Episode 21: Digital Farming Networks & Urban Composting
Meet Heather Gorringe, founder of Wiggly Wigglers, an ecogardening company with a £2.5m turnover who has produced weekly podcasts gardening and farming how-to podcasts from her 14 person Lower Blakemere Farm since 2005. In this episode, Heather brings the old "how-to’s" of the simple farm life into the hands of the urban professional by discussing the spiritual practice of composting and the benefits that social media brings to farmers. Think "Sharper Image catalogs" and Amish Farming mixed with an Apple Store Expert. You’ll learn about Bokashi Buckets, an urban answer to composting, the environmental impact of sending flowers and how this UK Digital Farm and Catalog Garden Company lives with their hands in the soil as well as on the keyboard.
Wiggly Wigglers: The Digital Farmer & The Spiritual Practice of Urban Composting
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Meredith Medland: Welcome to Living Green. I am your host Meredith Medland. Today on our show we are going to hear from one of Prince Charles’ tenant farmers, you will hear about the new English countryside ring tone, we will pickle your orange peals with a new character called Farmer Phil, and you will learn about the secret scent that is contained in those fabulous rose bouquets that you might be sending. Stay tuned for highlights of our show.
[Heather Gorringe: Well. I think life and death has a little about composting. I really did. I think that composting, it just marries that circle up. So, we are born, we live, we die, and then we are composted. So anyway, you go to your kitchen wise problem, which might not presume as usually something like banana skins may be and even fish burns and fish wastes that sort of idea, that could be dealt with care. [xx] that is in your kitchen that causes the problem. And you put them in your buckets and this is the best thing [xx] so simple to use. You just sprinkle on a little bit of Bokashi and put the lid on. That’s it. And what I will say is that every time we make Bokashi on the farm, it does cheer the place up because that just is very lovely, gentle, pickling smell. And that just makes feel good.]
[Heather Gorringe: And for me this new technology is [xx] that we can curtail all that middle mess and be able to communicate correctly, but not just to add people, start the conversation that we are having a conversation with people.]
[Heather Gorringe: You know, I don’t want to be dooming gloom, but it is something that when you think, that we can grow flowers without any [xx] right in our home times, why are we shifting them from the other side of the world?
Meredith Medland: I am Meredith Medland and you are listening to Living Green. Today on our show you are going to learn about Bokashi, the happiest and easiest way to compost in any place you live. Yes, that’s right even in a studio apartment. We will talk about how composting can be a new form of spiritual practice, and why sending flowers to friends in the United Kingdom can be a very dangerous thing to do.
Today on our show we are speaking with Heather Gorringe. Heather is the CEO of Wiggly Wigglers, a UK mail-order company connecting farmers to gardeners. Heather, welcome the show…
Heather Gorringe: Thank you Meredith. I am pleased to be here.
Meredith Medland: Alright. Well, this is a very special opportunity. Heather, you and your whole team come together each week to produce a lively down-on-the-farm podcast that could range from the life and the birth of young farm animals as well as practical shows, such as how to grow veggies even in your tiny backyard.
Heather Gorringe: That is absolutely right. You never know what is going to happen on a Wiggly podcast.
Meredith Medland: So let’s get this straight. Prince Charles is your landlord.
Heather Gorringe: He is indeed. He built an estate in Herefordshire about five years ago and we are right on the end, so with a very last farm on the Herefordshire state. So, he has come by occasionally.
Meredith Medland: Oh! My goodness! Later in the episode you are actually going to hear about how they have also bought two of Prince Charles’ pigs, that’s right.
Heather Gorringe: That’s true.
Meredith Medland: Lots of good details. What you need to know first is that Wiggly Wigglers has received numerous acknowledgments and awards, such as the Best Small Business in all of the UK, as well as the Alternative Enterprise Award from Farmers’ Weekly Magazine, and of course, as I said, most importantly the Prince Charles is their landlord. It is going to be a great show. When we come back from the break we will talk about how the act of composting might just become your next new spiritual practice. Thanks for listening. My name is Meredith Medland and we will be back right after this.
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Meredith Medland: Welcome back. My name is Meredith Medland. I am here with Heather Gorringe, the CEO of Wiggly Wigglers and you are listening to Living Green.
Heather, you love composting. In fact, we had a conversation before the show about gardens’ spirituality, and you have this fantastic description of what composting means to you, and I would love it if you share[?] with the listeners on my show.
Heather Gorringe: Well, I think life and death has a little about composting. I really did. I think that composting, it just marries that circle up. So, we are born, we live, we die, and then we are composted. And the whole point to me, of the whole thing, is that composting means that new growth grows from whatever that is that is composted. So, I think it just brings that circle together. I think, it is what life is all about[?]. I think once you are dead, you may compost and something else grows and that is how we go on.
Meredith Medland: Tell us about composting on the farm.
Heather Gorringe: Well. In my home, we compost every bit of our waste. Some of it goes out to feed chickens, but most of it gets recycled through a whole variety of methods. You know, you can compost with heat, you can compost with worms. One of the most exciting methods that I find to compost, that you can do right inside your apartment or even your office, is Bokashi.
Bokashi is a Japanese word for fermenting. So, it is not exactly composting that were talking about, but it ends up making great compost. What it does is it pickles your wastes. So, it is a bit like… you know, when you and I have, say a live yogurt. So, it’s got friendly bacteria in it. Bokashi uses exactly the same method. And what that means is that when you put your waste into the bin, which is a sort of airtight, it is a sort of non-obtrusive. You and I could have it in this hotel room. No problem. When you put wastes in, the effective microorganisms immediately begin to work on it and it pickles it. So when you take the lid off, as I said to you, a sort of smell, a little bit like [xx]. So, quite a sweet sort of smell, very much non-obtrusive and it just breaks it down. But, a sort of preserves it rather than break it down. You end up with a liquid and you end up with not a very attractive product, but a product that will make your garden grow like never before, and a product that you cannot [xx] bother to use inside your kitchen or your office.
Meredith Medland: Well, this is one of the most exciting things about it, because no matter where you live you told me, you can put the liquid down the drain and it cleans the drain out.
Heather Gorringe: Yes. The liquid is obviously full of effective microorganisms too. This method was invented by Gaiko Terheiga[?] in Japan several years ago and they have been using it there successfully [xx] ages, and of course, we are a little behind. But, you can use the liquid also to clean [xx] duck[?] when you get allergy…
Meredith Medland: Allergy.
Heather Gorringe: …. allergy on the duck, then you can use it and Bokashi takes some bacteria away and cleans your duck. You can use it in the drain and you can also use it as a plant feed. And then the hard materials, the main material, you can just take into the soil. So you do need some access to soil to be able to use it successfully, but I know plenty of people are using it in offices, got no garden and then they just take the bucket home because the great thing about the bucket is that it is not very big. So it is probably about, may be a foot and a half tall, and may be a half of foot wide. And so it is very practical to use on a tiny scale.
Meredith Medland: And when you buy it, it is about less than $100 of an investment and actually it is a bucket plus the ingredients that go inside. And tell us how you started up and how it works.
Heather Gorringe: Sure. Let us say, a little bit similar to how we make the Bokashi on the farm. It is all about taking an inert material. So, in Japan, they use rice husks and then in the UK, we use bran, and I believe you use bran in the US too. So it is the husks of the wheat and the corn. And you then put in the effective microorganisms and mix it with molasses, which just gets the whole thing away. Once that culture is wet, then you take all the air out of it and make it into Bokashi. Now that’s on the commercial scale and in your home you do exactly the same thing. So you have your culture of dry Bokashi…
Meredith Medland: And that comes when you buy bucket. That actually comes with it.
Heather Gorringe: Yes. Or you could make a room, if you wanted to. There is no problem if you make it in your own home. It depends if you get enough time to [xx] to do it.
Meredith Medland: Well. What should our listeners do? Give them a very specific example.
Heather Gorringe: Most people that I know starts of by at least getting the Bokashi readymade, because then you will get the experience of using it and you will get a very stable product. [xx] make even, then you can do that further down the line. It is a bit like saying shall I buy built-in yogurt or shall I my own? Usually we start of by buying the built-in stuff but, you know, if you can make one there is no issue.
Meredith Medland: I have the solution. So, go ahead and buy it in advance and listen to Living Green while you are doing it. How is that?
Heather Gorringe: Perfect. So, anyway, you go to your kitchen waste problem, which I presume is usually something like banana skins may be and even fish burns and fish wastes are sort of idea that could be [xx]. Anything really that is in your kitchen that causes a problem. And you put that in your buckets and this is the best thing of [xx]. So simple to use. You just sprinkle down a little bit of Bokashi and put the lid on. That’s it. Next bit of waste you put in and put a little bit Bokashi, instead of having the sort of routine pile in the kitchen or even outside you do when you [xx] your next load of waste in. You have got a culture that’s pickling away and making a very sweet smelling resource.
This is a resource we used to use. So to me it is amazing that people bother to recycle other products that they don’t end up with something that benefits them, I think that is wonderful. But with Bokashi, it’s a no [xx] because you end up with a resource that you can use and you can take advantage of.
Meredith Medland: I am seeing a lot of opportunity even in cities, where may be, there is one person that has an organic garden that might live in, let’s say Northern California, [xx] but there is a butch of city dwellers for $100 for over a year’s time, they have got enough to be able to create their own bin and then may be one person brings other’s bins to the garden and they participate in some sort of community event with the bringing it together. Lots of opportunity for connection.
Heather Gorringe: Sure. In London, there is a project called the East London Community Partnership. And what they have done is in [xx] apartments [xx] interested in composting because they have got new garden. And so the people that were in charge of the community garden said, “You know, we are going to guarantee that there is no worming or any problem with smells around your flats if you use Bokashi buckets to compost your waste. We will collect it.” So they just delivered one bucket attempting the Bokashi and they let the folks fill up that bucket they collected and [xx] for another bucket. Then they [xx] it downstairs and put into a sort of halt composter[?] because it is stable and is pleasant. So there is no issue of having that waste hanging around. Then they use it in the community garden and they even takes some back to these people who may be [xx] plants, may be have got to use for small amount of compost. Now that works really well. So, you can either do individually or with the community group.
Meredith Medland: I love it. And you can also use the liquid in plants to water your plants and you can also use it to put down your toilet drain way.
Heather Gorringe: Yes. It does sound a little bit unbelievable, you know, when the Victorians invented an ointment that solved everything. But it is true. Bokashi liquid in your drain really helps to clean it. And when you think about it, it is completely illogical. What you are talking about is effective microorganisms that are helping so friendly bacteria that is helping breakdown waste, is really quite simple. Although I do remember when I at first was making Bokashi, that the Japanese method of advice is that you stir it 12 times clockwise and then you stir it 12 times anticlockwise and then when you are making Bokashi make sure you are so happy. And what I will say is that every time we make Bokashi on the farm, it does cheer the place up because that just has very lovely, gentle, pickling smell. And that just makes feel good.
Meredith Medland: I love it. This sounds great. Also sounds like an amazing business opportunity, I know in Sandabarba[?] we have lot of CSA, that is how we get vegetables delivered to our door on a weekly basis, and here is another opportunity for someone to do a little [xx].
Heather Gorringe: I think so. I think they could be delivering you veggie boxes and collecting your veggie waste.
Meredith Medland: Brilliant. Thank you. Alright. Well, in our next segment, we are going to talk about how Prince Charles’ pigs have come on to your farm, which is going to be very, very exciting and we are going to talk about ring tones, your 10-year-old son, Farmer Phil and future podcasts. We are going to be talking to some [xx] people in forthcoming podcasts. Thank you so much for listening to Living Green. My name is Meredith Medland. We are going to take a very short break to thank our sponsors and will be back right after this.
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Meredith Medland: Welcome back from the break. My name is Meredith Medland and you are listening to Living Green. I am here with Heather Gorringe. Heather is the CEO of Wiggly Wigglers and what I love best about her is she has got her fingers in the soil as well as her fingers on the world[?]. What an amazing contribution!
Heather Gorringe: I love that… [laughs] [xx] podcasting.
Meredith Medland: Exactly. I mean, it is really quite stunning. I have to say that. I looked through their mail-order catalogue and it looks kind of like something that I used to see in the 70s in Wisconsin, which is where I grew up and it is all about the vegetables and the seeds and that kind of things. [xx] podcast symbols. [xx] listen to this episode or here is an excerpt from [xx]. So, tell us a little bit about your 10-year-old son and some of the exciting ways he contributes to your podcast.
Heather Gorringe: Well, his quote phrase is “let your eye pop bloom” and he has a weekly fax on worms, say for example, one of his favorite fax is “you can cut a worm in half, but it doesn’t mean that you get two worms. It just means that the top half of the worm can grow another tail”. So, a little game over the worms. And then because we have the pigs, he now produces a weekly pigcast. So, it’s just a weekly fact on pigs, which just gets dropped into our show every week.
Meredith Medland: I have listened to these podcasts with you and I have to say they are well produced. This is a really profitable business. You are a gentleman business woman who has integrated farming and technology. This is totally true. This is not [xx].
Heather Gorringe: Well, the thing is I always believed, really quite firmly in the world of nice marketing. And for me, as a farmer, we have a kind of lost all way. When farmers [xx] gone to speak, say they want to speak to the lady that [xx] the apples in the grocery store, they forget to speak to her and they end up speaking to the supermarket, may be when they want to reconnect with children, they forget to speak to the children, now as she speaks to the school teacher. And for me this new technology is [xx]. We can cut out all that middle mess and be able to communicate correctly, but not just talk out to people, start the conversation that we are having a conversation with people. So we get lots of feedback. And I love that, because it just cuts all without advertising, it cuts all without middle mess.
Meredith Medland: Exactly. One of the things that made your podcast so successful is that you have many of your listeners in the UK as well as in the US write reviews within iTunes.
Heather Gorringe: Yes. A good idea for your listeners. If you are listening to Living Green, go through iTunes and just write a review. And if you love the service, really worth just listing it down. And it is great, because I think that helps iTunes to choose which people to put on the front. So if you are a fan that is the really good thing to do.
Meredith Medland: Ahh! Thanks for that. Now you have a number one fan and that is Farmer Phil. This is your husband, and you get ready to produce more podcasts for him as well as be on the farm and talk somebody [xx]. Let’s hear a little secret about that Farmer Phil relationship.
Heather Gorringe: Well, Farmer Phil and I met in 1992 and he and I always got on really well. In fact, I can’t remember many arguments about money or bringing up of our son, but our main argument has been organic or not organic farming. So I am still trying to convert him and you know I have trialed lots of ways – love, anger, anything – to convert him. But, he is definitely [xx]. He is very keen on sustainable farming. He is very enthusiastic about wildlife. So I am on my way.
Meredith Medland: This is truly a family business and you have 18 employees.
Heather Gorringe: Yes. We have 18 employees. They are based… we used to be basing in the bedroom in the farmhouse, but now we have converted an old stable block. So, we send good [xx] from the farm every day and the farm has become one of our main suppliers. Because we do lots of things like Bokashi and birdfeed, the farm has become integral to that by growing those seeds. So we have the first crop of sun flowers in Herefordshire, which is that we [xx] birds with them, seed.
Meredith Medland: Fantastic. We are getting ready to go into our last segment. We are going to take a break. And in our last segment, we are going to talk about ‘Flower Confidential’, which is just a fantastic book. We are going to learn about the environmental impact of sending flowers. I promise you in this last segment, your viewpoints will totally shift and love in the 21st century, but before we going to our break, tell us about the podcast schedule that you have coming up with the Amish in Indiana.
Heather Gorringe: Well, I have been lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship by the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust. A chap called Lord Nuffield came over to America about 60 years ago and he lived by making tractors. And when he came back, he became a multi-millionaire in the UK and he setup his fund to encourage farmers to go, find out something that will be useful to agriculture. And so mostly people find out what may be the best form of dairying, or may be easy cash sheep or whatever it is, then my topic is Web2.0 in social media. And so I am here to find out all about people reconnecting with farming and as possible my trip, I am lucky enough to be able to go and stay with cherry [xx] who has got wonderful podcast called CherryCast out in Indiana and I am able to go with her and meet the Amish and I really think that such [xx] because my scholarship is from Lord Nuffield, who invented the English tractor, and I am going to see the Amish, who have said no to the new technology, and I really wonder who is most advanced because I suspect that I am going to find out that probably the Amish are probably more advanced than we are now, but all are wait and see.
Meredith Medland: We’ll wait and see. We are all interconnected and all coming together. When we come back from the break, as I promised we are going to be talking to you about the importance of sending environmentally safe flowers. Thanks so much for listening to Living Green. We will be back right after this…
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Meredith Medland: Roses are red and violets are blue! We welcome you back to… you know who… This is Heather and we are here on Living Green. I am your host Meredith Medland. We are in our last segment.
Heather, two years ago you started a new business that offers a new environmental way to send flowers. What was the problem you have been solving?
Heather Gorringe: Well. In the UK, the average flower malls for bouquets is 4365 miles. Now that generally is pretty shocking, because when I used to buy a bouquet, I had no idea that what could be the environmental impact. You know, flowers are beautiful things. And when you buy them for somebody you love, you imagine that gift to be just completely natural and so environmentally friendly. But, actually when you think about it, our English flower industry has been decimated to the point where most flowers that we buy if they are from UK flower growers or whether she traveled to Holland and back anyway. But as I said, most of the bouquets are actually flown in from Columbia and from Kenya. And you know, there is an argument to say that you are supporting the people out there by providing jobs as such. But, if you look at that quite closely, is that the right thing to do? Should they not be growing food for themselves? What about the environmental impact of watering flowers that has high concentrates out there because of the chemicals that they are using.
You know, I don’t want to be dooming gloom. But, it is something that when you think that we can grow flowers without any [xx] right in our home towns, why are we shipping them from the other side of the word? And I know, that is the same here and the US in a lot of cases that you are doing exactly the same things – that flowers are traveling from the other sides of the world when you could actually be growing them with no problem in your own flower fields.
So, what do we do? Well, we grew our own flowers of course and then now we send flowers that are seasonal and [xx] it is a bit like a veggie box, which we were mentioning earlier. We can’t say “Meredith, Oh, you can have white lilies, or you can have yellow [xx] or you can have[xx]”.
Meredith Medland: Daisies, my favorite flower?
Heather Gorringe: Well no, only only when they are in season. So you can’t say to us “I want a color coordinated budding”. You can’t say to us “I just want to see this flower”. You can just say, “Heather, I really want to send my loved one a beautiful bunch of flowers” and we can do that, no problem. But, it is a bit like veggies. You know, you just have to change the way you think. Do you really care with the [xx], I didn’t think so. Not compared to where they have come from…. and the way factor when somebody opens them.
Meredith Medland: That’s right. What I really care about is that they come from someone that houses a big of a heart as yours.
Heather Gorringe: [Laughs]
Meredith Medland: I am quite serious. Alright, listeners, Heather is just a beautiful and glowing and has those farmer hands as well as those [xx] and podcasting activities as well. I think that is so absolutely phenomenal.
If you like to learn more about flowers and what is going on in the United States as well as allover the world, you can read ‘Flower Confidential’, that is a good place to start. And what I like to know before you go is also in regard to this sense. So, this is something that you need to know and I’ll actually let Heather tell you about the importance of the scent in bouquets they get sent.
Heather Gorringe: Sure. And you may have noticed that most of the flowers that we buy now, especially in supermarkets don’t have any smell. And the reason for that is that a flower naturally scents just before it is going to die. So about a week before it is going die it scents of a scent. But if you have to ship it from the other sides of the world, then you don’t want it to die, you haven’t got time for that to happen. So they have actually prolonged the life, the shelf life of flowers by taking away the scent. And to me that so much part of buying flowers is to have that beautiful smell, but of course, it don’t last as long as [xx] sets up. Get over it, they are going to die, that’s OK, it is only to [xx] a beautiful moment.
But the really sad thing is that because that happened often, they actually inject foul scent into the flower as they have actually got a scentless flower and then they put smell into it to make it last longer. [xx] is just incredibly…. just an incredibly strange thing to do, when you and I could, if we only knew that we were supposed to ask the questions, where are these last from? We get solved the whole problem.
Meredith Medland: Sometimes the question is the answer. Heather, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
Listeners, go ahead and go to Wiggly Wigglers and check out our website or type that into iTunes and then you find the family podcast.
Any last inspirational words for our listeners, Heather?
Heather Gorringe: Well. I just like to say that I have really enjoyed being on your show and I wish you the best of luck with Living Green. I have enjoyed many of your shows and I can’t wait to listen to the mushroom podcast.
Meredith Medland: [laughs] Alright. She is talking about Episode 10 with Paul Staments, who is the Mycelium Messenger. You may want to check that out.
Thanks for listening. Next week Paul Hocking is my guest. He is the author of ‘Lasced on Rest’ and has also been featured in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie ‘The 11th Hour’.
My name is Meredith Medland. You are listening to Living Green. And for a text and transcripts of this show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, go ahead and go to www.personallifemedia.com.
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And now please enjoy this entertaining clip ‘Recyclable Comedy’ from our sponsor Plenty Magazine, www.plentymag.com
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This is why we outsource work to China, because nothing is more important than saving money.
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