Former members of the Kindling team, Alex and Bailey were instrumental in co-ordinating the FarmStart programme and developing and running Veg Box People. In March they left for pastures new (literally), to a five acre organic farm in Devon.
Current Kindling member Lyndsey, who is participating in our Commercial Growers Course, visited them there at Haye Farm during October to lend a hand on the land, have a good catch up, and learn about their growing journey so far...
“Despite the nights closing in and the cooler weather, the farm is looking abundant. The two polytunnels are full of tomatoes and chillies that are still growing amazingly. It's also a favourite hangout for the farm cats who love the warmth! Bailey and I start the day harvesting everything that's ready (I’m in love with the yellow pear tomatoes). A hard decision for Alex and Bailey will be whether to either pull out the tomatoes to plant winter salads, or keep the tomatoes in for a little longer at the risk of a less successful winter salad harvest. I start to understand why growing is not an exact science pretty early on.
Along with harvesting, Alex prepared beds using the tractor. I replayed my childhood experience of sitting on the tractor and getting a picture (and it felt just as exciting). I have the thought I will likely be a ‘people over machines’ kind of grower, ask me in a couple of years though and I may say different. In my head, being a grower is a dream job, nothing beats it. Nurturing lives of plants, witnessing the magic of nature, and in turn nurturing the lives of people. I am also aware of the realities that growing can be boring, monotonous and frustrating. I had a good test for the next task.
Planting five beds of garlic cloves – six thousand cloves gently sunk into the ground six inches apart, four rows per bed….in pretty damp weather conditions.
Luckily we were all working together so that lightened the load. Every time my mind wandered into a vague sense of boredom or questioning whether I could do this for a full year (or a lifetime?), I stood up. Stretched my back and legs (I'm 6ft), and as soon as I looked up I was met with rolling hills as far as the eye can see, an overwhelming sense of calm that the countryside brings, and a view of the products of previous hard work; Jerusalem Artichokes, Parsnips and Carrots. My sense of satisfaction and contentment quickly returned.
We also visited Trill Farm, just down the road. Their plot was similarly as impressive with more polytunnels filled with winter salads. They also do a lot of seed saving to ensure all varieties of seed continue to be available for the future. There I met Rita, who is on a traineeship, sounds like a great opportunity. It is good to know there are farms out there so willing to get others involved. The amount of women growers I have met on this trip has also made it a really positive experience.
Armed with some freshly picked chillis and squashes and two cans of gherkins (which we made together from the last of the cucumber harvest), I headed home. Full of great memories, growing ideas and best of all shared experiences I will never forget.