We’re plotting to grow more organic food locally! 

This is the second week in a series of posts about the 2021 cohort of FarmStarters.

The Plot is a new regenerative market garden with two sites in North Lancashire – located at Old Holly Barn Farm and White Lund. The Plot also serves as a training ground for new sustainable farmers through a programme called ‘FarmStart’. All with the intention of supporting future farmers and to supply local, fresh, organic produce to our area. 

Sam is one of four ‘FarmStarters’ in the 2021 cohort – trainees who work twice a week on both sites to establish the project and learn about more sustainable growing practices.

Sam shares how he got involved in growing and became a FarmStarter.

The Plot is the third CSA-type farm I’ve had the pleasure of playing a small part in, my first in the UK, and the first time I’ve been involved in no-dig organic. After three years in a windowless office and another predominantly working from home for Lancaster University, it’s a great relief to be under the sky and feel the wind (and a tiny bit of Lancashire sleet) on my face for two days a week with FarmStart. (I’m really appreciating the team at The Plot – socially distanced apple grafting in sub-zero wind chill may not be for everyone, but it worked as a bonding experience for us.)

Before coming to Lancaster, I taught plant physiology, symbiosis and agriculture in the USA, which deepened my appreciation for the natural world. However, after starting life moving well rotted manure with a tiny red plastic wheelbarrow in Harrogate, and having grown up with a ¾ acre garden and rural North Northumberland to explore, time spent in the lab and classroom, away from nature, has always left me feeling a bit lost.

My previous foray into local food production was five years ago in New England, plugging a short gap in what’s been a nearly twenty-year career in academia. That career started with integrated pest management – how daily and seasonal changes in plant sap affect aphid populations. It has led to work I do now to enable improved crop photosynthesis, which takes smallholder dependent food systems as an inspiration. For me, that makes the personal linkage with The Plot really valuable.

I came to Lancaster in 2016 after six years in the US that had handed me a family (my wife Laura, daughter Ivy, and after we came to the UK, son Jack), and a fealty collection of shopping bags from cooperatives where every visit rammed home the joys of local, fresh, and ethical. Since the last six months of my time in the States was spent working as a summer crew member on a 30 acre CSA, I also came here feeling my absolute healthiest and happiest. FarmStart for me is about getting that feeling back, and having been given that opportunity, giving the freshness back to the community who want to support hyper-local, independent food production. FarmStart is an opportunity I didn’t expect to have a year ago. It’s the start of both an adventure for me and a necessary change.

We need your help to establish these growing projects. Can you spare £5 per month? Become a FoodFriend through our small-scale society lottery scheme and you could win one of six prizes every month. Your monthly membership fee supports the establishment of The Plot, training for FarmStarters AND supports local businesses who we purchase the prizes from.

New FoodFriends sign up here. 

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