes, cultivation techniques and a passionate philosophy that argues for the small farmer and for food sovereignty for all. It is for sale through our website click here
The ABC of Organic Agriculture introduces the work of Columbian scientist and farmer Jairo Restrepo. Although well known in South America, his message is new on this side of the Atlantic, and this book adds a strong new voice to the English literature for those who fight for diverse cropping systems and affordable healthy diets.
In this compendium of practical ideas and political discourse Jairo Restrepo lays down a challenge for us - to re think our approach to the natural world. We have become complicit in a food system that is fundamentally antibiotic. We are at war with nature, deploying a wide range of poison against pests and plant disease, resulting in food of poor nutritional quality. As the land empties of small farmers, our hospitals fill with diabetics and oncology patients.
This book is a manual that explains that high quality food can be grown affordably on small farms using minimal inputs. Starting with the basic chemistry of the soil it leads the reader on a journey from the science of soil nutrition through mineral ferments mimicking the stomach of a cow, and onto the application of microbial brews to fortify the living systems all around us. We can build natural fertility back into our soils without having to resort to the drugs of the agricultural supply industry – we have the ingredients for health and productivity under our noses.
Our companion on this journey, Jairo Restrepo, speaks with authority having been a government scientist studying pesticides in Brazil in the 1970’s. Appalled by what he learnt in this role, he decided to dedicate his life to understanding how we can work with the natural world rather than against it. Few advocates of natural farming have his scientific depth of knowledge of the true effects of industrial agriculture. Fewer still have put together a practical manual for farmers and growers to learn a new system that will help build long term fertility into their soil.
This is the sort of book that gets a bit tatty. Used again and again, it picks up the sweet scent of the soil and grows well thumbed pages over the course of time. It is for those who don’t mind a bit of dirt under their nails.
This is more than a recipe book however. A recurring theme throughout the book is that we need to reclaim our enquiry into the natural world. We need regain our sense of wonder and at the same time to understand the scientific fundamentals behind our actions. Otherwise we substitute one set of blind recipes for another. Our industrial farms have filled with ‘operatives’ waiting for the next spray instruction (product/dose/timing) received by text from the agronomist. Farmers have become deskilled. In contrast, Jairo Restrepo requires us to take back control of the health of our land from the agricultural supply industry. It has not served farmers or consumers well. In his teaching he passionately challenges the mass production of poor quality food describing it as ‘dishonest food’. His vision of Organic Agriculture is not that of certification and supermarkets, but instead he calls for a new food sovereignty that delivers equity as well the right to an affordable and nutritious diet.
The process of beneficial inoculation is subtle. An infinitesimally small colony of microbes starts to multiply and in the process slowly but surely changes the nature of the medium itself. Once a preparation is applied to the land its true potential opens up before us. This is what Jairo Restrepo intends with the ABC of Organic Agriculture – to inoculate our minds and the nature of farming itself; to help us realise what we can achieve when we work with nature.
Matt Dunwell Ragmans Farm November 2016
Jairo Restrepo - Inspirational Courses and 2017 dates
In June & July 2016 we hosted Jairo for his second UK teaching visit - a 6 day Intro to Regenerative Agriculture with Chromatography. Jairo also gave a talk in Bristol to a packed audience.
Again, it was amazing, Jairo gave so much to the course. His commitment was immense, and he wove tales of his experience alongside practical tools and advice for creating fertile soils and approaches to farming for the future in a time of climate change.
What people said:
"motivating, inspirational, humble, wonderful"
" Great - need more!"
"Just want to try everything now!"
For more pics see our facebook page.