Let’s start with the reality that the farmer who started the Cheese-A-Day Challenge, a taste-sensation for the month of February isn’t a dairy farmer! In fact, he primarily grows arable crops including wheat for baking, barley for beer, and they also produce lamb. Tom says all of it works together in building soil health with rotations and grazing.
If you listened to season 1 of Grounded by the Farm, you know we have done episodes on all of those foods, but hearing about how they are grown on Tom’s farm in the East of England is definitely different. And I had to laugh that I’m sitting in St. Louis and interviewing a farmer on the other side of the Atlantic to find out he grows a specific barley for Budweiser!
A Cheese-A-Day Challenge
Farmer Tom’s been doing the cheese-a-day challenge for a few years now. He says he started doing it because he only really knew two types of cheese — cheddar and Stilton — and yet, the country has more than a thousand different cheeses. So in February, a time some call Februdairy, he tries a different cheese every day.
You may enjoy the fact that Tom couldn’t help but be amazingly proud of the dairy produced close to home as he boasts the history of English cheeses and their superiority to French cheese, even though the French & Belgians may have a bigger cheese reputation. Tom’s helping put that to bed.
He’s shared it on Twitter, where he goes by @Farmer_Tom_UK, the last couple of years, but it kept gaining speed. This year, not only did he post videos on Twitter, but he put longer versions on YouTube. And this was the first year that he worked with a cheese shop on boxes. Almost 100 people subscribed to the series and got small shipments of cheeses without labels so they could participate in a blind taste test! You can browse the Twitter hashtag #cheeseadaychallenge to see the fun!
While I interviewed Tom in the middle of the challenge, I asked him this week, what cheese was his favorite. You can see it here. In this video like everyday. He talks to someone who is involved in UK agriculture. You can watch the highlights on Tom’s favorite cheese day in the Twitter edit or the full video here. That’s Tom on the right and the head of the National Farmers Union on the left!
If like me this really sparks your interest, you may want to work your way through the all of this year’s cheese tasting videos! Not only did I learn a lot about cheeses but some of the pairing suggestions were great too!
While talking with Tom, I mentioned the chance I had recently to do a virtual cheese tasting with the folks at Midwest Dairy. They compiled a selection of cheeses from various parts of the midwest and sent a box to several of us cheese enthusiasts! My favorite was a soft cheese called Milk & Honey from Edgewood Creamery! Here’s a list of the range of cheeses we had the chance to taste and like Tom, some of the pairings we had were great! I loved a pineapple and pepper jelly with the milk and honey.
Farmer Tom mentioned raising sheep which brings me back to lamb. The grazing of sheep and other smaller mammals like goats is definitely something that has a good fit in some areas of the world. As we discussed in an earlier episode, sheep can sometimes fit landscapes that aren’t well-adapted for other animals.
As someone who enjoys lamb, I love that he has a lamb biriyani recipe demo on his YouTube channel. Check it out.
As if farming and organizing a month of cheese eating wasn’t enough to keep Farmer Tom busy, he’s started an organization called Farmer Time (farmertime.org.uk) where farmers are connected with classrooms for on-going interactions.
Although it’s started in the UK, they have already begun expanding it to several markets. The website serves as a connecting point with farmers and teachers entering their information into the site for pairing. And it builds direct connections between farmers and the classrooms where students can ask farmers questions about the topics they are studying!
Farmers join the classes via Facetime, Skype or other video conferencing so students on a fortnightly basis (every other week like this podcast!). That gives the class a chance to see what’s happening quickly.
Find Farmer Tom Online
Raw Transcript of the Full Interview with Farmer Tom
Following is a detailed transcript as prepared by Otter.ai. Please forgive us for any errors the computer may have made in transcribing.
Grounded by the Farm 00:01
Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice Person, your host on Grounded by the Farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love.
Grounded by the Farm 00:17
Everybody, this is Janice and I’m so excited to start Season Two of Grounded by the Farm. And since I’m still not able to get out to very many farms yet, I decided to go long distances on the season. So we’re going all the way to the UK today. And we’re going to be talking to Farmer Tom and farmer Tom has been in my Twitter stream for God knows how long every now and then he does a video and I’ll comment and it does these amazing tasting challenges around a cheese a day. And he’s been doing those again, he’s been doing videos on him this year. So anyway, we’re going to talk to Tom about all things exciting. He’s from a part of England, it’s Peterborough. It’s near Cambridge, it’s even in the county of Cambridge. So luckily, I was able to find it on a map. And that’s about how much I know about the area you’re in Tom. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about your farm and the area and then we’re gonna talk cheese for good better this conversation.
Farmer Tom 01:20
I’m so excited. This is the first episode of the series. Gosh, I’m so pleased that you’ve you invited me thank you for for having me on. Yeah, so I farm in England in the East of England. We’re largely arable farmers. So we farm wheat, barley, canola beans. And then we also have a bit of grassland we farm sheep as well. But actually we’re trying to bring sheep into our into our arable rotation as well to to build soil fertility because we’re both both soil obsessives, aren’t we so that’s that’s it. That’s that’s one thing we’re trying to do at the moment.
Grounded by the Farm 01:51
Yeah, yeah, I got into soils and farming because of no till farming and different things you can do to really bring in that added organic matter and to help the soil structure so that it drains so much better. Yeah, we get into all the soil nerd conversations when I talked to farmers,
Farmer Tom 02:10
noting you were into soil before it was cool.
Grounded by the Farm 02:13
Exactly very, very much into soil health. And and seriously, I’m so lucky, the gentleman who taught me so much about that. It’s now in his 90s. He’s doing well in Louisiana, and actually just got a lovely card from him and his wife, because you know, once you become friends with farmers, your friends for life. It is let’s talk about a cheese a day. Most people have never heard about it. How would you describe it? And then I’ll tell you if I think you’re totally off.
Farmer Tom 02:42
I’m not a dairy farmer. But I’m proud of the the world leading standards that we have in the UK with some we’re proud and passionate industry. And there are lots of ways we’ve tried in the past to support our dairy farmers, certainly to highlight dairy farming. And a couple years ago, I thought I mean, I love cheese, but I thought there was only two types of cheese.
Grounded by the Farm 02:59
What were the two types of cheese he knew? Cheddar and stillton.
Farmer Tom 03:02
probably there. I mean, I mean, that’s pretty much it, isn’t it? But actually it’s not because in the UK, we’ve got I think I’m out of date, we used to have about 1069 accredited cheeses here in the UK, which is more than France and Belgium put together Wow. You know, we think we think the French are pretty into their cheese well the Brits, or even more so. But actually never now we’ve got way more different types of cheese than that. So I thought well, at least I could taste 28 of them. I could taste one day during February, which I did. And it was great fun. I posted a video I mean, I thought what it’s so vain, isn’t it? Taking a video of yourself tasting cheese and expecting people to be entertained by it but but it’s been good fun and
Grounded by the Farm 03:37
Twitter loves it. We’ve always loved it. Right. Well, and you know, we found
Farmer Tom 03:44
kind of bizarre and unusual cheeses and then and then a couple years you know one forward a couple of years I thought this year Let’s do it again. Let’s let’s get people involved. So there’s a local dairy here that produces Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, a fantastic cheese. And they they they basically collated a cheese box of 28 cheeses and they sent well that they actually sent it out in three boxes so they don’t go off. And there’s 100 people tasting a different cheese every day. But the same different cheese that we’re all you know, we’re all tasting the same same journey and we’re just sharing about it on Twitter and well social media with the hashtag cheese’s a challenge.
Grounded by the Farm 04:18
It’s such a good challenge to take I think and I was pretty bummed this year. As you were getting ready to start up you tweeted like suggestions and I’ve got to say you know I got British cheeses I’m not really no adept at that. But here in the US we get to try I did a taste tasting not long ago with the Midwest dairy and I found a new cheese that I really loved. So this idea why is that? Oh my god, it was a nice soft, spreadable it was milk and honey is what they called it. Oh my gosh. And we paired it with a pineapple pepper jelly. I’m telling you I’m gonna be Getting back to Edgewood Creamery quite a bit. Now we may need to trade cheeses from you know,
Grounded by the Farm 05:05
yeah, look them up, send them to you.
Farmer Tom 05:07
Let’s do it. Although I have to say when I’m in the States, I always bring back a suitcase full of basically Amish condiments of some sort and, and they and the pineapple and chilli sauce sounds great. I’ve got a cupboard full I worked my way through and try and time it. So I run out just before my next visit to the earth.
Grounded by the Farm 05:24
I love it. I love it. So tell me when you done this, what kinds of cheeses Have you been finding? So Stilton is known for it? I mean, that’s a strong flavor. cheddar is like, on every sandwich ever. So like what have you found since then?
Farmer Tom 05:40
No cool, firm eyes. Milko you know that? What kind of molds you use? What kind of, Oh, it’s it’s, it’s, it’s it’s amazing. It’s amazing how different the tastes are from mild to mature. And, and all the different techniques. It’s, it’s, it’s been, it’s been an amazing journey. And of course, the great thing is which which makes it so interesting is every cheese’s got a story, you know, and we’re hardwired to enjoy stories, you know, we like to hear a story and you know, the story of every cheeses, the history of the cheese, but also the Natural History of the cheese. So it’s been, it’s been so exciting. It’s been great fun.
Grounded by the Farm 06:12
So have you talked to cheesemongers and cheese makers in this process? Yeah. So
Farmer Tom 06:17
I am what I mean, I wanted everybody to be tasting cheese’s themselves. So it’s not a high bar. Basically, you just, it’s I’m encouraging people to taste some cheese and post about it, video or text or photo, whatever. But what I’ve decided to do this year is to kind of investigate that history a bit as well. And I brought in some great cheesemakers, and via zoom, we’ve done a tasting with them. I’ve also had a few dairy farmers who’ve joined me. So it’s great to kind of hear from that perspective. And actually now I’m starting to just just bring in the great and the good from UK agriculture. So I’ve had the director general of the National Farmers Union, I’ve had the lady who’s running, which is basically running our new government support system. I’ve got the head of the country land and Business Association. So I’ve got I’ve had I’ve had a whole range of people joining me all united by a love of cheese, and it’s a great leveler, isn’t it when you when you sit down, enjoy cheese with someone, it doesn’t matter whether they’re the president, or you’re who they are. You’re just they’re having some cheese.
Grounded by the Farm 07:15
I have to say, when I found out there was a subscription box available, and my friend Jude Kapur is getting the cheeses.
Farmer Tom 07:23
Grounded by the Farm 07:24
she’s tasting them and making me very jealous on a regular basis. I mean, you know, tagging, um, she’s just relentless about it. But she’s kind of an expert in the sustainability of dairy, which is a very different side of dairy than cheese. Yeah. So my assumption is there a lot of people connected to dairy and agriculture, who are probably learning a lot from this team.
Farmer Tom 07:48
I think we’re all learning. I mean, I, as I say, I’m not a dairy farmer. But I am learning so much. It’s been absolutely fascinating. But But one of the things that I’m passionate about is helping people to see what happens on the other side of the farm gate. So this comes under that. Yep. So there are people from from from all over the UK who are taking part, or who are just who are just watching along and enjoying themselves. So it’s it definitely, it definitely checks that box of helping people to see what happens on the other side of the pond gate, because I think a lot of people, I mean, in the UK, were foreign or five generations divorced from the land, there aren’t many people who’ve got a living relative who are in farming or food production. And at the same time, we’ve never been, you know, so far away from from food production, people have never been more interested. And I think that’s the same in the US as well. So it’s a great time to be talking to people about about food, because otherwise, if farmers don’t talk to people about where their food comes from, they’ll just make it up. And often it’s not true. So yeah, so it’s good to be taught
Grounded by the Farm 08:45
well, and in your mind when you’re when you don’t have easy access to people who know something, you don’t realize you’re making things up because you’re getting bits and pieces, and you’re trying to make logical connections, but you don’t understand the logic, maybe of that topic. Right. So I could do the same thing with roofers or whatever, right. Like if I, you know, I’ve seen this I’ve heard this I had this problem with a roof and I could think I know roofing. Yeah. But when I talk to somebody else, it’s the same thing with food, right? So you start really loving food for my people. But you’ve heard these things about agriculture or farmers and you start piecing things together. So it’s great to hear the sources that’s part of what we’re trying to do here is put people in touch with more farmers Yeah. more of that information direct and have that conversation in the open
Farmer Tom 09:34
don’t believe nothing, you believe anything. And that’s not because people are stupid or lazy or whatever. It’s just it’s just because you know, you don’t have I don’t have an understanding. So you and I are like minded in, in wanting to lift the lid on that and invite people in.
Grounded by the Farm 09:47
I love curiosity, right. And part of the thing is, is giving people areas where they can target their curiosity and they can start diving deeper. And so cheese was what got you into it. And what I noticed one of your videos I watched and I’ll make sure we put this in the show notes was with a Welsh dairy farmer. Yeah. Talk to her not only First off, did she help you understand that that cheese should have been paired with a nice biscuit, not a cracker, and some butter. You totally were messing it by just eating the cheese separate. But she also talked about her herd and some of those things. So I do. I love what you’re doing on cheese a day. So it’s a lot of fun. Oh, thanks. Well, I
Farmer Tom 10:32
mean, within farming, we are, you know, we’re one industry and, you know, I may not be a dairy farmer, but actually that the fortune of dairy farmers is linked to me because, you know, some of my crops may may go to feed cows or chickens and, and equally, some of them are new comes back again. It’s there’s no waste in nature. There’s no waste in farming. And we’re all interrelated. So it’s a, it’s important to support each other. I think also, you can have a slightly more independent voice when when you’re not from that particular sector of the industry. So people might say, Oh, you know, if you’re a dairy farmer, you would say that dairy farming, brilliant and great, but But actually, I can stand back and say, you know, things are there, there are positives and their negatives, and we can look at them objectively, and and do that together.
Grounded by the Farm 11:16
Yeah, I try and do that with cotton. Sometimes people it’s funny, because I don’t, I’ve never grown cotton. I mean, like, I planted like two or three seeds in a five gallon bucket or something, right? Like that’s a farming cotton. But you learn so much by talking to different people over time. So let’s talk about the crops you actually do grow. So you grow you grow wheat,
Farmer Tom 11:38
we grow wheat, which is for milling and for feed. Yeah.
Grounded by the Farm 11:42
All right, in the US. So we did a conversation with somebody that grows wheat in Montana. And here in the US, we grow wheat in areas that are really big, open spaces. Is it similar? And
Farmer Tom 11:55
oh, yeah, you guys, I mean, you you set off in the tractor in the morning, and then you turn around at lunchtime and come back again. I mean, that’s how big the fields you know, the UK is a very small country, where we are a very highly populated country, and we’ve got a long history and and really from the enclosure acts in the 1750s 1800s, that kind of time when, when we moved away from the old big field system where everybody in the village had different areas within the big field to farm. And we and we put started to put hedges around fields that really formed what you know that the patchwork quilt they call of the English countryside. But it does mean that in terms of the economies of scale that you can have when you’ve got 1000 hectare field, you know, we’ve got no chance of getting that here in the UK, we don’t have any of the Great Plains, you see, you’ve got these wonderful soils that were formed by those megafauna by Buffalo and bison and pulling in and eating and trampling. And, you know, forming meters deep soils, and we just we just don’t have that at all. We’re very different geology.
Grounded by the Farm 13:02
But it’s a beautiful countryside. And you guys grow good wheat and barley and stuff like you get good crops, you’re able to produce a high quality crop, right? Yeah,
Farmer Tom 13:11
I mean, we this this this year, we had, we went about six or seven weeks without any rain, we thought that was remarkable. Because we’re an island nation, we have a maritime climate. And we expect it to be sunny every few days and rainy every few days and quite a changeable weather, which is great for growing things because you’ve got that constant supply of moisture. So yeah, we our yields would be, oh gosh, hang on, I’m gonna have to translate I don’t know what to be we’re kind of eight or nine tonnes to the Hector I don’t know what that is in, in in pounds to the acre.
Grounded by the Farm 13:43
Me either we’ll use math skills later to make that conversion. For people. You’re talking about wheat specifically for milling. That’s for the bread side of things here we also have all the different pasta wheats and you know, oh my goodness, you have so many different kinds of wheat in the US Yeah, what is it the to grow
Farmer Tom 14:03
we grow I’m not quite sure how the how the grading either for for grades of wheat in the UK. And group group one is a is a milling grade. group two is a biscuit grade, and group three and four. Three is kind of a hybrid grade and group four is a is a feed grade. So we grow a mixture of those really Yeah, but but it will be a milling it’d be a milling grade wheat that we we typically would typically grow here that we have grown a pastor grade weights in the past, but it didn’t really take off and just perhaps just didn’t suit the UK climate. We’re such a small nation that a lot of the genetics that are developed when you’ve got a big market like like like the US or companies that are breeding new genetics, you know, focus on those those bigger countries and the UK is a is a very specific and say maritime climate.
Grounded by the Farm 14:52
Yeah, I think most of the pasta wheats in the US are grown in places like Arizona and the Dakotas where you have long periods of dry weather Yes. To give you a little different quality to it, and we can’t grow that here in Missouri, either. It’s just not possible. We get too much rain some years and, and things like that, when it comes to selling your crap to the market, do you have a clear understanding of exactly where it goes? Or is it into a commodity system and
Farmer Tom 15:19
it would largely been to a commodity system that said, I’m really interested in, in working out how we can find local buyers, or people near here or growing heritage varieties of wheat. Because for a long time, we’ve just focused on yield. We’ve actually got away from tasting we’ve gone away from nutrition. So we’ve now started to, to to to sample the nutrient content of our of our crops. Because that’s so important. It doesn’t matter if you eat a kilogram of bread if it’s if it’s got no nutrition, then then your body doesn’t really you know that you don’t get the value from it where
Grounded by the Farm 15:54
calories Yeah, they’re very empty
Farmer Tom 15:56
calories. So um, and I think with the with the new agriculture bill in the UK, I think that that will be the kind of direction we go is focusing on quality because, you know, as you said, we we’re not a commodity, you know, we we don’t have the field size, we don’t have the system to be to be competing in the commodity markets.
Grounded by the Farm 16:17
So you also grow barley, we did an episode on barley, where we actually talk to a micro brewery in Nashville, Tennessee, you know, I’m originally from Tennessee. So my heart’s there. And we talked to the farmer that grows some other barley for them. So have you ever thought about getting your barley in a beer?
Farmer Tom 16:35
Yeah, so we grow some barley again, we grow for brewing, and we grow some for feed. Okay, we actually grow barley for to make a particular brand of beer, which you may have heard of called Budweiser.
Grounded by the Farm 16:51
Yeah… I’m in St. Louis.
Farmer Tom 16:53
So we produce a strain of barley called explorer barley. And that’s, that’s about half of our barley acreage is explorer barley to produce Budweiser in here in the UK.
Grounded by the Farm 17:05
So we didn’t talk to anybody in the US that grows barley for Bud, which like you know, 15 minutes from my house, I can be at their headquarters. They call somebody, you know, continent away.
Farmer Tom 17:19
Well, my neighbors who are really into their craft brewing and and craft beers still still say it’s a it’s a waste because I’m selling it to a commodity producer who producing weak beer for the general market. But but it’s, it’s it’s a great outlet. Great product.
Grounded by the Farm 17:37
Yeah, the great thing about beer is you can do all the different levels, right, like you can do a total microbrew, you know, yeah. You probably like me, I have friends who’ve done it in their bathrooms. You know, when I lived in New York, it was like, Well, I don’t know, when you’re gonna get your bathtub back did because in New York apartment, it’s so small. That’s right.
Farmer Tom 17:58
But I think there’s the opportunity for a beer a day challenge. I mean, which is there’s as much diversity in brewing as there is in in in cheesemaking. So,
Grounded by the Farm 18:08
you know, you could do a wine a day and cheese a day together, or, there’s a lot of ways you could go with this a date challenge,
Farmer Tom 18:17
that sounds dreamy, because actually also with it with the way the climate is changing, we’re producing a lot more wind here in the UK as well. For many years, well, the Romans produce wine in the UK, even even in the north of England. But then we haven’t produced many for years. And we’re just now starting to see more vineyards springing up and in fact, the we like to get one over on the French in the UK, we love our friendship, our French neighbors, but some in frankly, the way that the the the the environment is changing the that that Prime Champagne region of France actually, in southern England, we now have the same climate that they have and their climates changing so, so so often we’re able to produce those those fine wines, perhaps even better than that than our than our French neighbors.
Grounded by the Farm 19:06
It’s gonna get ugly, which
Farmer Tom 19:07
is pleasing. You have the same thing with Canada.
Grounded by the Farm 19:08
I was gonna say and, you know, even in the US, you know, we have California that loves their wines and thinks and then you have Oregon has a lot you know, it’s a lot further north, but my God, their wine industry has really come along the Russian River, the Willamette Willamette Valley, so I understand and here in Missouri, I actually have gone out and spent a day picking wine grapes myself, because we were having a really tough fall. I was not good at it. The weather was really horrible. It was so hot and it was so humid. Luckily I quit before I was fired, but I was volunteer labor anyway. So not sure. Not sure how bad it got to be that they would have fired me as a volunteer but it’s it’s hard work to take grapes or anything, you know, working out in the field. It’s pretty tough work. So tell me about the lamb So somewhere on your YouTube channel you will hate that I actually did my research. You made a lamb biryani
Farmer Tom 20:09
I did. Oh yeah. Gosh.
Grounded by the Farm 20:14
So do you eat a lot of lamb?
Farmer Tom 20:16
a fair amount a fair amount? I mean I really like beef to be honest is my uncle produces beef so I’m big beef and but but also lamb I mean lamb such a great meat and you know, I did my research so I, I listened to the podcast where you were interviewing a sheep farmer in in the US and he really knew
Grounded by the Farm 20:38
the differences and the similarities. I’m so excited.
Farmer Tom 20:42
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But yeah, well, in the same way that we you know, we have February where we promote dairy we have love lamb week. And and I thought, you know, what can I do to to, you know, to showcase our great sheep industry and you know, we have sheep up on the hill, and I try and showcase that as much as possible, but I thought I know I can make a lamb biryani that was a few years ago now I’m not quite sure I made a great lamb biryani but but lambs lambs are great. And you know, on your podcast you were asking about you know about how you can cook lamb and lamb is lamb lends itself definitely to Karis. I’m a big fan of curry but it also lends itself to a lot of North African cooking to a lot of to jeans. Yeah, and, and food like that. So it’s it’s, it’s it’s a great meat, but I think a lot of people have in the past been put off by by lamb because it has a quite a distinctive smell when you cook it. Yeah, it’s a lovely taste when you when you taste it, but it is quite a distinctive smell. And well as it’s being cooked.
Grounded by the Farm 21:41
Well, I can tell you, my family truly does love lamb, a nephew recently turned 18. And they were doing rack of lamb for his birthday dinner so that they were so excited about it, he was he loves to cook, he was given all the thought to how it was going to be prepared and everything. So lamb is something my family loves. It’s not something that is as commonly available, I guess in parts of the US as it is in other parts of the US and certainly not abroad. You know, there are some places where lamb is just so much easier to find than here in the US. We on the other hand, have lots of great available beef. So it’s always fun. When we have Europeans visit, they want to eat a lot of beef and we get out of the US we want to eat whatever it is, is native to that area or local
Farmer Tom 22:31
area. Obviously, we’ve got our, our challenges with with trading with Europe at the moment, but the Germans are demanding a lot of British lamb at the moment and they see it as a really green meat. Yeah, because it’s very difficult to produce lamb indoors, you know, so you wouldn’t feed them or it’s difficult to to house sheep. I mean, they are sheep are outside 365 days of the year and are almost 100% grass fed. And so it’s a really sustainable meat and you know, it really is it has that has that flavor of being grass fed. You can’t it’s difficult to hurry lamb. You know, you’ve got to you’ve got to you’ve got to you’ve got to wait, wait your time. So um, so yes, it’s a great way and, and actually, in the UK, a lot of our a lot of our uplands a lot of our national parks, our scenic areas have really been, I suppose, formed and, and, and, and maintained by by the grazing sheep, I mean, sometimes to their detriment. So we do have to be careful with stocking. But sheep have been part of our history for a long time.
Grounded by the Farm 23:35
I think the US is very similar with buffalo. And with cattle. There’s some areas that really aren’t suitable for people, but cattle will go up to them all day long, or sheeple will do well. So a good mix diets, probably the better way to go. But it is nice to when you’re in some place different. Try all the things that they really have. I’m a big fan of seafood when I’m anywhere near the water. And, you know, I’m in the middle of the country here in St. Louis.
Farmer Tom 24:04
I think in England, the furthest you can be from the sea is about two hours drive. That’s I mean, that’s, that is as far as you can possibly be.
Grounded by the Farm 24:13
Yeah, so see, there’s all those kinds of differences as well. So tell me there’s another project that you have going on that I wanted to talk to you about and it’s farmer time.org tell me what that is. Tell us. Tell us why we should all figure it out.
Farmer Tom 24:30
Everybody should know about pharma time and everybody who can should definitely take part it is absolutely phenomenal. About four years ago In fact, I was inspired by the the the team that run the Texas State Fair, because they were running a project where they use video technology to link the guests who came to their state fair to farms Yeah. So you turn up you’re going to meet us wait a minute and use you effectively FaceTime into the into the field. And I thought, Gosh, this, there’s so much more potential there. So, pharma time was born, really when I posted on my Facebook to say, Would anybody be interested in in video calling from a classroom to my farm, you know, every now and then every couple of weeks every fortnight as we say, in the UK, means every couple of weeks. And I thought I’d get to me, you know, a couple of responses and actually add a couple of 100 responses from people who wanted to be a part of that. And so I, I tried it with a teacher who had a school had a class about 200 miles away from me, and we use Skype to video call. So you know, to some some success, we would always get a message from the teacher saying, you know, it’s the moment we’re studying genetics or reproduction, or soils, or nutrition, or life cycles, or new, you know, anything any, and I and I’d go somewhere on my farm that was appropriate to that, I’d say, guys, it’s farmer time here. Today, I’m with a sheep in the pastures or I’m selling wheat or whatever I’m doing. And the children will ask questions. And it’s been amazing, amazing fun, we’ve brought on a few sponsors in the UK. So we now we now employ a coordinator. And we work with leaf which is linking environment farming, which is a charitable organization here in the UK. And we have about 6600 farmers who each Skype on a fortnightly basis into into their parents classroom. So that’s probably about 18,015 to 18,000 British schoolchildren who wants every fortnight video call a farm and a farmer life. And it’s amazing for a number of different reasons. But when we were talking earlier about people being so far divorced from the land, it’s great that that those children can say I know a farmer. And that’s why we have the relationship isn’t it, it’s not, it’s not a one off, we don’t do one off course because, you know, I want to visit one of course, brilliant. They need to journey my class needs to journey with me through the seasons through through hot and cold and wet and dry and sowing and harvest. And everything. You know, they get to know me they get to know my farm, they get to see what it takes to produce their food. And so it’s been, it’s been absolutely brilliant. And we’ve just started to roll out around the world. We’re running it in fit in Finland, in Sweden, in Ireland in Australia, and we’re just starting to pilot in the US. So it’s um, it’s really exciting. It’s free. I mean, it uses technology that you’ve got in your pocket. I mean, we’ve all got smartphones, you know, we’ve all and now now with COVID Yeah, we’ve all made video calls. Because Because we’ve had to get used to it, I’ve seen some really high kind of tech versions
Grounded by the Farm 27:36
of things where, you know, teachers will Skype into a room. And you know, somebody is in a space and they have the green screen. And they they do some of it live on the farm, but some of it on a green screen and, and things like that. And, of course our friend farmer Derek has, like, taken people out on irrigation or whatever, right? And but that just ongoing relationship development, that’s part of why social media has really changed the conversation around food is because people can meet a farmer, get to know them online, watch their videos, or listen to their podcast, or read their tweets every day, or whatever it is and, and you start closing that gap from, you know, I can remember when I was a kid, my parents idea of going to the farm was stopping it like a vegetable stand or something because we didn’t know, farmers. Although there was one farmer we would buy vegetables from sometimes we would drive out to this farm to pick up vegetables and drive them back into the city. But you know, really, we never felt like we had that relationship where I could ask, wait a minute, why do you do it that way? And that’s part of kids will see things and they’ll be able to ask those questions like, oh, satiate that curiosity, right? So that makes curiosity kind of ramp up even higher, like, Well, next time I see farmer time I want to ask about but
Farmer Tom 29:00
but but also it helps them to helps children and Gosh, and adults as well, to, to decipher all the information they receive as well because sadly, we you know, there’s you know, there’s there’s there’s quite a passionate, militant vegan movement at the moment that, you know, vegans are great, but that but there are the military ones within there. And they’ll say lots of things about farmers and and the children who’ve had a, you know, had a farmer time relationship at some point in their, in their education. They, you know, when they said when they hear farmers are evil, and they hate animals, they’ll be able to say Hang on a minute, that doesn’t sound like farmer Tom. You know, and and they’ll be able to decipher that information and maybe challenge it and make up their own mind rather than just Oh, really are they I didn’t know that, you know that and then so I think that it’s, it’s, it’s quite disarming to actually, you know, actually meet the farmer and to be able to say, you know, I’ve met a farmer. Yeah,
Grounded by the Farm 29:56
I think it’s the same for some farmers have only known The kinds of vegans that you’re talking about rather militant are something to meet like the vegans and my family, right? Yeah, guess what, we’re at dinner, there will always be some vegan dishes, if vegan family members or vegetarian family members are there, you know, you just always have some dishes there for them. And you also have the meat dishes for people that are omnivores. Right. So, yeah, it doesn’t have to be this like tension between people. But some people actually get an advantage from creating attention and making it seem like there’s something and whatever the advantage they’re getting, you don’t have to feed into it. Sometimes, you know, you can go Wait a minute. That’s not exactly the way but it’s not where I stand.
Farmer Tom 30:42
I agree. And I often, particularly a couple of years ago, I would get asked a lot, you know, what do you think about the rise of veganism itself was great, you know, fantastic. I’m delighted that people are thinking more about where their food comes from. Yeah, we’re here in the UK, we have a pretty diverse landscape. There is a great deal of the UK that couldn’t produce arable crops, but there are areas that can and and so you know, it’s great to have that diversity. You know, and it’s not a it’s not a farmers versus vegans thing. I think that’s that’s it. That’s a media construct. So I don’t like it when they’re when they’re untruths, bounded about but but frankly, everybody who does any job that isn’t farming can do that job because of farmers producing their food. And without, you know, without being too self congratulatory, it’s it’s, you know, that that’s as farmers, it’s what we do we produce people’s food, and we respond to the market.
Grounded by the Farm 31:33
Yeah. And, and it’s nice to feed any, any of those folks, right? Like whatever they want to eat. Let’s make it available for us. Right,
Farmer Tom 31:40
Grounded by the Farm 31:42
On our treats, and sometimes we want that great, hearty food keep you warm on a day like today. Sometimes, sometimes you want the ice cream because you just want to celebrate by God. So before we wrap up, there was one other piece I wanted to mention, and that is Borden McKee. You mentioned it a minute ago, but helped me understand born McKee.
Farmer Tom 32:06
So we were approached by the discovery network A few years ago, now, they wanted to produce a farming program. And again, you know, it’s the, it’s the Zeitgeist, it’s, you know, people are interested that they knew their consumers are interested in, in or that their viewers are interested in what’s happening on farms. So they found three farmers around the UK, and we were one of them. And they followed us for a few months. And they, you know, saw the highs and the lows. They call it born lucky. But yeah, they followed us from June to September and filmed from what we were doing. They, they they particularly enjoyed the jeopardy of farming, because there’s Jeopardy all the time. You know, if I make this decision, it could go well, it could go badly. If I decide to carry on working this evening. It could you know, we could get this crop in before the rain comes out, we might get a problem. So they like that. They like the cliff hanging with cliffhangers. They like the the jeopardy. So yeah, it was great fun. And I now get messages from people around the world saying, hey, I’ve just I’ve just seen an advert with your face on it. So that’s, yeah, that’s, that’s great. That’s great.
Grounded by the Farm 33:09
I’ve seen some of the photos, they did not look like they were taken on your typical cell phone kind of imagery, you know,
Farmer Tom 33:16
yeah, they were they were shooting in ultra ultra high. for, you know, for 8k, I think they’re shooting you. So,
Grounded by the Farm 33:23
yeah, it’s beautifully shot. Okay, so let’s tell people how to get in touch with you in all the different ways. And I’ll put all the links in the show notes so that people can just click on them. But where are your primary channels,
Farmer Tom 33:37
I think in terms of day to day interaction, probably Twitter, but but also in terms of just showcasing our farm, and what we do, will be through Instagram, through Facebook, and through YouTube as well. My backgrounds in film and in marketing. So I know that there are different people on each of those channels that are looking for different things, we try to try to provide that for them. But I think really the most important link is is farmer time.org.uk. That’s how you can find out more about farmer time. And that’s the thing which I’m passionate about. It’s not a vanity project. I think it’s I think it’s our gift to the world actually, to link our children with with where their food comes from. So farmer time code at UK and we are looking for farmers and teachers in the US to send me their information so that they can sign join up to pilot this in the US because I think there’s a huge potential around the world for linking classrooms and farming.
Grounded by the Farm 34:33
I am pretty sure you’ll get some people hitting that website and it’s very clear. There’s an area if you’re a farmer, or I’m a teacher, he click in you go ahead and enter your information and we’ll see how we can get them all paired up. Brian, thanks so much for joining me, Tom. I really appreciate your time.
Farmer Tom 34:49
It’s been great fun. Thank you for having me.
Grounded by the Farm 34:52
All right. That is the start of season two for Grounded by the Farm. As always, you guys can catch us on social media Grounded by the Farm, check us out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and I’m even on clubhouse so feel free to look us up. Also on our website Grounded by the Farm calm wherever you want to get in touch we’re trying to be there. Shoot us a message about questions you have about farming and food. I hope you enjoy these episodes enough that you’ll share them with friends, whether that’s via social media or in a conversation. Love to think some of that is while you’re having dinner with friends and family. This time we’re going to be doing different parts of the world. So while we were in England with this episode, our next episode coming up will be with Germany and talking about pork. We will be with my friend Marcus, then look forward to joining you guys at that time. And this is a production of grab the communications. Editing is by two guys talking. Thank you