A personal account by Rachel, PhD student
The final cropshares have been packed, last tomatoes have been gleaned from the polytunnel, and canes that once supported climbing beans have been stripped of their browning foliage and stored away for the winter. As the season at the Plot comes to a close and the pace of work slows, there has been time for everyone involved to reflect on the past year.
My own position on the farm has been slightly ambiguous. I have been attending one day a week as part of my PhD research looking at various community-oriented horticulture organisations in North Lancashire and Cumbria. But while I might have joined the project with the intention of ‘studying’ everyday life at the Plot, I have gradually come to feel part of the team and have experienced something of the ups and downs of a growing season. I have felt the satisfaction of pulling up a perfect bunch of carrots, watching worms wriggling through healthy soils, and seeing people pull up to the farm gate at 4pm to collect a bountiful box of veg. Although not as much as the growers, I have also felt something of the stress of the Friday rush to harvest and pack the cropshare, the frustration of a sometimes overwhelming weed burden, the worries of filling boxes week to week, and uncertainty about the acceptability of pest-damaged leaves.
My experience at the Plot has really highlighted to me the scale of the challenges facing a fledgling CSA (community supported agriculture) scheme. Not only is there the task of producing reliable quantities of high quality veg in an unpredictable climate; there is also the ongoing work of creating markets, and packing and distributing produce in a food system centered around fast-paced economies of scale. It is early days for the project and I’m sure everyone would agree that the Plot’s vision sometimes still feels a long way off. But for me it has felt very inspiring working with people so committed to improving local veg infrastructure, and a season at the Plot has left me with a much greater drive to be part of this growing movement. As I start to think about transitioning back to a more desk-based, academic lifestyle, I am already figuring out how I can remain connected to the vital work of community food growing, wherever I end up next.