Catching up with Georgina, Michelle, Nicola and Helen who have been on the FarmStart grower training programme since the beginning of the year.
"If there’s any upside to the current world situation it’s how many people have reassessed their relationship with food- whether they can rely on a steady local supply, understanding how it’s grown, and having the reassurance it’ll nourish the body because it’s grown organically. Being a Farmstarter has given me an insight into this increase in demand I never would have gotten otherwise. I think that beyond Covid- 19 with the worrying potential lowering of import food standards and even GM crops being grown in the UK more people will be drawn to organic and ethically produced food.
The last couple of months have had a variety of tasks across the whole spectrum of growing- we’re still sowing heaps of seeds, we’ve transplanted into almost all the beds and we’re harvesting something almost every day, it’s fab. I’m starting to get a more holistic picture of how much we’ll be able to produce now that the crops are in place and I can see the amounts we’re able to harvest from them each week. It’s been incredibly satisfying finally getting the produce on the shelves, to hear the feedback about the quality and how quickly it’s been selling, not to mention being able to cook with it and taste it for myself!
My job can be quite demanding and any other spare minute is spent trying to grow our new business, so it can be a bit hard staying present sometimes. I'm really enjoying challenging myself to improve my dexterity and speed during tasks like transplanting and whatnot so focusing solely on what my hands are doing and trying to be more efficient keeps me on track. I can be quite hard on myself though if I don’t get a fast enough time or something isn’t done to the standard I was hoping for - I just have to remember to chill out, I’m still learning and it’s more important not to damage the plant through rushing etc. I’m hoping that by the end of the season though all the tasks I feel so clumsy at now will have become second nature." Georgina
"These past couple of months at FarmStart have been a mixture of emotions. It’s been both challenging and thoroughly enjoyable. All the hard work we did at the beginning of the year is finally coming to fruition and we are seeing lots of lush and healthy growth, plus these past few weeks has seen us doing our first bit of harvesting. All the beds have been prepared and almost all are filled; those which aren’t soon will be. It’s been amazing to see damp wet beds now filled with healthy plants which are thriving and beginning to produce lots of lovely vegetables.
The most challenging part for me has been struggling with my energy levels. With the recent coronavirus pandemic and all the juggling that this has entailed in my personal life, I have felt both emotional and physically drained. The hot weather didn’t help as working outside all day in such high temperatures was brutal, although the occasional ice lolly did help.
The most satisfying part of these past couple of months is working with such a great and hard-working team. We have really pulled together to get everything done and it’s great to see the progress that has been made at the Woodbank site. As everything becomes more organised it certainly makes the work easier and more enjoyable. Also, seeing the quality of the vegetables we are producing has been incredible. Growing Organically and with no animal inputs has produced such healthy and vibrant crops that anyone would be proud to put their name to.
As I reflect on the whole covid19 situation and the current food system we have in place I feel both hope and despair. I am hopeful that people are now showing an interest in locally grown, good quality fruit and vegetables. I have certainly been asked a lot more about the programme by passers by as I leave the site. We have also been told that the demand for the Organic veg box scheme is growing fast and is now at its highest ever. This makes the work we have been doing all the more satisfying. On the downside, the government voted against amending the UK's Agriculture Bill which means post Brexit food imported into the country will no longer have to meet the previous high standards we had in place, which is completely unacceptable and very worrying in my opinion. I can only hope that as people become more informed about these reduced standards and how this affects the quality of produce which will become available in the UK food market, the drive for Organic and local food will be fuelled.
My hopes for the rest of the season are to continue learning and honing my skills. Every week I feel like I am learning something new, even if it’s something small. It all adds up over time and one day you realise just how far you have come. I am also looking forward to learning more about how the site works and how to keep it functioning to its highest potential." Michelle
It's been challenging to see firsthand how underpaid market garden farmers are. I mention this as financially from what we have harvested so far, we have generated less than the minimum wage each. No doubt an experienced farmer will be much more quick in their role than I am, so it is difficult to compare them to myself now. However, I cannot help but think there's something seriously wrong with economics and our global food system when the hours of labour to produce food from seed to harvest pays so little.