If you'd like to try out the Land Army, we've got lots of opportunities this Autumn, find out more here.
"Farming is hard work. That is one of the strongest impressions I had and one that stayed with me after I went back home after my visit to FarmStart Woodbank as a Land Army volunteer. I’ve been pretty much a city kid ‘til about a year ago, buying food from supermarkets without really thinking where it comes from and taking it totally for granted. It’s a bit embarrassing, I know. I had been to farms before, but well-established ones whose owners had a lifetime building up experience and infrastructure. Witnessing it start from scratch at one year-old Woodbank… well, that had a real trial by nature feeling.
While showing the volunteers some very exciting Green Zebra and Purple Ukraine tomatoes, Alex - the FarmStart coordinator - told us how the rainy season and poor soil drainage had ruined some crops. Now they are working on soil structure to try new crops next year. Later, weeding brassicas from between rows of tiny cauliflowers, he told us how he chose to use F1 seeds for their high yields, but the plants hadn’t developed as much as they could have because some F1 seeds demand more precise soil and temperature conditions. This was all new to me. There is so much to learn! Each field is unique and only experience will determine what to grow and how to grow it. It’s trial and error.
That being said, growing your own food - and food for others - is really rewarding. Alex is at the farm 6 days a week from early in the morning and he also knows it is hard to make a living out it. When I asked him what was the best thing about being a farmer, he replied it was just to see people eating what he grew and enjoying it. Well I am past the point of romanticizing farmer’s lives, but it’s inspiring to see something as simple as that being someone’s prime motivation. It also shows how crucial it is for farmers to be in direct contact with us, the final buyers of their produce, how it helps them get a sense of the real value of their work.
Working as a Land Army volunteer was not only exciting because I could eat a lot of freshly picked tomatoes (!), but because it got my creative juices flowing. The new generation of urban farmers is young, motivated and idealistic. They are bringing the countryside closer to the city in what appears to me to be a new stage of the urbanization process that first set these two worlds apart in the 18th century. How exciting is that? This was the underlying feeling of a land army trip for me. Whether you want to be a grower or not, visiting new farms is a way of putting the food system into perspective and watching this process happening at first hand."
Spend a day with the Land Army yourself this autumn! Upcoming trips:
- Tuesday 18th October - Farmstart Abbey Leys
- Wednesday 26th October - Farmstart Woodbank
- Friday 28th October - Farmstart Abbey Leys
- Wednesday 2nd November - Farmstart Woodbank
- Saturday 5th November - Farmstart Woodbank
To read more about what a day out with the Land Army involves, click here.