Community Farmer Day
Do you sometimes feel that life seems to fly by? For me that's just what is happening at the moment. I've had a number of very busy weeks at work and I am gradually getting used to dealing with the new demands and volumes of work in my job, whilst trying to have a bit of a work life balance...it has been a little tricky but I'm slowly making it work...so I'm posting something today that I wanted to write a while ago but I haven't had the chance...
A few weeks ago I decided to take a day away from my normal weekend routine to do something completely different. I got involved in something fantastic that cleared my head, made me feel great, enabled me to spend a day outside in the fresh air and made me feel really energised at the end of it. I decided I wanted to give my time to something that I felt passionate about...I decided to become a volunteer for a day at The Community Farm.
The Community Farm in Chew Magna was set up in 2011 as an organic farm to grow yummy vegetables for organic vegetable boxes. The Community Farm "aim to reconnect people with the land where their food is grown"...one of the things letting them fulfil this are Community Farmer Days that the farm run, alongside many other community initiatives.
I have been wanting to do something different with my time and have been thinking about volunteering for a while. When I think back to what being a volunteer meant when I was younger, it was being made to go (or feel you have to go!) every week. However this was totally different, the volunteering at The Community Farm suited me perfectly, you can just sign up when you want to go using a list of dates on the website, there is no commitment to go each week which suits my lifestyle perfectly. After seeing a few email newsletters from the farm about what was going on that month I decided to sign up. Each time I read about the volunteering on the newsletter I had a gut reaction and really wanted to have a go, so I signed up with one of my best friends and the gut reaction paid off...we had a fantastic day.
On Saturday 21st June my friend Kate and I headed off to Chew Magna, a beautiful part of the country just 25 minutes away from Bristol. We signed up to spend a day volunteering prepared to get stuck into whatever the farm needed us to do that day. We did well to pick a day with good weather, it was a really warm and sunny! Armed with sun cream, lots of water, hats, bags of enthusiasm and big smiles we began our Community Farmer Day experience...
We started the day with a steaming cup of tea, some freshly picked strawberries and got ourselves settled in the yurt for a briefing about the day with Ian, the Volunteer Coordinator. The room was buzzing with people itching to get started. As a group we had three tasks that the farm were keen to get our help with while we were there. The tasks involved weeding around the leeks and lettuce in one of the fields, planting courgettes and creating a row of bean poles. There were about 18 of us who were ready to get stuck in, there were a mix of newbies like Kate and I, and others who had been before.
Kate and I decided to take the first part of the day weeding around the lettuces, we worked in our pair moving down each row and managed to complete the weeding on two rows of lettuces in the field in the morning...it felt like a huge achievement. The sun was beating down and it was hard work but it felt very therapeutic getting rid of the weeds and watching our progress as we worked up and down the field!
About 12.30pm we stopped for a lunch break and tucked into some freshly picked salad leaves, tomatoes and strawberries from the farm to top up our packed lunches. Everything was so yummy and freshly picked that morning.
After lunch we were given a tour of the farm and saw a range of plants, vegetables and fruit that the farm were growing. We saw all areas where the farm grow things and we learnt about how the farm is run and how the local communities get involved. The farm is set next to the Chew Valley Lake and has some amazing views, it must be a great place to work!
We saw how the farm grows crops under cover as well as in the 22 acres of fields. A range of crops including cucumbers, tomatoes, chillies, herbs were being grown undercover, and courgettes, potatoes, leeks, lettuce and strawberries were being grown outside.
After our farm tour we came together as one team to create a row of bean poles. A pile of bamboo poles and twine came together after a hour or so, filling the length of the field. We all were given task to get the job done, whether it was pushing the bean poles into the ground or tying the tops of the poles to the guideline wire. We all worked hard as a team and had some time left at the end to plant the beans!
I planted these beauties...
Hopefully by now the beans will have germinated and will be growing, and making a bit of progress up the poles.
It was a day I will always remember. Ian kept us motivated all day with his enthusiasm and we spent the day with a lovely set of volunteers that I'm sure I will get to meet again sometime soon. The day felt that we were given real responsibility to help out at tasks that would make a difference and helped the farm function that week. The experience definitely gave us the opportunity to reconnect with the land and see how things are grown.
Late afternoon arrived and we headed home feeling super pleased with ourselves. We felt a real sense of achievement that we had managed to complete the tasks that we had been asked to get involved in during the day. I loved the day as it enabled me to combine the chance to do something for the local community, to learn some new skills and see how organic vegetables are grown on a large scale.
I went away buzzing with enthusiasm and had a spring in my step that stayed with me all weekend. I've found voluntary work I love and something that I'm definitely going to sign up for again in a few months time. I'm really looking forward to going back.