Lucy and I first heard about The Community Farm when we spoke at Medsin back in March. Angela, one of the trustees was a fellow speaker and shared the story of the project passionately. They are a community project, the land being owned by over 500 local people who invested back when they began in 2009. The farm is run with a clear vision and a deep rooted (!) belief in organic farming and sustainability. Angela explained that their aims are threefold:
“To help people develop a better understanding of where their food comes from, reconnect with the land on which their food is grown, and learn more about sustainable farming.”
Of course, we just loved the sound of this and were eager to find out more. What better way than by volunteering?
Volunteering at The Community Farm is something anyone can do. They welcome regular help but also understand if you are only able to do one off days. We signed up for a Community Farmer day (one off) through their website, which is really easy to do and costs nothing. All they ask is that you make a contribution for your lunch (more on that later!) and let them know if you want a spot on the FREE minibus to get to the farm, out in Chew Magna.
We discovered that they fill up fast so booked a date late May and eagerly looked forward to it arriving. We had an email from Ian (one of the farmers) the week before explaining what we’d need to bring and where the bus would pick us up.
Waiting for the minibus at Temple Meads I felt a little nervous. Although I have volunteered in other places before, it’s always a bit nerve wracking going somewhere you don’t know, meeting new people and doing something different. I’m not much of a gardener so I was a bit worried that I was going to get everything wrong.
Thankfully, Ian made sure that this was not possible! When we arrived we gathered in the lovely yurt, all got acquainted and Ian explained what was in store along with the use of some excellent pictures. We were going to be planting absolutely loads of beans, courgettes and squash. He described exactly how we needed to space the different plants and we learned new terms like ‘station’, ‘row’ and ‘bed’. My fingers were getting greener by the second.
Off we went, trowels in hand, and set to work. The first thing I noticed was how wonderful it was just being outdoors. Like most adults, I spent the vast majority of my time inside. I relish my Tuesday break duty at school as it gives me 15 minutes scheduled daylight. This was a whole day, in the fresh air, underneath a beautiful, dramatic sky, looking out over Chew Valley Lake. I was in heaven. The second thing I noticed was how soothing the methodical digging and planting was. Doing something physical but repetitive really calmed me and I began to feel more relaxed than I had done in ages.
We blitzed the beans and courgettes and lunchtime rolled around before we knew it. We headed back to the yurt where Angela was heating up soup, made by another of the trustees. We ate this along with a delicious selection of bits and bobs that people had brought to share; bread, cheese, crisps, quiche, salad and lots of cake. It was all gorgeous and much needed after the hard graft we’d put in.
Appetites satisfied, we got going on the squash. Ian informed us that there were absolutely loads of squash and he wasn’t joking. We didn’t get them all in but we made an excellent start. It was incredibly satisfying looking at the field where we were working before and after we had finished. Seeing how much we’d achieved was a wonderful feeling.
I’d urge you to take a look at The Community Farm website. They are an incredible organisation doing some really inspirational work in our community. The food they produce goes into their veg boxes, which they deliver across the city. We’ll be heading back again over the summer to see how our crops are getting on and again in the autumn to help with harvesting. If this sounds like something you’d like to get involved in then don’t hesitate booking a place. There is nothing to be afraid of and I assure you, anyone can do it! Everyone there was completely lovely and it was a truly excellent day. We can’t wait to go back!