The Farm Report
Heritage Radio Network
The Farm Report is a show about the people, processes, and policies that shape how food is produced today. From the latest agricultural innovations to the day-to-day challenges of running a viable business growing vegetables and grazing cattle, host Lisa Elaine Held engages in conversations with farmers and farmworkers and the people who work alongside them—like chefs, researchers, activists, and investors. Expect from-the-field insights paired with real-world context as guests explore how producing fresh, delicious food relates to environmental and community sustainability, equality and justice, politics and policy, and better health.
Arnold Coombs’ family has been tapping trees in Vermont and making maple syrup for seven generations. Today, Coombs Family Farms sources maple from 3,000 small family farms. Mark Isselhardt is a maple specialist at the University of Vermont extension school, where he studies maple production. In this episode, both maple experts talk to host Lisa Held about the sugaring tradition, what modern, commercial production looks like, how farmers can diversify their income with maple, and the environmental impacts of maple production in the era of climate change.

Chris Damico is the founder of Farm’d, a platform that connects local farms to restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia. In this episode, Damico talks to host Lisa Held about how the platform simplifies supply chain logistics to help farmers sell their food into local markets, the value of regional food systems, and how he plans to replicate the model in other cities in the future.

This year, the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture launched a Regenerative Farming Fellowship program in partnership with the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC). In this episode, two of the farmers from the inaugural cohort—Drew Blankenbaker, a vegetable farmer in Montana and the founder of The Farmland Company and Kelly Placke, herd manager at organic grassfed dairy Placke Organic Acres in Wisconsin—join host Lisa Held in studio, along with NYFC co-executive director Sophie Ackoff. They discuss how they’re implementing regenerative practices on their farms, the economic and climate-related challenges they face, and what the term “regenerative” means to them.

Animal welfare activist Leah Garces, the current president of Mercy for Animals, has been fighting against industrial animal agriculture her entire career. In this episode, she talks to host Lisa Held about her new book "Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry," in which tells the story of working with farmers and chicken companies to make incremental changes in the system. They discuss distrust between farmers and activists, how farmers might participate in a new market for plant-based foods, and more.

“No farms, no food,” is a slogan American Farmland Trust (AFT) popularized to describe the importance of its farmland conservation programs. Its newest program that speaks to that mission is Farmer Batch, a collaboration with Greek yogurt maker Chobani. Based on a portion of sales from special Farmer Batch yogurts, AFT will offer grants to struggling dairy farmers to help them manage farm transitions, work on business planning, and more. In this episode, host Lisa Held talks to AFT vice president of programs David Haight about how the grants will work, why he thinks they can help farmers stay on their land, and why Chobani is engaging in charity for farmers rather than paying them more for their milk.

Gail Taylor started Three Part Harmony Farm three and a half miles from the White House. In the process, in addition to growing plenty of organic vegetables for the residents of DC, she also helped pass city legislation to make it easier for others to start urban farms in the nation’s capital. In this episode,Taylor talks to host Lisa Held about her farm, her approach to agroecology, and the effects of DC’s local “Farm Bill.”

The fourth-generation Oregon rancher worked in environmental policy before she moved home and converted her family’s ranch to a grass-fed cattle operation based on the principles of holistic management. Now, she’s partnered with other ranches nearby to create a new supply chain for grass-fed beef. In this episode, Carman talks to host Lisa Held about building soil health to restore grasslands and store carbon, partnering with restaurant chains like Dig to grow the market for grass-fed beef, communicating around the role livestock play in healthy ecosystems, and the rural-urban divide.

According to The Washington Post, the number of dairy goats in the US is now climbing quickly. But Suzanne Behrmann, owner of Shepherd’s Way Creamery, got into milking goats a long time ago, simply because she liked them. Now, her farm has a herd of 14, and she sells her artisanal goat cheese at farmers markets in West Virginia and Washington DC’s famed Dupont Market. In this episode, Behrmann is in DC to attend Freshfarm’s annual Feast, and she talks to host Lisa Held about what it takes to run a goat dairy, setting up an on-farm cheesemaking operation, and her experiences selling at farmers markets.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently made a lot of farmers angry. At a time when small dairy farms are going out of business at unprecedented rates (and small farms producing other crops are also struggling), Perdue made a comment that suggested the situation was par for the course. “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” he said. This week, host Lisa Held is joined by three guests—Brenda Cochran, dairy farmer and president of Farm Women United, Russell Diez-Canseco, president and CEO of Vital Farms, and Jordan Treakle, policy director at the National Family Farm Coalition—to discuss Perdue’s comments, what current challenges faced by America’s small farmers really look like, and what can be done to help small farms survive.

Why take a “wild” approach to farming? Nancy Hayden has been co-owner of The Farm Between in Jeffersonville, VT for 28 years, and she’s the co-author of the new book, Farming on the Wild Side: The Evolution of a Regenerative Organic Farm and Nursery. In this episode, she joins host Lisa Held to talk about the agricultural benefits of wild spaces, agroforestry and other climate-friendly farm practices, and the economics of making a small, regenerative organic farm successful.

Dave Herring is the executive director of Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, a demonstration farm, training center, and campground on 600 acres of preserved coastal land in Freeport, Maine. In this episode, he talks to host Lisa Held about a new initiative —OpenTEAM—launched in collaboration with partners like Stonyfield Organic and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Herring outlines a vision for the project in which farmers will utilize the platform to build up data that can then be used to improve regenerative agriculture practices, to ultimately help mitigate climate change.

While many forms of aquaculture have wreaked havoc on ecosystems, fisherman-turned-ocean farmer Bren Smith says farming the world’s oceans could help solve the climate crisis—if we do it right. In the wake of the dire report on the state of the oceans from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), host Lisa Held talks to Smith about his method of 3D restorative ocean farming (which requires zero inputs and can sequester carbon), his new book, Eat Like a Fish, and how he’s training other young farmers to grow food at sea, via his non-profit organization GreenWave.

Many common agricultural pesticides have been making headlines recently, from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reversing a ban on chlorpyrifos to multiple lawsuits in which juries have awarded millions of dollars to individuals who claim glyphosate (Roundup) caused their cancers. In this episode, expert Erik Olson, of the NRDC, explains the health risks and environmental impacts of some of these talked-about farm chemicals and talks to host Lisa Held about current EPA policy related to pesticide regulation.

Little Wild Things Farm produces soil­-grown microgreens, shoots, and edible flowers in the heart of Washington, DC. Its produce can be found at the biggest markets and in top restaurants throughout the city. In this episode, host Lisa Held talks to founder-farmer Mary Ackley about her journey as a first-generation farmer, the rewards and challenges related to growing and selling specialty produce in an urban environment, and DC’s urban farming landscape.

Before the news of the fires in the Amazon drew national attention, environmental organization Mighty Earth was calling out American agricultural giant Cargill for its contributions to deforestation in South America, among numerous other environmentally destructive practices. In this episode, host Lisa Held talks to Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz about the scathing report the organization released (and the New York Times covered) in July—Cargill: The Worst Company in the World. They discuss why Cargill is such a standout offender when it comes to environmental degradation, how industrial animal agriculture contributes to deforestation and other issues, and what can be done.

Chris Starkus owns Lost Creek Micro Farm in Denver, Colorado, where he is a beekeeper and grower of vegetables. He’s also the executive chef at the restaurant Urban Farmer, where he’s created a “locally focused, sustainably sourced steakhouse menu influenced by the bounty of Colorado.” During a trip to New York City to cook at the James Beard House, Starkus stopped by the studio to talk to host Lisa Held about his own farm, how he supports other farmers in Colorado as a chef, and what agriculture looks like in and around Denver.

This week's show is a special collaboration between The Farm Report and Cutting the Curd. Together, host Lisa Held and fellow Heritage Radio Network host and producer Elena Santogade talk to farmer and cheesemaker Celeste Nolan. Nolan and her husband purchased a family dairy farm 15 years ago. After struggling to sustain the farm business based on fluid milk production alone, they added cheesemaking to the operation. The Nolan family’s farm and cheese will soon be featured on Farmsteaders, an episode of PBS's POV series. In advance of that portrait, Nolan talks to Held and Santogade about the realities of revitalizing and running a dairy farm, how making cheese fits into the farm’s economic and day-to-day picture, and more.

Created by renowned chef Dan Barber, breeder Michael Mazourek, and seedsman Matthew Goldfarb, Row 7 is “a seed company grounded in the notion that deliciousness might just change the world.” In this episode, host Lisa Held sits down with Mazourek to talk about how the company has been working with a network of chefs and farmers to develop vegetables like the Badger Flame Beet and the Purple Beauregarde Snow Pea. They also tackle why breeding for flavor can produce more nutritious vegetables, how to breed plants for resilience in the face of climate change, and what seed farming really looks like. It's HRN's annual summer fund drive, this is when we turn to our listeners and ask that you make a donation to help ensure a bright future for food radio. Help us keep broadcasting the most thought provoking, entertaining, and educational conversations happening in the world of food and beverage. Become a member today! To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we have brand new member gifts available. So snag your favorite new pizza - themed tee shirt or enamel pin today and show the world how much you love HRN, just go to heritageradionetwork.org/donate

Jonathan Sumner has a unique job for a farmer. At Riverpark, one of celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s restaurants, he runs what is likely Manhattan’s biggest outdoor farm, organically growing around 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers in 3,200 milk crates. His predecessor, Zach Pickens, now runs Farm Tournant in upstate New York and provides the restaurant with whatever the city farm can’t grow. In this episode, Sumner, Pickens, and Riverpark executive chef Andrew Smith to host Lisa Held about the unique design of Riverpark’s farm and how the farmers and chefs work together to craft menus that revolve around the harvest, both in the city and upstate.

“Brownsville is a food desert,” one student says while standing against a backdrop of dozens of giant cucumbers ready to be harvested. “We want to help the community by giving them healthy food access.” In this episode, student farmers give host Lisa Held a tour of the hydroponic farm they built inside an empty classroom at their Brooklyn middle school, where 25,000 pounds of produce now grows annually. After the tour, Teens for Food Justice president Katherine Soll is in studio to talk about what went into building the farm, how it has impacted the students and community, and how it fits into the bigger picture of the organization’s work.