Dennis Touliatos, Farmstart grower and trainer at The Plot, shares the story of how he came to work in this new role.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve always been involved in growing, foraging food and medicinal plants. I was raised by a mother and grandmother who were farmers and lived a traditional subsistence lifestyle in rural Greece. This heritage, combined with increased environmental and political awareness during my teenage years, inspired me to train as an agronomist specialised in organic agriculture in Greece.
Following my studies, I travelled and worked on several farms across the globe to develop hands-on experience in agroecology. My experiences varied from biodynamic dairy farming in the Yorkshire dales and Northern Austria; to mussel farming in the West Scottish Highlands; dryland horticulture in Southern Spain; permaculture in Palestine and agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon, to name a few.
Then I landed in Lancaster, which I now consider to be my adopted home. I initially came here to do a PhD on plant biology at Lancaster University.
Whilst studying for my PhD, I got involved in the wonderful community food initiatives in the city. I am a member of Claver Hill community food growing project; I save seeds for the Lancaster Seed Library, and I have supported FoodFutures.
After my PhD, I worked at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience in Coventry – doing research on organic horticulture. All of this inspired my choice to return to Lancaster to be the grower at The Plot.
My role as grower and trainer at the Plot brings together my skills and passion. I am very excited that we are sharing the veg from The Plot with our members via our crop-share scheme, whilst also selling produce through the Open Food Network and to local shops and restaurants. But most importantly this role gives me the opportunity to contribute to the training and development of the next generation of organic growers.
Every year The Plot welcomes new entrants to agroecology that aspire to become commercial organic growers. By working together on the farm, as well as having specialised training sessions, the FarmStarters develop a good grasp of what it means to be a commercial organic grower. The scheme then seeks to support their next steps, with the long-term aim of creating a ring of agroecological growers around the city.”
For more information about the Plot and Lancaster’s FarmStart scheme see www.the-plot.uk