Farm On



Hosted by Joe Phillips. New episodes monthly. Conversations with agriculturists, artists and activists on the front lines of the food movement. Subscribe on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. To hear more episodes or to read my essays on everything from zucchini to Zen, visit dharmaonthefarm.comTheme music performed by Joe Phillips and engineered by Jude Shuma.Header image: Proposal for a New American Agriculture, composted cotton flag by Claire Pentecost


  • FARM ON #27 - Making our art  our lives with LAURA DUNN

    FARM ON #27 - Making our art & our lives with LAURA DUNN

    19/04/2018 Duration: 57min

    LAURA DUNN is a filmmaker based in Austin Texas who directed a documentary called THE UNFORESEEN, as well as a more recent documentary which is the focus of our conversation: LOOK & SEE: A PORTRAIT OF WENDELL BERRY. The film is available on Netflix and I can't recommend it enough. Laura and Wendell have a similar approach to their work, in that they are not putting themselves out there as a personality to shine brighter than the content of the work itself. Look & See isn't merely a biopic with a message, but it's capturing the essence of a person, in this case a giant of the written word, someone who is as illusive as he is influential. You will hear me try (and fail) to persuade Laura to get her two executive producers - Terence Malick and Robert Redford - to come on the show. You will also hear street noise, chirping birds, and a chatty toddler in the background (Laura conducted this phone conversation while walking her 2 year old to sleep).You will also hear the conviction of an artist who is using h

  • FARM ON #26 - Peeling back the layers with DAVID METTLER

    FARM ON #26 - Peeling back the layers with DAVID METTLER

    14/03/2018 Duration: 01h04min

    DAVID METTLER is a nice guy who happens to be married to my good friend Kim. We occasionally bump into each other to eat and/or drink things over pleasant conversation. He's quite tall. Sometimes he is bearded. Other times, not so much. David works as a freelance writer, producer and director of nonfiction tv and film in New York. He's worked across multiple genres for networks including History Channel, MTV, PBS, Discovery Channel, etc. David is most interested in telling stories that tie specific personal experiences of subjects together with larger social, historical, and cultural patterns. He is currently finishing a one hour documentary for MSNBC about the Iran-Contra affair. But the gist of our conversation revolves around one of two wonderful episodes David wrote and directed for the new NETFLIX series ROTTEN. The piece we dig into is called GARLIC BREATH, a story that involves intrigue, scandal, greed, heroism, and yes, lots and lots (and lots) of garlic.

  • FARM ON #25 - Reflecting on reflections with MELISSA COLEMAN

    FARM ON #25 - Reflecting on reflections with MELISSA COLEMAN

    08/02/2018 Duration: 58min

    Imagine the scene: it's 1968, and you make the brazen decision to move with your soon-to-be pregnant wife to the country where you build a simple house from trees you cut down by hand, with no power tools. You then raise three children with no electricity or running water, subsisting on a system of vegetable plots that are innovative in the way they harness the innate power of nature. On these 60 acres you become a hero of the Organic movement by teaching apprentices, authoring pivotal books on growing methods, and even creating your own custom handtools that are sold as your signature models decades later. If this bio describes you, then you are ELIOT COLEMAN. Now, imagine that your first daughter, born in the midst of this Back To The Land story and raised on the 60 acres of rugged Maine coastline utterly disconnected from modern society, decides to write a tell-all memoir about her experience, drawing from memories as young as infancy. The book tells of the timeless Summer afternoons, the joyful cycles o

  • FARM ON #24 - Going greenhorn with STEVE SUDERMAN

    FARM ON #24 - Going greenhorn with STEVE SUDERMAN

    08/01/2018 Duration: 57min

    Happy new year, and happy birthday to FARM ON! The show is turning one year old, and I want to send a hearty THANK YOU to everyone for tuning in, and sharing these episodes with like-minded folks. As a documentary director and producer, STEVE SUDERMAN has spent the last decade immersing himself in intimate and personal stories of people going through life-altering experiences. This trajectory started with Over Land (2008), a portrait of his own family in crisis as they lose their farm on the Canadian prairies. The bulk of our conversation is on Steve's feature documentary, TO MAKE A FARM. The film follows five young people with urban backgrounds who decide to take up small scale organic farming. Facing daily challenges and overwhelming obstacles their first season on the land, joys and disappointments become a quiet manifesto for social change. To Make A Farm won the Santa Cruz audience choice award as well as three Golden Sheaf awards including Best of Festival in 2012. It was commissioned by TVO. Soon t

  • FARM ON #23 - Designing for resistance with the BEEHIVE DESIGN COLLECTIVE

    FARM ON #23 - Designing for resistance with the BEEHIVE DESIGN COLLECTIVE

    28/12/2017 Duration: 56min

    Ever heard of Mesoamerica? I'll be honest. I was clueless about the place until I stumbled on the work of today's guest. Mesoamerica is a cultural and geographic region that forms a thin land bridge (or isthmus) between North and South America and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—and is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. Mesoamerica is also a Mega-development free trade disaster zone. A conduit for extractive industries from global South to global North. A monopoly board for international banks. A justification for CIA profits thanks to the ongoing so-called War on Drugs. A militarized zone. A roulette wheel where corporations spill blood for bananas. Mesoamerica is caught between the trade winds of the dark North cloud that rains down violence, toxins, and cultural thievery - and the hurricane of the climate-changed South that rips through already marginalized communities, opening the door for disaster capitalism. The global East spews a typhoon of mass production, while a whirlwind of dispo

  • FARM ON #22 - Exercising the right to know with CAREY GILLAM

    FARM ON #22 - Exercising the right to know with CAREY GILLAM

    14/12/2017 Duration: 54min

    In the early 60's, Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring was instrumental as a catalyst for the modern environmental movement. In fact, Silent Spring altered the course of history by forcing a ban on the herbicide DDT - an active ingredient in Agent Orange during the Vietnam war - and spurring sweeping changes in the laws that affect our air, land, and water. My guest today has been compared to Carson for her book White Wash: The story of a weed killer, cancer, and the corruption of science. And it's a valid comparison. CAREY GILLAM is a veteran investigative journalist with 25 years under her belt as former senior correspondent for Reuters international news service, and she's been researching and writing about the health dangers associated with the agrochemical companies - namely Monsanto - and their products - namely RoundUp otherwise known as glyphosate - which continue to be so widely used in our food that we could easily remain uninformed if it weren't for the dedicated reporting of journalists like Gill

  • FARM ON #21 - Finding yourself in paradise with KAREN MAEZEN MILLER

    FARM ON #21 - Finding yourself in paradise with KAREN MAEZEN MILLER

    26/11/2017 Duration: 01h04min

    For this episode I'm going to step out of the usual mode and talk to someone who stumbled onto gardening by a twist of fate, and who uses her garden's many lessons to teach us the living wisdom in our natural world. KAREN MAEZEN MILLER is a Zen priest at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles, and the author of Mama Zen, Hand Wash Cold, and a slender book called Paradise In Plain Sight which is the focus of our talk. Through Maezen's no-nonsense prose, rocks convey faith, ponds preach stillness, flowers give love, and leaves express the effortless ease of letting go. And the green space that provides her so many lessons is no ordinary patch of land, but a 100-year-old Japanese garden that she painstakingly restored with no prior gardening experience. This "one foot in front of the other" approach is often referred to as The Path in Buddhism, and I begin our conversation by asking Maezen about her own path from starting a business to shedding the trappings of success, and eventually earning the robes of a Ze

  • FARM ON #20 - Rebuilding shattered hearts with MARY REYNOLDS

    FARM ON #20 - Rebuilding shattered hearts with MARY REYNOLDS

    12/11/2017 Duration: 01h03min

    Back in episode #16, LARRY KORN was very excited to tell me about an Irish garden designer named MARY REYNOLDS. It turns out he helped to edit and wrote the forward for her phenomenal book THE GARDEN AWAKENING: DESIGNS TO NURTURE OUR LAND AND OURSELVES. Mary's life and work has been committed to discovering the sacred and the magical in every piece of land, because "the veil between this world and the world of spirit is very thin". In this conversation, I ask Mary about fairy magic, sacred spaces, and the independent film inspired by her adventures becoming the youngest person to win the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, and the romance that surrounded it. The film, DARE TO BE WILD, is set for release in the US sometime this year. We also talk about Mary's own property in Ireland, for which she is seeking funding to build a living version of the book to educate children by connecting them with nature and to teach people how to turn their garden plots into massive opportunities for the land, nature's health

  • FARM ON #19 - Chasing the honeybee with HEATHER SWAN

    FARM ON #19 - Chasing the honeybee with HEATHER SWAN

    24/10/2017 Duration: 01h08s

    My good friend and New Zealander nomad VANESSA BECK takes the controls of this episode of FARM ON, and interviews poet and author HEATHER SWAN. Vanessa was the natural choice for this conversation since she and Swan share many traits in common: a keen sensibility for the natural world, deep compassion for the work of restoration, and first-hand experience with the art of BEEKEEPING. They spend the hour chatting about Swan's new book WHERE HONEYBEES THRIVE: STORIES FROM THE FIELD (Penn State University Press), which is "part love song, part lament, and part quest", and all love. Love for the honeybee, love for the people who spend their lives studying it, and love for endless pursuit of understanding through research. In this talk, Swan explains how her journey in the field led her all over the world to learn from beekeepers, farmers and scientists. She also explores the inner life of a handful of artists whose shared muse is the archetype of the honeybee, and whose artwork shuffles the book's chapters in a

  • FARM ON #18 - Getting in tune with ANDREA HAZZARD

    FARM ON #18 - Getting in tune with ANDREA HAZZARD

    18/10/2017 Duration: 01h02min

    Driving past corn fields in the Midwest can seem like a trip through a pastoral, idyllic farmscape, but in reality the corn commodity realm is a dystopian industrial wasteland that is genetically engineered and chemically supported. However, agriactivists like ANDY HAZZARD are proving that it is not only possible to cultivate ancient, heirloom grains, but it is also vital to our health and the health of the environment as we know it. HAZZARD FREE FARM is the latest in a family tradition that dates back to 1847, and with Andy at the helm it is getting attention from folks who want to taste bread before it became the gluten-heavy substance we know, and who want their food source to live in harmony with the land. Before starting her own farm, Andy was "...suffering from cognitive dissonance, like an out of tune song my worldly work and actions were out of line with my beliefs. " She has found her tune through meticulously-sourced, stone-ground grains that hearken back to pre-industrial revolution era farming p

  • FARM ON #17 - Cultivating essentialism with LINDSAY STEELE

    FARM ON #17 - Cultivating essentialism with LINDSAY STEELE

    04/10/2017 Duration: 01h04min

    Every time I check in with my good friend LINDSAY STEELE, it's like watching a slow-motion flip book come to life. Each conversation is like a snapshot into the unfolding of his family farm called GARDEN FORT in rural Michigan. Over the years Lindsay has honed a "lean farm" approach that continues to produce more food, increase profits, while at the same time expending less energy. If it's true that small, organic farms will be the thing that saves our species from imminent doom, then GARDEN FORT is showing us the way. Lindsay is always on to a new book, and in this talk he references Greg McKeon's bestseller ESSENTIALISM: THE DISCIPLINED PURSUIT OF LESS. As you will hear, loss and instability on the farm, with the right perspective, are transformed into opportunities for distinguishing "the vital few from the trivial many", and finding "our highest point of contribution". Follow Lindsay and Garden Fort's adventures:

  • FARM ON #16 - Flying the one-straw revolutionary flag with LARRY KORN

    FARM ON #16 - Flying the one-straw revolutionary flag with LARRY KORN

    17/09/2017 Duration: 01h06min

    MASANOBU FUKUOKA'S manifesto for natural farming ONE-STRAW REVOLUTION (1975) was as much a revelation to me as it has been for millions of readers worldwide. It has been translated into more languages than can be accounted for, and is regarded as one of the essential titles for PERMACULTURE practitioners. Its blending of straight-forward instruction, hard-won life examples, and Zen-like wisdom has captivated audiences in the way that no other book on sustainable agriculture can touch. "The One-Straw Revolution is one of the founding documents of the alternative food movement, and indispensable to anyone hoping to understand the future of food and agriculture." — Michael Pollan Subsequent books THE NATURAL WAY OF FARMING and my personal favorite SOWING SEEDS IN THE DESERT continued Fukuoka's energetic command of his craft: allowing nature to do what it does best with little or no effort for control by human beings. For this episode of FARM ON, I am lucky enough to speak with the man who lived on Fukuoka's

  • FARM ON #15 - Uncovering radical routes with RYAN GRIFFIS  SARAH ROSS

    FARM ON #15 - Uncovering radical routes with RYAN GRIFFIS & SARAH ROSS

    03/09/2017 Duration: 01h44s

    RYAN GRIFFIS and SARAH ROSS make art that combines academic research, wide-eyed curiosity and a commitment to radical activism. Joe visited their home studio in Chicago to talk about their multi-media projects including books, videos and gallery installations. Ryan and Sarah also empower other artists, activists and scholars through their organization REGIONAL RELATIONSHIPS, a "a platform to re-imagine the spaces and cultural histories around us. An invitation to join in seeing what we can learn—and learning what we can see—by juxtaposing spaces and narratives that are usually kept apart." Check out their recent series of videos here:

  • FARM ON #14 - Riffing On Wendell Berry With LAUREN MAPLES

    FARM ON #14 - Riffing On Wendell Berry With LAUREN MAPLES

    18/08/2017 Duration: 57min

    LAUREN MAPLES is the co-founder and executive director of PEAS (Partners for Education, Agriculture, and Sustainability), a nonprofit operating in Austin, TX.  PEAS provides educators to local schools to lead outdoor lessons and works with teachers to help them better utilize the outdoor spaces on their campuses with their own classes.   She has been awarded 2 Fullbright grants that allowed her to travel to New Zealand and all over the US researching best practices in outdoor education. In this episode we peruse Berry quotes on the Twitter feed @WendellDaily and riff on 'em. Learn more about Lauren's nonprofit PEAS here.

  • FARM ON #13 - Coming full circle with MANNY LAHOZ

    FARM ON #13 - Coming full circle with MANNY LAHOZ

    03/08/2017 Duration: 59min

    Joe had the pleasure of sitting down with Filipino farmer MANNY LAHOZ while he visited family in Chicago. Manny is featured in an upcoming documentary called RICE: A FILIPINO LOVE STORY, which highlights his 24 acre farm and the many other local growers that he has helped to create organic, sustainable practices that nourish both people and land. In this emotional conversation, Manny tells his story of being ordained a Catholic priest, to organizing grassroots farmers' unions under the dictatorship of president Marcos, to eventually helping indigenous mountain tribal groups defeat a brutal government attack on their land. After being imprisoned and surveilled during marshall law, he eventually started a new life in the US, only to return to the Philippines to take over his family's farm with no previous agriculture experience. Manny's harrowing tale of blood, sweat and tears will soon be available in an upcoming book from University of Philippines Press titled OF TYRANTS AND MARTYRS: A POLITICAL MEMOIR. Wat

  • FARM ON #12 - Choosing your own adventure with NAAMAN GAMBILL

    FARM ON #12 - Choosing your own adventure with NAAMAN GAMBILL

    20/07/2017 Duration: 57min

    Co-hosted by VANESSA BECK. For this episode of Farm On, Joe and Vanessa have a nice chat with NAAMAN GAMBILL, co-owner of Chicago's first and only retail store dedicated solely to beekeeping equipment, services, and education. Naaman's rural Indiana work ethic shines through in this talk, as does his dedication to improving the lives of people who live in the city's most under-appreciated neighborhoods. Find out more about his projects here:

  • FARM ON #11 - Celebrating Independence Day with GOATS

    FARM ON #11 - Celebrating Independence Day with GOATS

    04/07/2017 Duration: 18min

    Co-hosted by VANESSA BECK. For this 4th of July special, Joe and Vanessa kick things off with the question "What does it mean to be independent?". Then Joe reads his essay "How I explained American Independence to My Goats", over the sound of actual fireworks recorded from his backyard. Read the essay here:

  • FARM ON #10 - Nerding out with LINDSAY STEELE

    FARM ON #10 - Nerding out with LINDSAY STEELE

    09/06/2017 Duration: 01h16s

    Summer seemed like the perfect time to catch up with my old friend, graphic designer-turned farmer LINDSAY STEELE. The last time we talked it was the dead of winter and he was dreaming big about getting lean and farming smarter, and as you will hear on today's episode he is delivering on both at his family's farm GARDEN FORT in rural Michigan. Lindsay and I nerd out on all his latest innovations and gadgets, including a the "coolbot" and a tool known ominously as the "flame weeder". Tune in, geek out, and farm on folks. Check out the beautiful progress at To kick things off I also read an excerpt from my original essay entitled "Your 200,000 Year Old Armpit". You can check out the the entire piece here:

  • FARM ON #9 - Channeling the urban wild with GAVIN VAN HORN

    FARM ON #9 - Channeling the urban wild with GAVIN VAN HORN

    22/05/2017 Duration: 01h05min

    Co-hosted by VANESSA BECK. For this episode, we sit down with my friend and fellow Oklahoma native GAVIN VAN HORN to talk about his forthcoming book Channel Coyotes and his deeply nuanced interest in place-based values concerning the natural world in an urban context. We also discuss what it means to live in "a city full of eyes", as well as his experience commuting to work in an inflatable kayak. Gavin has co-edited the collections Wildness and City Creatures, and has written numerous essays for the blog at Chicago's Center for Humans and Nature where he is the Director of Cultures of Conservation. Check out his work at

  • FARM ON #8 - Finding Right Livelihood with BILL WILSON

    FARM ON #8 - Finding Right Livelihood with BILL WILSON

    05/05/2017 Duration: 43min

    Bill Wilson is co-founder of Midwest Permaculture with his wife & partner Becky. I was fortunate enough to attend one of their week-long Permaculture Design Certification trainings, and found it to be the paradigm-shifting kick in the pants that I needed to gain a new perspective on what is possible with sustainable everything: food cultivation, water conservation, social organization, and finding Right Livelihood. I caught Bill on the phone after the training to learn more about the path that led him 35 years ago to Stelle, IL - an intentional community oasis sandwiched between endless fields of industrial agriculture, and into his formative role as the region's passionate champion of the life practice that is Permaculture. Midwest Permaculture:

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