Jo Poulton – Intro FarmStarter Trainee 2022
Last year I was in an enjoyable yet highly pressured office job, working as a Production Manager in children’s animated TV in Bristol. As my contract came to end, I felt an overwhelming need to realign my career.
My curiosity in organic farming piqued whilst studying script writing at University, when a friend and I travelled to Sweden with grant funding from Erasmus. We spent a month on an organic pig farm with a wonderful couple who gave us a glimpse into the hard but rewarding work of food production. This vision carried me through working in the TV industry, pushing me to escape to organic farms on WOOFing trips whenever gaps occurred between intense contracts. These trips helped regenerate my energy as well as the land.
Through a culmination of this hands-on experience, climate activism, reading and listening to anything I could find about regenerative farming, I gradually decided that I wanted to retrain in farming, not only to support my wellbeing but also as an act of resistance and resilience in the face of the climate crisis.
Wanting to recognise my privilege, it’s important to mention I simply would not have been able to consider this career change if it wasn’t for having financial support in the form of a small nest egg of savings.
Inspired by chef/activist Sophia Roe and ecological grower/forager Poppy Okotcha, I decided to try my hand at growing in a regenerative way, which strengthens our food systems and biodiversity, whilst cooling the planet and reducing food miles. Often with a community-minded approach, this approach to farming just makes so much sense to me when we look at the radical behavioural change we need.
In 2021 I made the big move up North to be with my partner and sow the seeds of my new career. Treating this year as a ‘skillbatical’, I took every opportunity that came my way. I became a BSL (British Sign Language) support volunteer at Growing Well Kendal, applying my experience as a child of a deaf adult (CODA) and communication support worker, whilst being introduced to small-scale organic vegetable production. I worked with LESS; marketing for their various projects and co-ordinating the 2021 Northern Real Farming Conference (NRFC), which propelled my want to grow. Then with the help of The Cumbria Foundation grants scheme I enrolled onto Newton Riggs Certificate in Horticulture (Level 2) in January 2022 which is set to finish in July 2022 (it’s brilliant!)
I’m excited to learn more about regenerating the soil through food production, feeding lots of lovely local people, and gaining a deeper sense of connection with nature through the FarmStart Programme, their expert teachers and their two wonderfully diverse sites.