Ground Shift: Sustainability and the millenial farmers
Anna Jones asks young farmers how they plan to feed the world while protecting the land they have inherited. Can we balance commercial food production with the needs of our increasingly fragile natural environment?
In New Zealand, dairy farmer Richard Fowler talks about the epiphany which changed his whole approach to farming, and why he is willing to accept less milk for more grass and better soil.
In Iowa, USA, Wade Dooley is planting cover crops and returning livestock to worn-out fields that have grown only grain for decades. In a bid to save his soils and improve water quality, he’s learning to do more with less.
There is a shift in the mind-set of the Millennial farmer; whereas the past was about productivity, the future is about sustainability.
But the mood is different in Ghana, west Africa. Here the focus is on food security and driving productivity. Far from easing off on the chemicals, smallholder farmers are being urged to use more – and that comes from the top of Government. Anna sits down with the Minister for Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto.
And in the Australian outback, a land hit by years of drought followed by catastrophic flooding, Anna asks how farmers will remain resilient in the face of climate change. What does the future hold for our Millennial farmers?
(Photo: Dried-up river bed in Olga Downs, Australia. Credit: Anna Jones)
Ground Shift: Scale and modern farming models
From Big Ag and "factory farming" to urban micro farms, Anna Jones explores dramatic differences in the scale of modern agriculture.
Looking out across the New York City skyline, Anna hears how food can be produced sustainably, affordably and even abundantly on a rooftop in the heart of one of the world’s biggest cities. Urban farmer Ben Flanner swapped an engineering career in Manhattan for growing vegetables on top of an 11th storey building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He believes Millennials are reconnecting with fresh ingredients, grown locally, and rejecting sugary, processed food – much of which contains corn syrup derived from the field corn grown under America’s industrial farming model.
But on his combine in Iowa, rolling through 4,500 acres at the height of the corn harvest, 28-year-old Brandon Pickard says farms have expanded in order to survive. He believes industrial farming is the consequence of a shrinking farming population and expansion is the natural evolution of a successful business. He’s proud of his corn crop and says it’s helping to feed the world.
And Anna visits an organic farm in New York state which is making agriculture more diverse in terms of the crops they grow and the farmers that grow them. Rise & Root Farm is owned and run by four women – two of them are black and two of them are gay.
Producer: Anna Jones
(Photo: Brooklyn Grange Farm. Credit: Anna Jones/BBC)
Ground Shift: Digital technology and rural communities
Anna Jones looks at how digital and mobile phone technology is changing farming and boosting prosperity in rural communities around the world.
Anna goes on a road trip through Ghana with young entrepreneur Peter Awin, transporting animal vaccines from the capital Accra to the remote northern region. Peter has developed a mobile app called Cowtribe, which connects some of West Africa’s poorest smallholder farmers with vital animal health and veterinary services. For the first time ever they can prevent their animals from getting sick - and all because of a mobile phone.
In north-west Queensland, Anna hears how one farmer is bringing super-fast internet speeds to some of the most isolated communities in the world. With Australian families leaving the outback due to poor connectivity, William Harrington’s Wi-Sky internet is helping to keep bush communities alive.
But who owns all this data? As Millennials' pull agriculture into the 21st Century, are farmers ready for the changes that come with it?
(Photo: Internet tower in rural Australia)
Ground Shift: Survival for millennial farmers
Anna Jones explores the challenges facing family farms in the American Midwest and the outback of Australia, and discovers how Millennial farmers are embracing change to ensure their survival.
In Iowa, Anna meets two young corn and soybean growers - Brandon Pickard, 28, and Wade Dooley, 35. Both are struggling to make a living from poor grain prices but coming up with very different ways of earning extra income. Pork or popcorn anyone?
In North West Queensland, Anna heads to a remote cattle station to meet a family that believes digital technology is the key to their future. The Harringtons run 2,000 cattle on 44,000 acres but it is not big enough to support two families. William Harrington, the fourth generation, had to try something new in order stay in the family business, so he invented a surveillance camera that monitors water troughs – saving farmers huge amounts of time and money. William’s electronics are now more profitable than the cattle.
But some things on a cattle station never change – it’s mustering season and Anna finds herself in the thick of the action.
(Photo: Cattle on the muster in Australia. Credit: Olga Downs)
China: The start of the Silk Road
The sky is hidden by smog in Lanzhou on the Yellow River; this transport and manufacturing hub is pumping Chinese goods out to the world. In this last programme, we find out how the Belt and Road Initiative has brought new people into this growing metropolis and how businesses are benefiting from the new infrastructure.
Presenter: Peter Shevlin and Martin Yip