There are various reasons why I’m here, as a FarmStart trainee, writing this introductory piece, and working towards a future of working the land and growing in an organic, regenerative way. From my grandad’s potato obsession, to my Dad in his greenhouse growing tomatoes (or as I used to say: ‘dadding around’); a seed was sown. Corny, but good to get this pun out of the way!
After years of sitting behind a laptop ensued and working on projects that reduce carbon – important but ultimately unfulfilling jobs, it left me with the perennial: what’s next? I’d find myself escaping to the allotment more and more. Then, the pandemic and a desire to be outside – both cliches I know – led to volunteering at an urban farm in Leeds, which was a real gateway into the world of Community Supported Agriculture (The Plot is a CSA). Spending time there was a real source of inspiration and led to applying to the FarmStart programme. The first day at The Plot in late February 2022 left me beaming, and reinforced that a change of ‘career’ was required.
Career is intentionally in quotations, as growing to many seems simple, non-political and confined to hobby status. I beg to differ: it is science, business, people and most of all, very complex and subject to many variables outside of anyone’s control (think weather, climate change). It’s also systems based and forward looking. There are many challenges that face small market gardeners, not least land ownership and lack of government support (or even recognition). But with the right combination of people, land and enthusiasm, the food system can be changed for the better. We also need consumers to think more local and invest in the risk and rewards of the harvest.
Returning to me, what follows now is a lifetime of doing, listening, learning and growing (both plants and as a person). It’s an exciting journey and one I’m very appreciative of and aware of my privilege. Growing to me is holistic and draws many interests together. Rebecca Tamás phrases it well when speaking about the Diggers movement (1649 agrarian socialism), that growing, when done well, should ‘see a fair and non-exploitative relationship with the natural world.’ Equality via mutual cooperation between the human and non-human is all that is needed. Simple, eh!?
For more information about the Plot and Lancaster’s FarmStart scheme see www.the-plot.uk