Hear from our FarmStarters on their first few months at Woodbank!
It’s been quite a busy few months, how are we already three months into the season? The season started with a lot of wet and windy weather, which hampered the bed preparations out on the field, but at least it meant that we spent a bit more time in the drier and (slightly) warmer polytunnels! The start of the season is so exciting, watching nature wake up. In the past month or so we’ve been sowing seeds then coming back the following week to see our babies pop up one by one. The difference between arriving on Wednesday morning, with just one or two seedlings per tray to Thursday evening when the majority of the tray has sprouted is astonishing.
It's been great working with the other FarmStarters. We’ve come from quite different backgrounds and our future aims are varied but we’re all interested in sustainable food production and excited to develop together. We had a curcubits sowing session a couple of weeks ago; sowing cucumbers, courgettes, and winter squash. By lunch time we had completely filled the polytunnel with pots. That wasn’t even all the plants for the season! This was the first time it really hit home the scale of the difference between growing for yourself and commercial growing. Daunting and motivating in equal measure.
I can not believe we are 3 months in to FarmStart programme, it is flying by. It has been such good fun getting to know the other trainees and working on the land. Being outside and seeing the site come to life as the seasons have changed has been an absolute joy. It has been physically demanding but really do-able and I think we are all getting fitter and faster, which is great. The size of the site was daunting at first, but each day we concentrate on a particular area, and it is so satisfying to see the transformation.
Our tasks have included bed prep, maintaining equipment, sowing (definitely the best bit) and lots and lots of weeding. We are all like proud parents when we come back to see our seedlings shooting up and it is going to be incredibly exciting when we start planting them out into the beds we’ve been preparing. We’ve also had zoom sessions for more theoretical learning about things like organic certification and crop planning and we had the opportunity to visit Glebelands to see a different organic grower in action. My two days at Woodbank have been the highlight of my week and have definitely fuelled my enthusiasm for getting more involved in organic food production.
We're a couple of months into the FarmStart course and I'm loving it. I love getting to spend my time either outside or in a polytunnel. I feel more connected to nature and my family have noticed improvements in mental health. I love that it's very physical - whether that's weeding, broadforking, shovelling compost onto the beds, sowing seeds direct into the ground or harvesting crops. I've definitely noticed an improvement to my fitness levels and my waistline!
Being completely new to growing it has been great to see the first seeds we sowed as a team growing in the field (garlic and broad beans), the seeds we sowed into modules propagating and ready for transplanting. It's awesome that I've learned new skills such as using a drill and staple gun, and how to sharpen our tools, as well as learning so much about growing, such as the importance of good soil fertility, and the fact there are vegetables I didn't know existed such as kohlrabi. If there were just three words to describe how FarmStart has been for me the last couple of months it would be; empowering, fun and educational.
I can’t believe the time to write this update has already come around. It seemed like a long way in the future after we submitted our first statement way back in February. It already feels like I’ve learnt and experienced a lot from the two days a week spent at Woodbank over the last couple months.
We’ve been learning about preparing the site for sowing and planting different varieties of produce, as well as the ins and outs of organic certification. Lots of things I couldn’t have anticipated before my first day at FarmStart. We’re only at the beginning of this learning journey. But already it’s shaping my interest in Market Gardening, not to mention evolving and helping shape the vision of what my future in produce growing might be.
There’s been lots of highlights so far: sowing and planting, enjoying the work involved in preparing beds for the growing season, and learning to use different tools. Getting to know the site and other FarmStart folk is something I look forward to every week when the days roll around. Now that it’s been a few weeks from sowing our first seeds, it’s been totally thrilling to see the little green shoots emerge and get bigger. And they’re going to grow into food, which is double exciting! The warmer weather and the leaves emerging on all the trees around the site makes me super excited for all the sewing and growing that will be happening in the coming months.