Rachel Marshall is one of 21 people participating on this year’s FarmStart organic growers support course. In this week’s column Rachel shares her food journey and what lead to her booking on the course.

Rachel_Farmstart photoLast year I was asked to look after my friend’s smallholding for a week in the middle of summer. A week of house, hen and goose sitting in return for all I could harvest and eat from the polytunnel and gardens. The polytunnel was full of salads, new potatoes, beans and more but as I wandered around it I realised that I was clueless as to when and how to harvest. I couldn’t even imagine how this edible garden had been planned out, grown and nurtured. Faced with a polytunnel full of food it still felt easier to stop at the shop and buy food rather than taking from the garden. It was a wake-up call to me as to how detached I had become from food and the process of growing it.

This realisation prompted me to look into ways to start learning how to grow again. At the time I was living on a boat with no garden apart from a few pots on the roof. Opportunities offered by places such as Claver Hill in Lancaster are great for people like me who have no land or little time for growing and feel unsure about how to start growing their own food. Over the past few months going to Spud Club at Claver has built up my confidence with food growing and has reminded me of the fulfilment of spending a day digging and planting with others.

At the same time a number of my friends have started small-scale growing projects. We’ve been having excited discussions about different ways to make a living from growing and the FarmStart course came up at the perfect moment-just as my enthusiasm for growing is developing and opportunities to work part time are possible.

The opportunity to visit small-scale, organic farms to learn about different approaches to growing, as a commercial and/or community venture, have been really inspiring. Along with gaining skills in growing techniques, I am hoping to get an insight into what it means to be a small-scale grower.

Everyone on the course has a different vision for how they want food growing to be part of their life, however we have already started to build a community of support and knowledge sharing. For many of us joining this group of people with similar aspirations has been a major benefit of the FarmStart programme.

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