Tales from the Testcroppers

Fri, 04/29/2016

Local resident Gaynor is one of the five FarmStarters at Woodbank. Her father was a Stockport greengrocer (as well as a keen gardener), supplying fruit and vegetables to the local community, so she grew up appreciating the value of fresh produce. She’s been growing on an allotment scale for several years and also worked for a commercial mushroom growing operation, now she’s learning the horticultural and business skills for a whole new career direction:

“Organic food growing is my absolute passion but as a single parent with limited financial resources I had never seriously considered that I would be able to follow it as a career path. When I discovered what FarmStart was about and what they were achieving in the local community I could envision the possibilities for people like me.

At times it has been hard; I regularly feel like a complete idiot due to my lack of knowledge, sometimes I struggle with a lack of physical strength and have been frustrated when things haven’t always gone to plan (e.g. the beans that kept jamming in the seeder, the wood chipper that refused to chip and outdoor crops of beans and garlic molested by marauding pigeons!) However the highs far exceed the lows, I am learning new skills all the time, growing in confidence and building stamina.  The support of the other Farmstarters and volunteers has been brilliant; I feel we’re really working well together as a team. Alex is an excellent mentor and teacher, who has a seemingly endless supply of patience and readily shares his experience and knowledge. I look forward to the coming months with excitement and anticipation of the further development of the site”.

Gaynor and fellow FarmStarter Io tell us what's been happening recently at the Woodbank site:

"The polytunnel is transformed! We began back in February digging and breaking up the soil and creating beds with paths in between. The first two beds were planted up with rows of peas and various seeds were sown in modules to be transplanted at a later stage.

In the next two beds Oriental Leaf plug plants such as Hon Tai Sai, Zha Chai stem and Pak Choi went in, and Salsola Soda (Agretti) seeds were sown. As the young pea shoots emerged and began to develop, we erected the netting for them to grow up, devising some nice macramé work to hold it in place. Over the weeks we have tended the polytunnel’s new inhabitants, watering, hoeing, weeding and hoping for their healthy growth.

We are lucky to have three large purpose-built concrete bays that will be used for our composting.  However, order needed to be restored to the compost which required a day of digging, and sorting of previously mixed “brown” and “green” materials.

We are all proud of our new look compost bay.  There is going to be a weekly task to “turn the heap” to help keep the microbial life focused on decomposition. There is chemistry at work in a good composting - we’ll need to keep oxygen and moisture as well as nitrogen and carbon in balance to make good quality and effective compost.  And then there is the temperature needed during the three phases of the composting, it’s already a topic of discussion.

We’ll keep you posted on the “highs and lows” of composting…” 



The Kindling Trust is a not for profit social enterprise with charitable aims (Company number: 6136029).
Kindling Trust Ltd - Bridge 5 Mill, 22a Beswick Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 7HR