A personal account, written by Shona, on behalf of the 2023 FarmStarters

Our time as FarmStarters has drawn to a close just as winter is showing its hand with the long frosty fingers of the season extending further and deeper into the Plot. The contrast between now and the easy abundance of long summer days could not be clearer. We have become attuned to the rhythm of the seasons and after experiencing the cold, wet and muddy growing conditions of this time of year, we are happily compelled to draw inwards and submit to Nature’s direction by slowing down and taking care of ourselves. Winter teaches us to replenish, as well as about completion and endings – how they are necessary to precede new growth. Therefore, before we go into full hibernation, we have accordingly begun to reflect on our experience at the Plot and consider what our next steps might be.  

As a group, we have thoroughly enjoyed the work of organic growing and the friendships we have so easily developed during our time as FarmStarters. Emma has hit the nail on the head when she says, ‘one of my main goals was to meet others with a shared passion for growing food organically. I feel like we have struck lucky with the whole group and it’s been an absolute pleasure working with everyone’. Lisa echoes the sentiment adding, ‘each person has brought their own knowledge and experience to the group. Whilst at the Plot myself and Emma have been Inspired to open a community wellness garden for the military families of Weeton barracks which will provide a welcoming space for families to grow and cook home grown veg.’ We are all excited about this three year project inspired by FarmStart.

The productive ethos of working collaboratively at the Plot has led me to look into the potential of establishing an organic growers co-operative locally as part of my life after FarmStart. This relates to something Martin has highlighted: the benefit of working towards change within the local food economy, including how food is consumed and valued. Our common experience has resulted in friendship, increased confidence and knowledge but also shared ambitions to work towards changing how food is produced and how the environment is tended. Finn, thanks to networking opportunities and a keen sense of environmental stewardship, has developed ideas to help make his own land productive. It is my hope that an organic growers cooperative could potentially help future FarmStarters set up as commercial growers.

Of course none of this would be possible without the expert and generous guidance of all involved in the FarmStart programme, particularly Dennis, Lucy, Ellen and James. We are eternally grateful to them and fully appreciative of the many people who continue to support the Plot. There is more to say in regard to how much we have gained from our experience but I will leave the last word with Andi who sums up nicely: ‘I think learning and growing this way is regenerative of the grower as well as the land. We have supported one another to find our place in the field. I have become a better horticulturalist but a better person, I think, as well.’ 

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